Troubled Del Mar purchase put on hold

DEL MAR — The potential purchase of the Del Mar Fairgrounds will likely not occur until at least next year.
Sen. Christine Kehoe, who introduced legislation in December that would authorize the sale of the state-owned facility to the city of Del Mar, decided not to call for a hearing of the bill until 2012.
“We’ve parked it for now,” Deanna Spehn, Kehoe’s policy director, said. “It now becomes a two-year bill.”
Spehn said Gov. Jerry Brown is still focused on the budget and has yet to be briefed by his senior staff on Senate Bill 1, Kehoe’s legislation, and myriad other state issues.
According to the Senate calendar, legislators have until early May to act on SB 1. While that could still happen, it is unlikely, Spehn said. A new bill authorizing the sale could also be introduced, she added.
“As soon as the budget is passed things will move forward in the Capitol on other issues,” Spehn said.
While the bill is on hold, neighboring Solana Beach is continuing its effort to better understand the governance model proposed by Del Mar should that city be successful in its purchase.
At the April 27 meeting Solana Beach council members approved an agreement with Miller, Owen & Trost for legal assistance in analyzing the public trust indenture proposed by Del Mar that would govern the site.
The firm has been participating in meetings with stakeholders and helping to draft a comparison of different governing models. The agreement is expected to exceed $15,000.
According to the proposed governance model, a nonprofit corporation with a nine-member board will operate the fair and other activities. That board will include appointed representatives from Del Mar, Solana Beach, the city and county of San Diego, the San Diego Farm Bureau, the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority and three members from other San Diego cities on a rotating basis.
Horse racing would be operated according to a different lease by a private group of horsemen who are expected to provide about $30 million for the $120 million purchase.
As Del Mar continues its negotiations with the horse owners, Solana Beach plans to initiate discussions on a countywide basis by possibly organizing a roundtable workshop with city and county representatives.
“I’d like to see us move forward independent of Del Mar in terms of regional discussions on the … different approaches as to ownership and management structure,” Councilman Tom Campbell said.
City Manager David Ott said he is currently working with staff members in the county “to gauge any interest that there is.”
“We can invite Del Mar to the table,” Campbell said. “If they want to come, fine. … I don’t think that we should park this from our point of view. I think that we need to move it forward.”

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