Del Mar officials looking to include vision for fairgrounds in land use plan

By Claire Harlin

As it stands, the Del Mar city plan does not pay much attention to the development potential and vision for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and city officials are looking to change that.

The Del Mar City Council gave direction to city staff on Nov. 7 in pursuing a Local Coastal Program Amendment (LCPA), as well as changes to the zoning code and community plan that will outline more specific development parameters for the fairgrounds. The issue will return to the council on Dec. 12 for further discussion.

City planning manager Adam Birnbaum said the California Coastal Commission (CCC), which is the final authority on development projects, is currently using standards for Del Mar set forth in the 1970s. If the CCC approves an LCPA with more specific guidelines for the fairgrounds, however, those review standards would be used by the CCC.

“In other areas of the city there are goals identified,” said Birnbaum. “But in this major part [the fairgrounds] there is no vision set forth.”

Birnbaum said this is probably due to the sentiment years ago that the City had limited influence over the Del Mar Fairgrounds because it is under the control of an independent state agency. That sentiment has since changed somewhat, as the state has considered selling the fairgrounds.

Both Birnbaum and Del Mar Councilman Terry Sinnott expressed the importance of including regional stakeholders, such as the City of Solana Beach and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, on the process of developing an LCPA.

“We should be creative in involving stakeholders in the process and encouraging stakeholders to be involved,” said Sinnott. “If they could help with design they may also have influence later on.”

Sinnott said this proposal is a tremendous opportunity to gather all stakeholders in the region and come together as group to “identify what everybody’s hopes and wishes are for that asset.”

“It’s essential that this is a regional plan,” he said. “We may be the facilitator because it’s in our regional boundaries, but this is good way to demonstrate how to make a make a good plan on a regional basis.”

Councilman Marc Filanc said it would be more appropriate to involve regional stakeholders in the public comment process, but develop the LCPA independently.

“It would be difficult to involve other jurisdictions in our approval process,” he said.

City officials suggested reconvening the Del Mar Fairgrounds Master Plan Ad-Hoc Committee to work on this item, and stressed the importance of not taking away from current projects and deadlines — namely Village revitalization.

Mayor Don Mosier said the benefit of developing an LCPA is to be more clear about what Del Mar’s vision is, and “give more feedback to the Coastal Commission about what’s appropriate development on the fairgrounds property.”

“Our decisions will only be guiding suggestions to the Coastal Commission, which has ultimate authority,” he said.