By Marlena Chavira-Medford
During its Feb. 7 meeting, the Del Mar City Council approved a basic outline for a new governance model for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, should the city buy the property from the state for $120 million.
This latest model calls for a Public Trust Indenture, which would go into effect at escrow, working similar to a deed restriction. Under this model, the city would be required to continue the fair, horse racing, and other events. The race meet would be operated by a private investment group of horsemen who are fronting $30 million toward the purchase. The fair and other events would be managed by a nine-member board of appointed representatives from across the county that would include: one for Del Mar, one for Solana Beach, one for the City of San Diego, one for the county, one for the San Diego Farm Bureau, one for the River Park JPA, and three for the other San Diego cities on a rotating basis.
Past governance models have included up to five seats for Del Mar, and the fact that this latest model only has one seat for Del Mar was of concern to a handful of residents who addressed the council to voice their opinions.
Councilmen Mark Filanc, who was instrumental in drafting this Public Trust Indenture model, said that while he understood those concerns it was important that everyone “keep their eye on the ball” and “not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure the fairgrounds.” This new model will also help to quell fears from others in the region that the fairgrounds may be overdeveloped down the road, or that the uses of the property could change at the hands of a future Del Mar City Council, he added.
“We have to get regional support or else this thing is going to get shut down,” he said. “With this model, now we have something to throw darts at.”
And, in fact, the council plans to host a special meeting so the community can give its input, although that has yet to be scheduled. That feedback will help council flesh out the details of the Public Trust Indenture model, such as what should be the qualifications for the board members, for example.
Del Mar Mayor Don Mosier stressed the importance of involving the community in finalizing the details, and assured them that this was by no means set in stone.
“If this thing doesn’t look good, I’m prepared to pull the plug,” he said.
Former Del Mar councilwoman Crystal Crawford, who was involved in the early stages of the fairgrounds purchase and is now on board giving the city pro bono legal counsel, publically spoke in favor of the new model. She said the bill that would authorize this sale, SB 1, should already be assigned to committee for review—but due to the state’s budget crunch, that has not happened yet. That delay could actually work in Del Mar’s favor because it is buying the city more time, she said.