Judge rules against Sierra Club in Del Mar Fairgrounds lawsuit

By Joe Tash

A judge has ruled against the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club in the latest skirmish of a legal battle over the use of portions of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The club sued the California Coastal Commission in January, alleging that the commission violated state law when it approved two permits for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds.

At issue is whether the fairgrounds can continue to use part of a dirt lot — called the east overflow lot — along Interstate 5 for parking, seasonal pumpkin and Christmas tree sales and other activities. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups believe a portion of the east overflow lot should preserved as wetlands.

But the 22nd DAA, in a deal with the Coastal Commission, agreed to spend $5 million to restore its south overflow lot along Jimmy Durante Boulevard to wetlands habitat, in exchange for being allowed to continue to use the full east overflow lot.

The commission approved the agreement and necessary permits in November.

On Thursday, March 13, San Diego Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal denied the Sierra Club’s request for a stay and temporary restraining order regarding those Coastal Commission permits.

“We were pleased (by the ruling) because the judge recognized that there wasn’t an imminent threat to sensitive resources,” said 22nd DAA board member David Watson. “We believe the permits were issued correctly and the Coastal Commission did the correct analysis when they issued the permits.”

The Sierra Club’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

The next hearing regarding the lawsuit is set for July 25.