By Richard Earnest
Mayor, Del Mar
There have been numerous news articles recently about the 22nd District Agricultural Association's master plan and about the draft environmental impact report the district prepared to assess that plan's potential impacts.
The master plan lays out ambitious proposals for developing new and upgraded facilities and uses at the fairgrounds' property over the next decades. Among these are: a new 330-room condominium hotel, demolition and rebuilding of exhibit halls, maintenance buildings and administrative offices, demolition of the existing Del Mar Fire Station, a train-stop platform and a construction of a new freeway oriented reader board sign.
As is our right and responsibility, the city of Del Mar prepared an extensive letter in response to the EIR. We did so with the help and expertise of an appointed citizens' committee and our staff. We responded point-by-point to the 4,500-page draft EIR based on facts and on data.
Our letter is extensive because, after reviewing the master plan and EIR, they appear to be inadequate in their descriptions and analyses of the many new buildings and uses proposed. We are concerned that the design and scope of the project would cause many adverse impacts, especially with respect to the three issues that are of paramount importance to Del Mar and its citizens: 1) health and safety; 2) preservation of the quality of life in this small, beach community; and 3) protection of natural resources. Based on these concerns, we asked that the EIR be redone and recirculated for public review.
Some of the items we responded to involve: impacts to the San Dieguito Lagoon; increased traffic; building in flood-prone areas; demolition of the existing fire station without really addressing how a new one would be built; the lack of "green" planning and building concepts; and the aesthetic impacts of tall new buildings along the Lagoon edge.
We also expressed our disappointment that many of the things that we say in the letter are the same things that we have been saying for years now: protect the lagoon and respect community character.
Our EIR comment letter can be reviewed on the city's Web site at www.delmar.ca.us.
The fairgrounds master plan presents a wonderful opportunity for the Agricultural District to implement its mission while also pursuing projects that protect and enhance the environment and character of our community. We have asked that the district sincerely consider our comments and work with us toward those ends. We believe that working together we can create a plan that is more appropriate for upgrading the fairgrounds facilities and a quite sizable portion of our city.
I, along with my colleagues on the City Council, will continue to work toward this cooperative goal.