By Joe Tash
The County Board of Supervisors will consider next week whether to form a joint powers authority with the 22nd District Agricultural Association, including a new 14-member board that would oversee day-to-day operations at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The issue will be considered at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 23. The plan put forward by Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox calls for each supervisor to appoint one member to the new panel, and the nine members of the 22nd DAA board to fill the rest of the seats.
The 22nd DAA currently runs the state-owned fairgrounds, and its board members are appointed by the governor.
“I don’t see this as a revolutionary change but maybe an evolutionary change. At the end of the day we will have a greater voice within the local community,” regarding operations of the fairgrounds, Roberts said.
Roberts said he was concerned going into discussion with fairgrounds and state officials that the county not expose itself to financial or legal risks. Since the issue last came before the supervisors in October, county staff have closely analyzed legal and financial issues.
“Our people have done a very, very thorough job of going through this,” Roberts said. “I feel comfortable with that.”
The agreement under consideration calls for each county supervisor to appoint one member of the new 14-member panel, which could either be a supervisor or a representative.
Roberts said one change is that fairgrounds employees would be subject to county rules instead of state rules. As an example, he said, if the state imposed furloughs on its workers due to financial problems, the fairgrounds employees would no longer have to take unpaid days off. However, he said, it is not anticipated that fairgrounds workers would become county employees.
The Del Mar race track would continue to be run by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Roberts said.
Adam Day, president of the 22nd DAA board, said the proposed agreement would increase transparency and local control of fairgrounds operations.
Day, who initiated the discussions in a letter to the county last fall, said, “I’m very excited at the possibility of discussing this concept in greater detail with the (Board of Supervisors) at their public meeting next Tuesday.”
“In my view this is the kind of change that is representative of good governance and responsiveness to those we serve,” Day said.
The fairgrounds hosts the popular San Diego County fair each summer, an annual horse-racing meet, and hundreds of other events each year, including weddings, home and garden shows, roller derby meets and gun shows. The 22nd DAA has a $58 million operating budget.
Meanwhile, the cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach are pressing their case to be represented on the new joint powers authority board. Most of the fairgrounds property is within Del Mar city limits, and the property is adjacent to Solana Beach. Both cities are affected by traffic, noise and other issues related to events at the fairgrounds.
“We feel strongly Solana Beach needs to have a seat at the table as a full voting member,” and that the city should be able to choose its own representative, said Councilman Tom Campbell at an April 10 City Council meeting.
At that meeting, the council agreed to draft a letter to the fair board — copied to the county — spelling out its position.
Earlier this month, Del Mar sent a similar letter to Supervisor Greg Cox, who along with Supervisor Ron Roberts, heads the county’s efforts to consider a partnership with the fairgrounds.
“It is our understanding that the County and the DAA are considering a governance board made up of nine members of the DAA and five representing the County. We would therefore recommend, in an effort to provide local participation, that the County have eight members, of which three would represent the three cities of Solana Beach, San Diego and Del Mar, and that the respective Councils be allowed to make the selections for the board,” wrote Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott.
Day, however, said the new model as proposed by the 22nd DAA and the county, with a 14-member board, will provide a new and improved voice for Del Mar and Solana Beach, and that the logical partnership is between the 22nd DAA and the county, as both entities share the same boundaries and represent the entire region. State law also contains provisions for partnerships between agricultural districts and counties, he said.