Fair board worries greenway would pose safety threat
The 100-foot-wide greenway bill proposed by Sen. Christine Kehoe would create a major public safety hazard for attendees of major events, 22nd District Agricultural Association officials say.
So far, the Del Mar Fairgrounds governing body’s efforts to convince three state Senate committees of this have failed. The greenway is now up for approval by the state Senate before going before the Assembly.
The 22nd DAA says an entrance to the fairgrounds on the southern end of Jimmy Durante Boulevard provides the nearby fire station access to the loop surrounding the property. If the 100-foot-wide greenway is approved, the 22nd DAA maintains that road will no longer be accessible, and emergency response times will suffer due to having to battle traffic and crowds in order to get to those who are in need of help.
“As you can imagine for those of you that have been here on busy days, it becomes impossible. We keep those roads open for the purpose of being able to get them out quickly,” fairgrounds President Barry Nussbaum said. “If that’s your family member or someone that you care about, that becomes personal.”
Kehoe said the fairgrounds governing body’s latest statements reflect a pattern of resistance that is nothing new.
“The fair board is in opposition to the bill and has used a variety of reasons for showing why the bill won’t work or can’t work, but none of them have really held up to any public scrutiny,” she said. “We still think the greenway is a great benefit to the public and we’ll continue to move the bill forward.”
The fairgrounds governing body said there is no funding available for it to start construction on its master plan, which calls for three new exhibit halls in that area.
Therefore, whether blueprints can be adjusted to accommodate Kehoe’s greenway if passed is now irrelevant.
The master plan also proposes a greenway, but with widths as narrow as 30 feet in some areas to accommodate service, access and the ability to load exhibit halls. Since the current state-owned fairgrounds configuration will likely still be in place by Jan. 1, 2014, which is the bill’s deadline for having the greenway completed, the 22nd DAA maintains that the access road is permanently crucial to public safety.
The fairgrounds governing body estimates it would cost roughly $1.3 million to construct the greenway and another $1.8 million to relocate the lucrative recycling center. It would cost an additional $8 million to move the service yards, according to the 22nd DAA.
“The greenway can’t be the sole reason for stopping all of these different programs and responses to the fair board operations,” Kehoe said, adding that negotiations are still open and any concerns over public safety would certainly be addressed.
The greenway bill will have to pass through the California Senate by the end of June.
Cities eye fairgrounds sale
Before the 22nd DAA public meeting, representatives of the fairgrounds met with those of neighboring cities Del Mar and Solana Beach, which support the greenway.
Fairgrounds Chief Executive Officer Tim Fennell discussed Del Mar’s desire to buy the property, which is expected to be put up for sale by the governor’s office. He said there was also talk about Solana Beach joining Del Mar in making a bid.
Del Mar Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said the council has had several closed-session discussions recently on the subject, and that it is no secret the city is interested in acquiring the fairgrounds.
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