Will state and local personnel changes impact Del Mar Fairgrounds deal?


By Joe Tash

Just as a proposed sale of the Del Mar Fairgrounds from the state to the city of Del Mar is about to reach a critical juncture, a new governor will take office, as will two new members of the Del Mar City Council.

At the state level, two things must happen before a deal could go through: first, a bill authorizing the sale would have to be approved by the state Legislature, and second, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would have to approve the sale, said a spokesman in the governor’s office.

Locally, the Del Mar City Council would have to approve the purchase.

State Sen. Christine Kehoe introduced a bill authorizing the sale in October, but because the bill was not approved by the Legislature before it adjourned, the bill must be resubmitted.

Deanna Spehn, Kehoe’s policy director, said Kehoe plans to introduce another bill authorizing the sale on Dec. 6, when the

Legislature reconvenes to discuss the state’s budget deficit.

On Dec. 7, newly elected council members Lee Haydu and Terry Sinnott will be sworn in to replace Mayor Richard Earnest and Councilwoman Crystal Crawford, who are stepping down from their council seats.

Councilman Mark Filanc said he doesn’t expect the council’s support of the proposed deal to change, even after the new members are seated.

“The remaining councilors are in favor of moving forward. This is a fully unified council going into this,” said Filanc. “I have yet to meet any Del Martian not in favor of gaining some sort of regional control… in the fairgrounds.”

Haydu said the issue didn’t come up until the very end of the election campaign, but she expects the council’s support to continue.

“From everything I’ve seen about it, it definitely has my support,” she said.

Sinnott could not be reached for comment by presstime.

Councilman Carl Hilliard said, “My sense of it is the community is very supportive and that includes the incoming council members.”

The larger question may be whether Gov.-elect Jerry Brown supports the sale. Earnest said he suspects the issue won’t be decided until after Brown is sworn in on Jan. 3.

Brown has not made a public statement about his views on the proposed sale, and a Brown spokesman did not return a message seeking comment by presstime.

Earnest said Brown is a “big believer” in moving control of government from the state to the local level, which seems to favor the fairgrounds sale.

The new governor may also be receptive to the arguments of environmental and conservation groups which support the sale, said Filanc.

Fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell, an opponent of the sale, said, “There’s no indication Gov. Brown wants to sell this facility or any other facility. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed.”