Del Mar seeks Solana Beach’s support for fairgrounds purchase


Request met with mixed response

By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

A request by Del Mar city officials for a letter of support from the Solana Beach City Council regarding Del Mar’s possible purchase of the fairgrounds was met with mixed reactions during the Oct. 13 Solan Beach City Council meeting.

Solana Beach mayor Tom Campbell, councilmember Joe Kellejian, and councilmember Mike Nichols said they are not prepared to pledge their support, though deputy mayor Lesa Heebner and councilmember David Roberts were open to at least drafting a letter.

So far, the potential sale has garnered quite a bit of regional backing, including public support from County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Vista Mayor Morris Vance, and commitments from the cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas, Lemon Grove and National City.

But not everybody is onboard. State assembly representative Martin Garrick, who lives in Solana Beach, is opposed to the sale. Opposition like that could prove to be a roadblock for the deal, which has led Del Mar to seek local support.

“[The City of Del Mar] would like to not have any negative comments right now from the local area, so any type of letter we could do as a city to support this initiative I think would help them, and I think it would also help give us the ability to keep negotiating with them,” said Solana Beach councilmember David Roberts, who attended the Oct. 13 community relations council ad hoc committee meeting between Del Mar and Solana Beach city officials, when the request for the letter was made.

Solana Beach mayor Tom Campbell, who also participated in that ad hoc meeting, said he was hesitant to publically endorse the deal without knowing all the details, which cannot be disclosed yet due to a cloak of secrecy from the governor’s office. Del Mar city officials also approached San Diego city and county officials early on to see if either entity would be interested in purchasing the fairgrounds, perhaps as a joint powers authority. However, Del Mar city officials never approached anyone from Solana Beach, something that Campbell said troubled him.

“I found it a bit concerning that they reached out to the city of San Diego and the county of San Diego in terms of joint power authorities, but they didn’t reach out to any other cities within the local region here. I’m not sure what the motivation for that was, but it was a bit of a concern to me.”

If Del Mar takes over the fairgrounds, a nonprofit group with a nine-member board would oversee operations. Of those nine seats, five would go to Del Mar, one would go to the City of San Diego, one would go to Solana Beach, one would go to the San Diego County, and one would go to the San Dieguito River Park joint powers authority. Solana Beach councilmember Joe Kellejian said he thinks Solana Beach deserves more than one seat.

“It doesn’t seem right to me, it doesn’t seem neighborly to me that we only get one seat,” he said. “We want to have more control here in Solana Beach, and I can tell you that having dealt with this issue for many years.

“What are we getting out of this? One vote? We’re really getting nothing because we’ll still have the noise impacts that we did before, with no mitigation. We’ll still have the light impacts that we did before, with no mitigation. We’ll still have the crime, with no mitigation. And we’ll still have the traffic that’s generated from the fairgrounds, with no mitigation. We can’t even get these folks to contribute to our regional sand project and they’re off buying the fairgrounds.”

Solana Beach councilmember David Roberts countered that.

“If we were going to build something within our city, would we give Del Mar the seats on the board? No. How many votes do we have now? None. This would give us one,” Roberts said. “What would we get out of this? We wouldn’t get the fairgrounds project that none of us want. I think anything that gives an opening to stop the Del Mar Fairgrounds project, anything that opens to local control, is something we’d want to participate it.”

Solana Beach deputy mayor Lesa Heebner said though she was “ticked off” that Del Mar didn’t approach them earlier in the negotiation process, she was willing to consider it “water under the bridge at this point.”

“We need to move on and know that the benefit of this sale is local control,” she said.

Solana Beach councilmember Mike Nichols said writing a letter of support at this point would be “premature” but he’d be open to exploring the issue more. Keeping in that vein, the council has decided to revisit the idea during its Oct. 27 meeting, when a Del Mar representative will speak. Based on how that meeting goes, the council may decide whether or not to support Del Mar’s potential purchase of the fairgrounds.

In other news:

Highland Drive/Lomas Santa Fe Drive Intersection Improvements and Traffic Calming Project

The council authorized an agreement with Project Design Consultants for the preliminary design of the Highland Drive/Lomas Santa Fe Drive Intersection Improvements and Traffic Calming Project, which is not to exceed $73,350. This project will include street improvements, such as curb pop-outs, and chicanes that will aim to calm traffic. Project Design Consultants has also provided engineering and permitting services for the San Dieguito Wetlands Mitigation project.

Proposition 19

The council voted to support opposition of Proposition 19, which would regulate, tax and control cannabis in California.

Search for new city manager

City manager David Ott is retiring in December. However, he will serve as interim city manager beginning Jan. 1, 2011 and he will continue in that position possibly through June 30, with extensions for up to two 180-day periods, if needed. In the meantime, the deputy mayor Leesa Heebner and Ott will continue working to find a new city manger.