The Coast News Group
The California Coastal Commission has given officials at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, pictured in the background, 30 months to correct what it has deemed years of violations that could negatively impact the adjacent San Dieguito Wetlands, seen in the foreground. The fairgrounds board of directors plans to keep the public updated on the progress during its regular monthly meetings. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Ag board addresses consent orders

DEL MAR — In an effort to increase transparency and promote better communication, the 22nd District Agricultural Association provided a summary and timeline at its May 8 meeting of the environmental steps being taken at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to comply with a cease-and-desist order issued by the California Coastal Commission in March. 

The board of directors is planning similar monthly updates at future meetings.

Director David Watson, an attorney, described the 28-page order as a complicated document the commission gave them more than two years to implement.

“This isn’t going to happen tomorrow,” he said. “This isn’t going to happen in a month. We’re trying to correct 20 years of errors in a relatively short period of time. The fairgrounds won’t instantaneously become a pristine environmental area.”

The orders are divided into three categories, each with varying requirements and timing. The 22nd DAA, which operates the facility that borders the San Dieguito Wetlands, was given six months to submit a coastal development permit application that addresses existing and proposed uses it would like to implement or retain on the east and south overflow lots and golf driving range.

Some of those potential uses include paving the east overflow lot and year-round parking. A large part of this permit is a restoration plan for the buffer areas in the overflow lots, driving range and riprap on the southern portion of the property.

In the next step, the agricultural district has 12 months to apply for a permit for the 300-plus “typical uses” on the site, such as the fair, horse races and gun and bridal shows.

The district must identify where, when and how long each event will be held as well as measures that will be taken to address potential increases in parking and traffic.

Finally, in between the time the 22nd DAA submits the six- and 12-month permit applications, it will be allowed to continue all temporary uses as long as steps are taken to minimize impacts to the coastal resources.

For example, temporary structures higher than 25 feet are prohibited on the east overflow lot south of the Crosby gate. Erosion, lighting and noise control measures must be identified and implemented.

Nothing prohibits the 22nd DAA from continuing current operational activities during the interim use period provided all protective measures set forth in the orders “are implemented as required and that the current activities are not expanded,” the document states.

Watson said the Coastal Commission acknowledged it will be difficult to bring the facility into compliance while continuing to operate.

“They’re not trying to shut down the fairgrounds,” he said. “The fair can continue to operate but we have to comply” with the orders.

In addition to providing monthly updates at 22nd DAA meetings, Watson said he will make presentations at Del Mar and Solana Beach city council meetings.

“The more times we explain this to the public, the better informed the public will be,” he said. “It will take a while before people see physical changes. It will be a gradual process of shifting parking somewhere else.

“The Coastal Commission graciously gave us three full cycles (of the fair and horse races) to do this,” he said. “We want to see this be successful. If they said, ‘Do it now,’ it would fail.”

Jacqueline Winterer, from Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, said there are differing opinions about where the wetlands begin and end. She said the delineation was done after the rainy season, however, it should have been performed during it.

Watson said it was conducted by the Coastal Commission. “They said, ‘We’re going to do it our way,’” Watson said, adding that the delineation will likely be repeated before the entire process is complete.