Solana Beach signs on to study of fairgrounds impact

Solana Beach has officially signed on to a study that will determine the impacts events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds have on the city and neighboring Del Mar.

In a unanimous vote, the Solana Beach City Council on March 25 agreed to pay a portion of the nearly $90,000 economic impact study to evaluate the fairgrounds. Solana Beach will share the cost with Del Mar and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the state-owned fairgrounds.

In November 2012, the 22nd DAA Board of Directors voted to settle a lawsuit filed against the district by Del Mar, Solana Beach and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority over expansion plans at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Under the terms of the February 2013 settlement agreement, the board agreed to a joint study to determine the actual costs for services provided as well as revenue generated by the district for the neighboring cities.

“It’s well known that on a regional basis the fairgrounds are a regional asset economically,” said interim City Manager David Ott. “There have been several studies on a very high level that have shown that, and I think that’s generally understood. What has never been done is to look at the cities that are most impacted by the activities at the fairgrounds.”

The Del Mar Fairgrounds occupies 340 acres in north coastal San Diego County, 80 percent of which is located in Del Mar, next to Solana Beach. Every year the fairgrounds hosts about 300 events, attracting about 3 million visitors annually, including the annual county fair, thoroughbred races and hundreds of special events and trade shows.

In late 2014, the two cities and the 22nd DAA developed a scope of work for the study and solicited proposals. Nine proposals were received. After interviewing four firms in February, all the three agencies agreed Economic & Planning Systems was the best firm for the job.

As part of the study, Economic & Planning Systems will collect data from a representative sampling of the events at the fairgrounds. The firm will also conduct intercept surveys at five major events, including the county fair, summer races, National Horse Show, Good Guys Car Show and Kaaboo music festival.

“I think it provides a much greater understanding between the two communities and the fairgrounds itself,” Ott said.

The study is expected to cost $86,250.

Del Mar, Solana Beach and the district will each set aside $30,000 for the project. The Del Mar City Council approved the cost-sharing agreement in a 4-0 vote with Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks absent on March 16.

“This is a long time coming,” said Mayor Lesa Heebner, who serves as a member of the fair board’s Community Relations Committee, which includes representatives from both cities.

“I think this is going to be a very useful study over the years to come. It’s a step in the right direction and really shows the cooperation that we have reached within the Community Relations Committee.”

The study will begin mid-April and should be completed by September. The final report is expected by November, when both councils, as well as the 22nd DAA Board, will hear presentations.