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City supports local fairgrounds control; wants say over appointees

SOLANA BEACH — Despite concerns about the way officials initiated discussions to gain greater local control over the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, Solana Beach City Council members adopted a resolution at the Feb. 13 meeting indicating they support the plan, but with modifications.“We’re really not happy with how this has come down,” Councilman Tom Campbell said. “On the other hand, we want to try to cooperate and see if we can get something accomplished.”

“I’m going to take the position in this resolution … that we are going to be able to work through this positively and in partnership with them,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said, referring to officials from the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which manages and operates the fairgrounds.

“I think it just takes a little bit of time for them to understand where we’re coming from, get some facts,” she added. “We’re really clear what we want. And it’s just a matter of communicating it, learning what their objections are, overcoming those objections and I think that we can do that.”

Adam Day, 22nd DAA board president, began meeting with officials from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office last year to discuss local governance of the 340-acre site that lies mostly within Del Mar city limits, in a small portion of the city of San Diego and adjacent to Solana Beach.

Day presented a proposal for a partnership between the 22nd DAA and San Diego County in October and has been working with Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox.

Former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, in whose district the facility is located, was not initially included in the discussions. She chose not to seek re-election and former Solana Beach City Councilman Dave Roberts now represents that district.

In the resolution, the city recognizes the fairgrounds is a valuable regional asset that provides many economic and other benefits to the area, as well as several negative impacts, including traffic, noise and light.

Officials from Del Mar and Solana Beach have also for years complained the two cities are never fully reimbursed for the public safety services they provide for the facility and its 350-plus annual events.

According to the resolution, the city supports regional governance that includes representation from the impacted cities.

Heebner requested the addition of language that makes it “very clear … we would like to have the appointing power over who would be from Solana Beach rather than the county Board of Supervisors.

“We broke away from the county (in 1986) for a reason,” she said. “We really have a difference in philosophy, a difference of values, a difference of sort of mission and vision.”

During a recent meeting between Ron Roberts, Cox and representatives from Del Mar, Solana Beach and the city of San Diego, Campbell said Day “made it very clear” he was “moving forward with the county.”

“That’s what he believes the right choice is,” Campbell said. “He suggested to us it couldn’t change but I can tell you (all the representatives) really voiced some displeasure about the impacted cities being left out of the discussions.”

Dave Roberts has asked his colleagues if he could replace either Ron Roberts or Cox at the county level. A decision hasn’t been announced.

The topic was discussed Feb. 12 “in detail,” Campbell said, during the regular monthly meeting between officials from Solana Beach, Del Mar and the 22nd DAA.

According to Campbell, Director Dave Watson said he hoped the issue didn’t get in the way of the positive relationship that has been built over the last year or so between the three entities.

“I don’t think any of us want that to happen,” Campbell said. “But on the other hand, we made it very clear to him that the impact cities need to be represented.”

Representatives from the two cities and the agricultural board haven’t always seen eye-to-eye over the impacts and a few years ago when Del Mar unsuccessfully tried to buy the fairgrounds from the state.

Since then more than half of the nine-member fair board has been replaced.

Day said the county is the “logical entity” for local governance as it represents all residents in San Diego, and the proposal doesn’t mean Del Mar and Solana Beach wouldn’t have increased say in any future governance model.

Del Mar City Council members adopted a similar resolution at their Feb. 4 meeting.