State puts Del Mar Fairgrounds governance proposal on temporary hold

By Joe Tash

A proposal to create a new governance model for the state-owned Del Mar fairgrounds has been put on hold for now, officials said Tuesday, Sept. 10.

“Nothing is going to happen on any potential governance issue until after the first of the year,” said David Watson, a member of the board that oversees the fairgrounds, at the board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Watson reported that he and board president Adam Day met with state officials in Sacramento last week, including representatives of Gov. Jerry Brown. The officials said that due to more pressing issues, they need several more months to evaluate the fairgrounds proposal, Watson said.

Over the past year, representatives of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the 340-acre fairgrounds on behalf of the state, have been in talks with the County of San Diego to form a partnership to oversee fairgrounds operations.

From those talks emerged a proposal to create a new entity called a joint powers authority, governed by a 14-member board. Nine of the seats would be filled by 22nd DAA board members, while the other five board members would be appointed by the five county supervisors.

Officials from both agencies said the move would increase local control of the fairgrounds and provide more transparency regarding fairgrounds governance. The 22nd DAA board, county Board of Supervisors and the California Secretary of Agriculture would have to approve the proposal.

A number of issues regarding the proposal have yet to be resolved, including a request by the cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and San Diego to be represented on the new board. The fairgrounds is either adjacent to, or within, the boundaries of the three cities.

Day said after the meeting that he expects the proposal to move forward in early 2014.

“I don’t see it as a concern,” he said, regarding the request by state officials for more time to study the proposal.

State officials have expressed support for the concept of enhancing local control of the fairgrounds, Day said, and the governor in particular has many issues to deal with right now, from wildfires to prison overcrowding to the state budget.

“He’s got a lot on his plate,” Day said.