Fair board hears public’s concern about proposed expansion

Residents: Environmental impact, quality of life consideration needed

It was a packed house at the 22nd District Agricultural Association’s meeting on Tuesday, where many residents who live near the fairgrounds said they would rather preserve the area’s charm than add a convention center to the property.

They expressed concerns about the recently released draft environmental impact report for the Del Mar Fairgrounds master plan, which studies the mitigation required for a massive expansion.

“I have a genuine concern for the quality of life for the creatures living in the watershed and for the quality of life in general,” said 23-year Del Mar resident Drew Cady. “I’ve watched the slow decline of the quality of life here, primarily related to overdevelopment and a crass chase of money.”

Several who spoke called on the fairgrounds to be environmental stewards. They said they oppose current plans for a 330-room hotel and 60,000-square-foot health club and new sports facilities so close to the lagoon, which is now undergoing a $90 million restoration project.

“Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should,” said Del Mar resident Mark Fangue. “Sometimes more is not best for the community.”

22nd DAA Vice President Barry Nussbaum said he appreciates everyone showing up to speak directly to the board about the master plan. But he reminded attendees that the California Environmental Quality Act requires that comments on the EIR be submitted in writing. The public has until Jan. 8 to make comments on the 4,000-plus page report.

“We try to have an environmental consciousness in everything that we do here,” Nussbaum added.

John Graybill argued that a “gaudy, Las Vegas-like” two-sided electric sign board, included in master plan, has no place in their natural setting and that the expansion will add traffic, lights and noise.

Resident Marc Phillips said the noise has already become excessive at fairgrounds events and he worries about the sports facility’s proposed rooftop venues that may carry noise even further.

As a taxpayer, he said he thinks building a hotel is not the best idea in the current economic climate.

“Right now some hotels are in foreclosure, the industry is hurting,” Phillips said. “It doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to build a hotel.”

Nussbaum reminded people the plan is a working document for the next 25 years. He said there is currently no money for any of the projects. Even after the plan is approved, construction will not be starting immediately.

To review the EIR, visit