County to move ahead with plans to form joint powers authority for Del Mar Fairgrounds

By Joe Tash

County supervisors voted unanimously April 23 to move ahead with plans to form a joint powers authority with the state board that oversees the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which could lead to the formation of a new, 14-member board to manage fairgrounds operations.

The county has been in talks with the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which currently manages the state-owned property in coastal North County, to create a new governance model that provides more local control over the facility.

More than 40 people, including elected city and state officials and their representatives, spoke in favor of the proposal at the meeting, which was held at the County Administration Center in downtown San Diego, versus a handful of speakers who criticized the proposal or sought to delay a decision.  Supervisors also declined  requests from the cities of San Diego, Del Mar and Solana Beach to make them voting members of the new board.

Instead, Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former member of the Solana Beach City Council, requested his colleagues consider adding “ex officio,” or non-voting, seats to the new board for the three cities, whose boundaries either include portions of the fairgrounds property or are adjacent to the fairgrounds.

“Some people are going to lynch me in my district for saying that,” said Roberts, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors last November.

Both county officials and members of the 22nd DAA board — who are appointed by the governor — said state law allows the 22nd DAA to form a partnership with the county, but not a city.

“Unfortunately, that’s not allowed under existing state law,” said Supervisor Greg Cox, who, along with Supervisor Ron Roberts, brought the issue forward to the full Board of Supervisors last fall.

While acknowledging that the three cities want full representation on the board, Cox said the plan approved Tuesday will increase regional representation on the board that oversees the fairgrounds.

“I hope we don’t lose sight of the possible in pursuit of the perfect,” Cox said.

Supervisors on Tuesday directed their staff to work with the 22nd DAA to draw up an agreement for the new board, which will come back before the Board of Supervisors in about 60 days.

If the partnership is eventually formalized, the new board would be made up of the current nine members of the 22nd DAA board, plus five new members appointed by the county supervisors.  Each supervisor could nominate either him or herself for the new joint powers board, or a representative.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner asked supervisors to put off a decision for 30 days to allow more discussion, and to create seats for the three cities.

“We want to be involved,” Filner said.

Del Mar Councilman Don Mosier, and Solana Beach Councilwoman Lesa Heebner also spoke, asking that their cities be represented, because of the impacts the fairgrounds has on their communities.

Supervisor Ron Roberts said it was never his objective to gain control over the fairgrounds.

“It was not our intent to control, rather it was our intent to have regional influence,” he said.  “I think what’s before us today is a good start.”

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