Ag. board votes to extend Del Mar Fair

By Claire Harlin

Staff Writer

The 22nd District Agricultural Association board voted Oct. 11 unanimously in support of adding two additional days to the 2011 San Diego County Fair, after assuring concerned city officials from Solana Beach and Del Mar that there will be new strides in mitigating increased fair traffic.

Record-breaking attendance at the past three fairs prompted fair organizers to propose the increase from 22 to 24 days, citing population growth, positive economic impact and creation of jobs.

Prior to the fair board meeting, fairgrounds general manager Tim Fennell and board member David Watson met with local officials, including Del Mar Mayor Don Mosier and Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner, both of whom have expressed concern about the possibility of heightened traffic due to a lengthened fair run. On the contrary, fair officials have suggested the measure may reduce traffic by spreading it out over more days.

Heebner said she’s “disappointed to have two more days of inconvenience,” but she looks forward to fair officials’ commitment to work together to solve the traffic problem, which brings business in Solana Beach to a near halt.

“We see a sharp decline in business during the fair because people just want to go home after. They don’t want to go shopping down Cedros,” she said, adding that Del Mar may not take as big of a hit because it offers more restaurants, which may be appealing to those looking to go out to eat after the fair. Heebner said it would take less time to get to the fair by train, and she hopes fair organizers will work the idea of public transit into the fair’s theme.

Del Mar Mayor Don Mosier spoke at the association’s Sept. 13 meeting, bringing concerns of increased traffic and street cleanup to the fair board’s attention. He said he, along with Councilman Mark Filanc, has met with fair officials twice in the last two weeks, and he is confident they will try to increase access to the fair via public transit and increased off-site parking.

“It’s a situation we are monitoring,” he said. “I was assured they’d do their best.”

At the fair board meeting, officials brought up several ideas to work with cities to mitigate traffic and increase business, but nothing was set in stone. Fairgrounds admission discounts to public transit riders, as well as discounts at local businesses for fair patrons, were among ideas suggested.

Board member Ruben Barrales said he’d like to see those ideas in writing as soon as next week, and Fennell said he would like to get the positive support of neighboring communities as soon as possible so the board can proceed with budgeting for the upcoming fair season.

Board member David Watson said the conversations with Del Mar and Solana Beach leaders were both “productive and positive.”