Greenway idea passes key hurdle
One week after clearing the California Natural Resources Committee, the state’s Food and Agricultural Committee approved Sen. Christine Kehoe’s proposal for a Del Mar Fairgrounds greenway at Tuesday’s hearing.
Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-San Diego, was the lone dissenter in the 3-1 vote.
Next up is the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Kehoe chairs. She said the committee would consider the greenway one of the next three Mondays.
The San Diego City Council also voted unanimously Tuesday to back the greenway.
The bill would mandate that the 22nd District Agricultural Association construct a 100-foot-wide environmental buffer west of Jimmy Durante Boulevard by 2014. Kehoe, D-San Diego, says she wants to preserve a portion of the state-owned property for natural habitat and pedestrian usage before it is either sold to a private owner or the 22nd DAA begins construction on its proposed expansion. The fairgrounds governing body has continually maintained the greenway would cause a major financial hardship by forcing relocation of its service yards, lucrative recycling center and access roads to its exhibit halls. Still, they have been unable to convince the two committees so far.
“They’re not persuading the members that those are the true impacts of the bill,” Kehoe said. “It doesn’t make sense to say that out of over 400 acres they can’t accommodate a strip 100 feet wide. When you put it in common sense terms, the track operations, the Del Mar Fair operations and the bond payments cannot all hinge on that tiny little fraction of land.”
Fairgrounds Chief Executive Officer Tim Fennell, who attended the hearing, said just because committee members may not believe the 22nd DAA’s claims does not mean that they are false.
“The problem with common sense, it ain’t all that common,” he said. “The analogy I would like to use is you have a home with three garages. In one garage you have your lawnmowers, the other two garages you put your cars in. Someone comes along and says I just need 4 percent of your property. That 4 percent is your driveway. You can still use your garages, but you can’t get your lawnmower in and out and you can’t get your cars in and out.”
By not being able to load its exhibit halls, Fennell said the lost revenue from canceled shows would cause the fairgrounds to be unable to make its required bond payments.
Several supporters spoke on behalf of the greenway at the hearing in Sacramento, including Del Mar City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford.
Kehoe said there have been no discussions over the negotiable width of the greenway in the last week.
If the bill passes the appropriations committee, it will then be heard on the Senate floor. If it advances, Kehoe said the process would start all over again with committees on the Assembly side.
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