City to fairgrounds: Draft EIR invalid
Del Mar asserts that CEQA violations were key missteps
In a roughly 65-page letter alleging blatant violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, the city of Del Mar will tell the 22nd Agricultural District’s governing body it must redraft and re-circulate its proposed expansion’s environmental impact report in order for it to be valid.
Under CEQA, any public agency must consult with a bordering city before completing a draft EIR. While there were several meetings, Del Mar asserts that in constructing the 4,400-page document, the state-owned fairgrounds ignored the city’s concerns and did not communicate effectively with its staff. Further, because the project calls for changes in the sewer system, demolishing and relocating a city fire station and adaptations to surrounding streets, the law says Del Mar has the right to weigh-in during this process.
“We’ve been getting consultation in bits and pieces and scattered around,” said City Councilman Carl Hilliard, adding the city truly does want to work with the fairgrounds. “When we talk about consultation we talk about sitting down, talking about the whole project, and talking about the concerns that we have.”
The letter, a first-version of which was unanimously approved by the City Council in a Tuesday night special meeting, says the draft EIR “fails even at the most basic level as an informational document required by CEQA.” It points out vagueness in the actual plans for the proposed expansion, which it says makes it very difficult to truly analyze the environmental impact.
The letter will serve as Del Mar’s submission for the public comment period, which was recently extended to Feb. 8. The fairgrounds’ governing body will receive similar documents from, among others, Caltrans, the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority and the city of Solana Beach. It must respond adequately to all issues raised in this comment period before moving forward.
City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said just because Del Mar and the fairgrounds met during the EIR drafting process does not mean CEQA requirements were satisfied.
“There have been meetings ad nauseum,” she said. “We have for the better part of the decade been providing input to the fairgrounds, but there is no indication in the draft EIR that that information has been taken to heart.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, fairgrounds chief operating officer Becky Bartling, who briefly addressed the council, passed a handwritten statement to the Del Mar Times:
“From the beginning of the drafting of the EIR, the 22nd DAA was committed to working with the city of Del Mar. The numerous meetings held with the city staff were a testament to this commitment. It is very disappointing that the city council and staff choose to not recognize this effort. However, again, we are committed to addressing all the comments and concerns that the city has submitted on the draft EIR.”
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