Ann Gardner | Via Latina
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Will there be restored wetlands or parked cars on a portion of the Fairgrounds East Overflow Lot next to the San Dieguito River? On November 13, the California Coastal Commission (7-3) chose parking, for now, allowing the 22nd Agricultural Association District (Ag District) to park cars for ten more years on 4.8 acres targeted by the environmental community for a conservation easement. At the end of ten years, the Ag District must complete an analysis of alternative parking locations and return to the Commission for permission to continue using the wetlands as a parking lot. The Commission also approved a second annual race meet at the Fairgrounds from November 5 to December 7.
San Dieguito River Park staff, environmental groups and Del Mar Council Members Lee Haydu and Don Mosier, who spoke in support of the Commission staff’s recommendation for an easement requiring elimination of parking at the end of ten years and restricting usage during that time to fair and race seasons only, were visibly disappointed. However their arguments did convince a majority of the Commissioners to add the ten year limit after a motion by Greg Cox of Chula Vista without any time limit, failed.
Speakers in support of staff’s recommendation cited the ten year grace period as enough time for construction of a new train platform at the Fairgrounds, greater use of shuttle vehicles from offsite parking areas and limiting the number of events at the Fairgrounds at any one time, to reduce car traffic and the need for parking so close to the River. Dave Roberts, County Supervisor for our District and member of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Agency, commented after the meeting that “parking does not belong on wetlands, and ultimately I hope the contested acreage will revert to the River Park for restoration.”
The 22nd Ag District said they had to make up for the loss and restoration of the South Overflow Lot as a result of the Cease and Desist Order drawn up last year that settled differences over past violations at the Fairgrounds. They also cited their compliance with a 100 foot buffer along the River bank, a $20,000 a year contribution to the San Dieguito River Park and educational events at the Fair that promoted the Park, a 50-mile long Coast to Crest River Valley Park that begins at the River mouth in Del Mar.