Council supports Del Mar's assertion of CEQA violations
The Del Mar Fairgrounds could have seen this coming from a mile away.
Or more like 1.1 miles, the distance between the 22nd Agricultural District's offices and Solana Beach City Hall.
In a special City Council meeting last week, Solana Beach echoed the city of Del Mar in releasing its comment letter regarding the fairgrounds' proposed expansion. To sum it up a second time: the draft environmental impact report violates the California Environmental Quality Act and must be redrafted and recirculated for it to be valid.
"You don't need to spend more than five minutes with this thing to know that it's woefully inadequate and this project has no benefits to the city of Solana Beach," Councilman Mike Nichols said. "There's no standard for CEQA submittals for EIRs, so they can pretty much throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks."
Under CEQA, any public agency must consult with a bordering city while drafting an EIR. Although there were meetings between the Agricultural Board, Del Mar and Solana Beach during this process, both cities say their concerns were almost entirely ignored in the released version, violating the law.
Mike Hogan, a CEQA attorney retained by Solana Beach, said of the 26 concerns the city submitted to the fairgrounds during this time, 25 were not addressed in the 4,400-page document. Consultants hired by the city last October raised nearly 500 environmental issues.
"CEQA is a state law that's been adopted by the Legislature. It's been here for 30 years and has one purpose, and that's to inform the public about the environmental impacts that might occur from a proposed development," Hogan said at the council meeting. "What are our 474 comments about? They are about the ways in which the draft EIR fails to provide sufficient information for the city and its residents to know what's going to happen if that intense development were to occur."
Hogan declined to comment further after the meeting, but Councilman Dave Roberts said consultants have told him this draft EIR fails greatly in comparison to those of similar past projects. The city is raising concerns about adverse effects on traffic, noise, pollution, flooding, the local economy and aesthetics, among others.
Since the city of Del Mar released its letter on Jan. 21, the 22nd Agricultural Board has expressed disappointment and surprise that its EIR was so poorly received.
"We've worked with the coastal commission and various agencies to assure that our master plan and EIR are not only legal, but are sensitive," said spokeswoman Linda Zweig, adding that lawyers, specialists and consultants aided in its drafting. "We are sensitive to the environment, the area, the greenbelt and we are abiding by the coastal commission's rules and regulations, requests and standards."
She said Solana Beach and Del Mar have been involved throughout the process: "We didn't just put together a master plan without looking at CEQA."
The city's assertions
EDITOR'S NOTE: A staff report introducing the review of the Fairgrounds Master Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report, states: