Solana Beach seeks greater role in fairgrounds


By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

Del Mar’s attempt to purchase the fairgrounds has caught the attention of the region, including neighbor city Solana Beach, which now also wants equal domain over the property, said Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest during the Nov. 8 Del Mar City Council meeting.

“They want equal participation on governance and they would like an equal ownership of the fairgrounds,” he said.

The discussion between the two cities has been happening via ad hoc committees, which includes Earnest and Del Mar councilmember Carl Hilliard, and Solana Beach Mayor Tom Campbell and councilmember David Roberts. Both Earnest and Hilliard said they were surprised by the proposal from Solana Beach.

Earnest said one of his major concerns with that proposition is that ownership and governance of the fairgrounds do not go hand-in-hand. If Del Mar purchases the fairgrounds, it would be the owner, but the city would not “run it, or be the agency that takes care of everything.”

Instead, the fairgrounds would be governed by an 11-member board from around the region: Five seats would be appointed by Del Mar — San Diego and Solana Beach would each get one seat, county government would get two seats, SANDAG would get one seat, and the Joint Powers Authority in charge of the San Dieguito River Valley park would get one seat.

Councilmember Carl Hilliard said Solana Beach is now proposing that governance of the fairgrounds be set up similar to the JPA (Joint Powers Authority) that is used to manage the sewer outfall system between Encinitas and Solana Beach. That model won’t work for the fairgrounds, he said. “Our model contemplates regional governance. Their model contemplates a narrower governance, and really, in my opinion, doesn’t fit the situation we’re dealing with.”

Del Mar councilmember Mark Filanc also raised questions about how intricacies of joint-ownership would pan out.

“If there was a 50-50 joint ownership, who’s going to review projects coming down the pipe,” he asked. “There’s a huge complication there of how you would logistically do something like that with two cities next to each other.”

“Ownership of this property is not going to be a goose that lays golden eggs for Del Mar,” he added. “It sounds to me like they think we’re going to get a giant windfall off this and they want a piece of it, and that’s just not the case.”

Based on that council feedback, Earnest and Hilliard will continue discussions with Campbell and Roberts. The ad hoc committees hope to meet again within the month.

In other news:

Letter to Caltrans

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has proposed expanding Interstate-5 along a 27-mile stretch from La Jolla to Oceanside. Caltrans released a report that outlines the potential environmental impacts of that project, and the public can comment on it until Nov. 22. The council approved a letter of opposition to Caltrans’ report, stating it does not explore “mass transit improvements” and raising concerns about “potential irreversible changes” that could be caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Mayor Earnest will sign the letter and it will be submitted to Caltrans.

Balboa Lot

After selling the Balboa Lot for $4 million, the council agreed to pay off the $3 million debt on the Shores Park property. The remaining $700,000 will go to toward the new Beach Safety Center project.