July 2011 home page

  Fair Illegals
Ann Gardner | Via Latina


Circus Vargas on the East Overflow Lot (EOL) March 7, 2009.
Photo Dawn Rawls



In a surprise move, the California Coastal Commission turned the 22nd District Agricultural Association (the District) on its ear June 15 when the Commission postponed any decisions on a new Coastal Development Permit at the Fairgrounds until the two staffs could get together and discuss outstanding violations against the 1976 Coastal Act, including the District’s illegal use of the East Overflow Lot (EOL) for unpermitted events and parking. The Coastal Act requires Commission approval for any development at the Fairgrounds site in order to “… protect the ecological balance of the coastal zone.”

Circus Vargas on the East Overflow Lot (EOL) March 7, 2009.
Photo Dawn Rawls


The District had requested placement of a new 6,650 sq. ft. tent structure for golf uses, additional other developments on the Fairgrounds Surf and Turf property and “after the fact” approval for non-permitted uses of tents over the soccer fields and swimming pool in the same area.

Coastal Commission staff had recommended approval with specific conditions: parking on the EOL strictly limited to overflow from Fair and Race Track visitors, no free standing pole or roof signs, and a runoff water monitoring program with as needed remediation. Then Dawn Rawls, San Dieguito Lagoon Committee, and Jacqueline Winterer, Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, addressed the long-standing issue of the Fairgrounds flaunting the 1976 Coastal Act permit requirements and seeking “after the fact” approvals. “When and how will the District be held responsible for years of violations?” they said in so many words.

After Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas reviewed the District’s history of repeated violations against the Coastal Act and unwillingness to remediate, the discussion turned to examining options for getting the Fairgrounds’ attention. Douglas cited the inability of the Commission to file enforcement lawsuits because of limited resources and said he could only hope that the Fairgrounds would eventually stop breaking the law. The Commissioners had other ideas. They asked Commission staff to compile a list of outstanding violations, to arrange a meeting with Fairgrounds staff to discuss the list and required remediation and, finally, to postpone the Coastal Development Permit request before them until these actions were completed. The vote was unanimous.

One of the outstanding issues is the lack of agreement on wetland delineation for the EOL, a line beyond which the lot should be left undisturbed to allow for natural recovery of wetlands that, although valuable in themselves, also preserve the adjacent vegetated wetlands and deep-water habitats of the San Dieguito River. The area in dispute is now subject to compaction for both events and parking and, in the Fairgrounds recently certified Master Plan, paving and eventually the construction of a 546,000 sq. ft. parking garage. The Commission’s vote has sent a long overdue message to the Fair Board that enough is enough.


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