Solana Beach hiring consultants to advise on fairgrounds negotiations

The Del Mar Fairgrounds
The Del Mar Fairgrounds

By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

The Solana Beach City Council agreed to hire consultants related to fairgrounds negotiations during its Dec. 9 meeting, authorizing city manager David Ott to start researching some options. At the time of press, no budget for those consultation services had been set.

Earlier this month the Solana Beach City Council announced it is seeking part ownership of the fairgrounds, which Del Mar is attempting to purchase from the state for $120 million. Talks between the two cities are still ongoing.

“This is a very complex topic and we need to make sure that we equip ourselves with the best expertise. Our citizens expect that of us,” Solana Beach councilmen David Roberts said of his decision to hire consultants.

Solana Beach sent its proposal for joint ownership of the fairgrounds to Del Mar last month, although as of Dec. 8, Del Mar had not formally responded, something that several council members expressed concern over.

“We made the overture and it’s really disappointing that they haven’t responded,” said councilmember

Tom Campbell, who sits on the ad hoc committee between the two cities. “I’m willing to sit down with them again, if that’s what it takes.”

Legislation authorizing Del Mar to buy the fairgrounds was introduced Dec. 6 by senator Christine Kehoe, who helped author the bill, SB 1. That bill will sit for at least 30 days before any action is taken, and changes can be made to it throughout the review process. After reviewing the current bill and talking to

Kehoe, councilman Roberts said he could not support the bill because he feels that “no one jurisdiction should own this property.”

Instead, Solana Beach is proposing that the fairgrounds be owned and operated by a Joint Powers of Authority (JPA) that includes representatives from all the communities impacted by the fairgrounds. Del Mar had originally proposed that the fairgrounds follow a Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) model and be governed by a board of directors who have expertise in relevant areas. Solana Beach mayor Lesa Heebner said there were still unanswered questions about that CCDC model.

“Their model asks for a board of experts who supposedly have 10 years of expertise, but we do not know what that expertise is — it has not been laid out there yet. Is it to run fairs? Is it to run races?”

“A JPA, on the other hand, has representatives from each of the communities that are impacted. Those differences are almost night and day. The JPA is very open, and it shares in all of the risks and benefits, control and operation of the entity. A CCDC, to me, is a very different model and I just don’t see the benefits of it. I don’t think that message is getting out, so let’s just make it super clear: We’re asking for local control and regional ownership.”

Solana Beach council members also pointed out that the city has a successful JPA partnership with the City of Encinitas via the San Elijo JPA water system, and believe that the fairgrounds could be run in a similar manner.

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