Residents speak out against fairgrounds expansion plans

DEL MAR — The Nov. 10 meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association was the public’s first opportunity to publically provide board members with input on the draft environmental report for expansion at the Del Mar Fairgrounds since the 4,555-page document was released Oct. 9.
The comments were anything but supportive. All 15 speakers, mostly Del Mar residents, voiced concerns about the size of the project and the resulting increase in traffic, noise and light, and its potential negative impacts on the San Dieguito Lagoon.
During the next 15 years the 22nd DAA, which governs the state-owned fairgrounds, is proposing to build a 330-room hotel-condominium with a grand ballroom, new exhibition halls, rooftop sports fields, offices, a health club, parking structures and a seasonal train platform.
“Such a large-scale development is inconsistent with the requirement to run (the fairgrounds) in an environmentally conscientious manner,” Del Mar resident Ed Mirsky said. “Whenever you change something, disaster will happen. I believe that (is true here).”
Building a convention center in the middle of a small community “is just appalling,” Lee Haydu, also from Del Mar, said. “If you lived in this community, which most of you do not, think about how you’d like it.”
Some speakers said they weren’t necessarily opposed to the renovation, just its size.
They asked the board to rethink its plans.
“Just because we can doesn’t mean we should,” Mark Fangue, a member of Del Mar’s San Dieguito Lagoon Preservation Committee, said. “Renovation is good. Expansion may not be the best thing for us. Converting wetlands to parking spaces is not a good thing. This expansion is a bit too much.”
Bettie Youngs, who’s lived in Del Mar since 1980, said she remains in the county’s smallest city because “it’s quaint and it has controls to keep it that way.”
“Why spoil it?” she asked. “I do understand progress. I don’t think we have the right development.”
“I’m glad you’re here today,” board member Barry Nussbaum told speakers. He said the board welcomes their input and encourages them to stay involved. But according to state guidelines, only comments submitted in writing by Jan. 8 will be formally considered.
Nussbaum said there will be “no impact to the San Dieguito River Valley.” He also said renovating the existing buildings, some of which were built 50 years ago before environmental laws were in place, will dramatically improvement the environment.
He also said some information that has been circulating is inaccurate, including a rendering of a Jumbotron-style electric sign along Interstate 5, which he called a “gross distortion.”
“This district has gone out of its way to be a good neighbor and it will continue to do so,” Nussbaum said. He also noted that there is currently no financing in place for any of the planned projects.
Officials in Del Mar and Solana Beach had several concerns immediately after the master plan and EIR were released. City staff members in both cities have formed teams that are thoroughly reviewing the documents and preparing comments to submit by the Jan. 8 deadline.
Comments can be submitted to MasterPlanEIR@ sdfair.com or the 22nd DAA, Att: Dustin Fuller, senior environmental planner, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, CA 92104. To view the
document, visit www.sdfair. com.

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