Ag district hopes to add 2 days to fair

DEL MAR — With continued record-breaking attendance and an upcoming leap year, the
22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors is considering a proposal to add two days to the 2012 San Diego County Fair, a move Del Mar City Council members believe will add to traffic congestion rather than improve it, as fairgrounds officials claim.
Tim Fennell, chief executive office, recommended the additional days at the August board meeting. “Attendance indicates it’s time to expand,” he said.
The fair has been 22 days long since 2004. Fennell said giving people 24 days could spread out attendance and help reduce traffic. This year’s event attracted more than 1.4 million visitors. He also said it would create more jobs and an increase in tax revenue.
“I don’t agree with Tim Fennell’s assessment this will reduce (traffic),” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “If there’s more opportunity, you go more often.”
Councilwoman Lee Haydu agreed. “I don’t think it’s going to help with the traffic,” she said, noting that fair officials offer several promotions to attract more people to the annual event.
“They keep doing these things to try and get more and more people to come. If they stretch it out longer they’ll do something special to get more people to come over the whole time,” she said.
“The quality of the traffic on the road is D on non-fair times,” Councilman Carl Hilliard said. “It drops to F during fair time, so we’re going to have three more days of F and it’s going to adversely affect our citizens.”
Although traffic congestion caused by the fair is expected, this year the problem was intensified with the International Beer Festival and Gospel Festival both held June 25. After determining parking lots would not be able to accommodate the traffic that was on the freeway, law enforcement closed both Via de la Valle off ramps for several hours.
Council members also have concerns about dirt from off-site parking ending up on city streets and the way traffic is directed. They would like fairgrounds officials to submit a traffic control plan for city review.
They also said extending the fair could require approval under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Mayor Don Mosier addressed those concerns, which he also submitted in a letter, during the Sept. 13 22nd DAA board meeting.
Resident Jim Benedict asked the board to give the proposal more thought. He said when he moved to the city the fair was only 14 days. Now it’s 22. “Where does the bleeding stop?”
Benedict also asked the board to consider adding a pedestrian bridge to cross Jimmy Durante Boulevard in front of the fire station and doing something to decrease attendance during the July Fourth weekend.
“That’s the weekend of death,” he said.
Fennell and board members said they would like to meet with officials from Del Mar, neighboring Solana Beach and Benedict within the next few weeks before making a decision at the Oct. 11 meeting.
The board also announced next year’s fair will have a space theme.

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