North County residents oppose homeless housing at the fairgrounds

The heart of the Del Mar fairgrounds at sunset in January.
The heart of the Del Mar fairgrounds at sunset in January.


(Union-Tribune)

A long procession of North County residents registered their opposition on July 14 to a potential homeless housing project for veterans at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Fairgrounds Deputy General Manager Carlene Moore said during the fairgrounds board of directors online meeting that homeless housing at the state-owned venue is “a concept, not a project” at this point. The number of homeless individuals who would be housed, along with all the other details, have not been decided, she said.

The board might vote on whether to move forward with the project at its August meeting.

“We are only at the information gathering process,” added Richard Valdez, the board president.

The fairgrounds Community Relations Committee first considered the temporary homeless housing idea in May. A Temporary Housing Ad-Hoc Committee has since been formed. Fairgrounds staff reported that they are studying similar projects in other communities that have been successful, and reaching out to residents and elected leaders in neighboring communities for feedback.

The project would also generate revenue for the fairgrounds, which would issue a land lease for the temporary units. Projected revenues for the fairgrounds this fiscal year dropped precipitously after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellations of the county fair and every other large event. Staff also announced that about 60% of employees will likely be laid off in the coming months, a reduction of about 150 to 61.

Local residents who spoke during public comment said they were concerned about their property values decreasing, that they didn’t think the homeless housing would provide enough resources to guide tenants to longer-term success, and that it would discourage tourism. Several also said they thought the idea was a poorly conceived way for the fairgrounds to salvage some of its revenue this year.

Fairgrounds board members and staff also received a deluge of emails from nearby residents who are opposed to the idea.

“We would like to be able to enjoy our home without the worry of a homeless shelter within walking distance from our home,” wrote a Solana Beach resident named Susan, whose last name was redacted by fairgrounds staff.

Imperial Beach resident Martha Sullivan, one of two public speakers who indicated support for the potential project, said she was “extremely, extremely disappointed” by all the criticism from the other speakers.


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