Kehoe introduces greenway bill
With the governor’s office once again actively seeking buyers for the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the prospect of the master plan moving forward, state Sen. Christine Kehoe has introduced legislation to preserve a stretch of the property for natural habitat and public access.
In an interview Tuesday, Kehoe, D-San Diego, said it is important to protect these resources as San Diego progresses and becomes more urban.
The bill she put forward would mandate the Del Mar Fairgrounds construct a greenway on its southern end by 2014. If approved, a 100-foot-wide greenway would replace a slab of the fairgrounds’ concrete parking lot as part of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority’s Coast to Crest trail, which stretches 55 miles from Volcan Mountain to the Pacific Ocean.
“The greenway enhances the Del Mar Fairgrounds and adds a vital recreation facility to a busy part of our county and our city,” Kehoe said. “It enhances the city of Del Mar and the city of Solana Beach and we’d like to see it go forward.”
The greenway would act as a buffer between fairgrounds buildings and the river park.
Tim Fennell, executive director of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, said it would cause tremendous harm to the economic viability of the fairgrounds and drastically inhibit the master plan for expansion.
“I am deeply disappointed that Sen. Kehoe, after announcing on Dec. 2, 2009, her intention to pass legislation creating a greenway on 22nd DAA property, never met or discussed her plan with the 22nd DAA staff or its board of directors,” he said, reading a statement later included in a news release. “The senator’s proposed legislation significantly impacts the 22nd DAA both financially and operationally.”
Fennell said the proposed greenway would eliminate the fairgrounds service yards, all of the parking south of the exhibit halls, 58 low-cost visitor serving recreational vehicle facilities, the recycling center, possibly the golf driving range and the ability to host more than 100 annual consumer shows.
Kehoe said, while conflicts on both sides have made scheduling a meeting difficult since the press conference, Fennell should still be aware of the greenway and her concerns over the proposed expansion. She submitted comments during public review of the draft environmental report that were critical of the plan.
“I think any redevelopment of the fairgrounds property should include designing around the river bank,” Kehoe said. “It’s already public property and I think it’s important to emphasize that.”
She said she also hopes to meet once again with Fennell and COO Becky Bartling in the near future.
JPA Executive Director Dick Bobertz said he was pleased to hear Kehoe is moving forward in proposing the legislation.
“We’ve been aware of her ideas and they are very consistent with San Dieguito River Park objectives and we fully support it,” he said.
Despite not knowing how much money it will take to pay for the greenway, Kehoe said it would probably be cheaper than the master plan, noting, “Perhaps those costs would be less significant than building a hotel or a soccer field.”
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