Proposal to extend fair run in Del Mar prompts concerns


By Joe Tash


Following a third consecutive year of record attendance in 2011, organizers of the San Diego County Fair are considering expanding the fair’s 22-day run by two days next year, but the proposal has drawn criticism from the fairgrounds’ neighbor to the south.

Del Mar Mayor Don Mosier spoke at the fair board’s meeting Tuesday, Sept 13, requesting that the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which owns and operates the fairgrounds, conduct a traffic study to demonstrate that adding additional fair days won’t cause more congestion on the area’s roads.

The Del Mar council discussed the issue at its meeting Monday and directed city staff to send a letter outlining its concerns to the fair board. Mosier delivered the letter Tuesday.

Mosier said the city is also concerned about the effectiveness of traffic control supervised by the fairgrounds, cleanup of dirt and debris on city streets during and after the fair, and whether expanding the fair’s schedule requires review under California environmental regulations.

Jim Benedict, a Del Mar resident, also addressed the fair board about the expansion proposal by fairgrounds General Manager Tim Fennell. Rather than vote on the issue Tuesday, Benedict said, “I hope you vote no and do not do it and give it some more thought.”

When he moved to Del Mar, Benedict said, the fair ran for 14 days. The fair has run for 22 days in June and July since 2004. “Really, where does the bleeding stop?” Benedict said.

Fennell told the board he would meet with Del Mar and Solana Beach officials and community members before bringing the proposal back to the fair board for consideration.

This year the fair ran from June 10 through July 4, and was closed on Mondays. A total of 1.412 million people attended this year, up from 1.338 million in 2010.

“The fair is so popular the attendance is growing. There seems to be a demand from the people of San Diego to come to the fair,” Fennell said.

At its meeting last month, the fair board approved the dates of June 8 through July 4 for the 2012 fair. If Fennell’s proposal is approved, the fair would remain open on two Tuesdays, June 12 and 19, for a total of 24 days.

Fennell said the additional days are intended to meet the demand and reduce traffic congestion. “Adding more days, you’re going to spread out the attendance to some degree.” The fair also provides jobs and tax revenue to the region, he said, which are important considerations, he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the fair board approved a theme of space exploration for next year’s fair.

“We think this theme will go far with the educational aspect, the fun aspect and the entertainment aspect,” Fennell said.

“There’s got to be a lot of connections for San Diego County, science and space,” said board president Adam Day.

The fair board meeting on Tuesday also provided an occasion to bid farewell to two former board members, Kelly Burt and Barry Nussbaum, who were dismissed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June. In all, Brown has dismissed five members of the nine-member board.

Last month, Brown appointed five new members: Lisa Barkett, 52, of La Jolla; Tom Chino, 62, of Del Mar; David Lizerbram, 35, of San Diego; Frederick Schenk, 57, of Carmel Valley; and David Watson, 54, of Chula Vista.

As the meeting began, Day congratulated the new members and welcomed them to the panel.