Council hears report on Del Mar’s efforts to prepare for summer season


By Kristina Houck

Del Mar may be the smallest city in the county, but it is also one of the busiest in the summer.

More than 1.4 million fairgoers flocked to the fairgrounds during the San Diego County Fair this year, the second-highest attendance in fair history. In addition, Del Mar’s Community Services Department reported an estimated 77,000 people visited the city during the three-day weekend, including 31,000 people on the Fourth of July.

“Readiness — for not only this busy weekend, but the entire summer — requires months of advance and careful preparation before and during the summer months,” explained Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager, during a report about the city’s annual preparation efforts for the summer season at the July 7 council meeting. “All the city departments, whether they’re on the frontline like community services, the fire department or public works, or those that are more behind the scenes like administrative services and finance, are involved in planning for the necessary needs and responding to the increased volume of customer calls.”

During the fair and race season, the sheriff’s department has additional staff at the fairgrounds, which is paid for by the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

The fire department also coordinates with other agencies in preparation for the fair and the races, while being prepared for wildfires. An additional fire engine company is staffed closer to the central area of the city on designated peak days, such as July 4 and opening day at the track.

About a dozen lifeguard stations are open in the summer, compared to only one station during the off-peak season, Crane said. Approximately seven additional full-time equivalent lifeguards join the city for the peak summer season. An additional parking enforcement officer works on Saturdays and Sundays during the peak season. Lifeguard and parking enforcement hours are generally extended to 8 p.m.

Del Mar’s Public Works Department has a long to-do list to prepare for the city’s influx of visitors and traffic in the summer.

Prior to the start of summer, staff members power wash the business district sidewalks, repair the Tot Lot, fertilize the parks, refresh the paint on red curbs, place additional portable restrooms at North Beach, and prepare for special events scheduled during the summer. In addition, the department cleans and empties the 21st Street Sewer Pump Station Wet Well and Force Main in preparation for increased wastewater flows.

During the summer season, the department has two employees maintain the beach during the week and three employees on the weekends. The crew cleans the beach three times per week in the summer, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Additional trash receptacles are placed on certain streets in the Beach Colony. In addition, a restroom attendant is onsite roughly 12:30-7:30 p.m. from July through September at the Powerhouse and Beach Safety Center.

Thanking Crane for the report, council members were happy to highlight how the city prepares for its busy season each year.

“I appreciate this summary of what we do,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “There are a lot of details here that, I think, are valuable. We should highlight them as things we’re doing to try to handle the visitors that we have.”

However, the council requested staff to determine exactly how much the city is spending on its annual preparations.

“Since I’ve been on council, I’ve been concerned that we do spend a lot of money supporting visitor services. We only have 4,000 residents, yet we have 2 million visitors,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “My opinion is that we need to find a way to shift some of those costs to our visitors. … We spend a lot of money so other people can have nice vacations.”