Greenway bill moves ahead
In what Sen. Christine Kehoe called a signal of a “little momentum,” the bill for the Del Mar Fairgrounds greenway got the green light Tuesday from the state’s natural resources committee.
Kehoe, D-San Diego, is pushing legislation to make the 22nd District Agricultural Association build a 100-foot-wide environmental buffer on the state-owned fairgrounds by 2014.
She said she wants the area preserved for citizens to enjoy a natural habitat that is currently threatened by both the Del Mar Fairgrounds proposed expansion and the cash-strapped state’s shopping the property to prospective buyers.
The 22nd DAA maintains that this proposed 100-foot protected stretch would greatly inhibit its ability to remain financially afloat.
“We’re trying to get a better understanding of what they see as so threatening,” Kehoe said. “We don’t think it impedes their ability to operate the racetrack or the fair or any of their other operations.”
The fair board says the greenway would eliminate the access roads it depends on for hundreds of trade shows and exhibits annually. The buffer also clashes with the proposed expansion that calls for three new exhibit halls, a hotel and fitness complex, and increased parking. In its draft master plan, the fairgrounds proposes its own a greenway west of Jimmy Durante Boulevard, but widths are as narrow as 30 feet.
“You’re talking about revenue issues, you’re talking about operational issues, you’re talking about safety issues and you’re talking about the fact that its in violation of the bond covenants,” said fairgrounds Chief Executive Officer Tim Fennell.
Board members estimate the greenway would cost $1.4 million to build, another $1.6 million to relocate its shops and service yards, and between $70,000 and $80,000 annually for maintenance.
Still, Del Mar and Solana Beach, as well as several environmental groups are roundly supporting the greenway. The Del Mar City Council passed legislation formally backing the greenway, and Councilwoman Crystal Crawford traveled to Sacramento to testify on its behalf at the natural resources committee meeting.
Fairgrounds Chief Operating Officer Becky Bartling relayed the concerns of the 22nd DAA at the hearing, but the legislators moved forward in a 6-2 vote.
Fennell said fairgrounds officials would talk to every politician necessary about the damage this proposal would do.
The greenway bill must next pass the Food and Agricultural Committee, which ultimately oversees the 22nd DAA. That hearing is scheduled for April 20.
“If it doesn’t pass there it stops,” Kehoe said.
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