By Marlena Chavira-Medford
It’s official: Solana Beach does not support Del Mar becoming sole owner of the fairgrounds, which it is currently trying to do.
During a Jan. 4 press conference, Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner said that instead, the city wants to see regional ownership of the fairgrounds. Standing atop the hill at Solana Circle, Heebner told the more than 50 people gathered there that regional control was necessary because the entire region is impacted by what happens on that property, especially Solana Beach.
“Look behind us,” she said gesturing to the fairgrounds sprawled in the background. “The Del Mar fairgrounds isn’t just in our back yard. It’s in our back room.”
She went to say that Solana Beach does not support SB 1, the state senate bill that would authorize Del Mar to buy the fairgrounds from the state for $120 million. Heebner called on Senator Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who helped write SB 1 and introduced it to senate, to amend the bill so that it reflects regional ownership. The Senate is expected to vote on that bill within the next few months.
Solana Beach is proposing that the fairgrounds be owned and run by a joint powers authority (JPA), which would include Del Mar, Solana Beach, the city and county of San Diego, San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority, and possibly other local entities. Heebner said she believes a JPA is the best way to “preserve and protect this regional asset,” and pointed to other successful examples of local JPAs, like the San Dieguito JPA, which works to restore wetlands in the area.
The concept of a JPA has garnered support from the Solana Beach community, as was evident by the frequent outbursts of applause as Heebner spoke. Steve Goetsch, one of the dozens of residents who turned out to show support, said Solana Beach is exposed to just as much light and noise pollution, traffic, and crime as Del Mar because there is no barrier between the fairgrounds and Solana Beach.
“They don’t call it the Solana Gate for nothing,” he said, referring to the fairgrounds entrance off Via del Valle, which faces Solana Beach. “You can’t deny that Solana Beach is equally impacted.”
Heebner said Kehoe, who represents beach communities from downtown San Diego to Del Mar, plans to meet with Solana Beach officials to discuss a possible amendment to SB 1. She also said that back in November, Solana Beach sent Del Mar its proposal for joint ownership of the fairgrounds, but that Del Mar “basically said ‘no’,” never giving a formal response.
Heebner stressed that Solana Beach very much supports the concept of Del Mar wanting to take the fairgrounds out of state hands and put it under local ownership — but, thinks that Del Mar should not be the only name on the deed.
“We are 95 percent in agreement with Del Mar,” she said, and then added, “it’s just that one issue of ownership.”