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Council upset with Kaaboo planning process

DEL MAR— After receiving an update from the organizers of a three-day music event scheduled for September at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar City Council members are still concerned about noise and traffic impacts, and some remain upset at the way fairgrounds officials handled the planning process.

“We weren’t happy with the fact that we were learning about this through the media,” Mayor Al Corti said. “Part of what we’re looking for is just trying to understand what these events are, understanding the impacts and how we’re going to deal with them.”

Knowledge about the events when they are in the planning process would be helpful, he added.

Corti likened the situation to planning a large party.

“You kind of tell your neighbor and you plan for it,” he said. “To the extent we could know in advance it would be helpful. I didn’t get a sense that they (fairgrounds officials) had an obligation or thought that they needed to do that.”

Officials from Del Mar and Solana Beach learned about Kaaboo in January 2014, although it was unnamed at the time and scheduled to take place in September of that year.

The announcement was made during a meeting of the Community Relations Committee, a group that includes representatives from the two cities and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the fairgrounds.

Although those meetings are not open to the public or media, the chairman provides a report during the monthly 22nd DAA meetings.

According to the minutes of the January 2014 meeting “the three-day music festival was also discussed. The city representatives all seemed receptive to the idea.”

The 22nd DAA board of directors approved a $950,000 contract for the event at that January meeting.

“And now it’s a big surprise?” fairgrounds General Manager Tim Fennell asked.

The festival, including its postponement, was not mentioned again in meeting minutes. An article about the event — this time mentioned by name — appeared in a Jan. 6, 2015, article in a local daily newspaper.

Fennell said Kaboo was brought up during the Community Relations Committee meeting that day but there is no mention of a discussion in the minutes.

Fennell said he asked the organizers – HorsePower Entertainment led by Bryan Gordon – to make a presentation to the Community Relations Committee during the February meeting but because of scheduling conflicts that didn’t happen until March.

Meanwhile, the Kaaboo website launched announcing, among other things, that the gates would close at 3 a.m., leaving many to incorrectly assume that’s when the outdoor concerts would end.

During their presentation the organizers said outdoor music would end at 10 p.m. Comedy shows and a dance venue will be available inside after that.

Kaaboo is described as an arts and entertainment “mix-perience” and an “adult escape” geared toward an older crowd.

It will include 100 bands on seven stages — the lineup features a variety of music genres with acts such as No Doubt, Killers, Snoop Dogg, Foster the People and Counting Crows — upscale dining, an art fair, massages and hair and nail services.

Expected attendance is 40,000 people each of the three days. That would be considered a slow day at the San Diego County fair, which attracts about 66,000 daily, Fennell said.

Approximately 45,000 attend opening day of the horse races. Fairgrounds officials noted they all come and go at pretty much the same time so staggered attendance at Kaaboo could ease impacts.

Del Mar officials didn’t see it that way.

“This event is three days in a row of 40,000 people and it’s not just from noon to 5 p.m.,” Corti said. “This is starting at 10 in the morning and there (is) going to be traffic going in and out of the fairgrounds at 2:30 in the morning. … It’s a magnitude of opening day at the races three days in a row.”

The situation has created tension in what was an improving relationship between Del Mar and the 22nd DAA.

“At least in the last few years we’ve been working hard to try to improve our relationship with the fairgrounds and identify ways we can work together,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “This is kind of a disappointment.

“They had an opportunity to get this coordinated well,” he added. “And I’m hoping it will get coordinated well. Both groups and Solana Beach … we need to focus better on the impacts that the local community has.”

“We used to have a problem where the board was not very active and didn’t support Del Mar,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “We’ve made some real progress on getting the board to listen to us, but we still have problems with the management.

“The management should listen to the board, get board direction,” he added. “That hasn’t happened. It’s the other way around and until we can get a stronger board in place we’re not going to be able to change this kind of behavior. It’s pretty ingrained.”

“What’s the point of a Community Relations Committee if they work on something this major for a year and don’t bother to tell us about it until these level of commitments are already made?” Councilman Dwight Worden asked.

He said Kaaboo will be very different from the fair, where people leave at 11 p.m. or midnight.

During Kaaboo they will be “coming and going all night long,” he said. “They’re partying in the facility. That will have profound impacts on us.

“I don’t know what the fairgrounds was thinking,” Worden said. “Tim Fennell just decided, ‘Wow, we’re going net a million bucks so I sign here and let’s just run with it.’”

“I just decided,” Fennell said sarcastically. “That’s how we work.

“It’s unfortunate that some people have those views,” he added more seriously. “That’s not how it works. I work for the board of directors. I have a fiduciary responsibility to the people of San Diego, and I take that very seriously.

“There are always some folks who would prefer there were no events here but that’s not the mission of the ag district,” Fennell said.

“I understand the regional benefit,” Corti said. “We’re very in favor of a lot of these events. It brings a lot of benefit to the community at large, but we’re trying to deal with what the specific impacts are in our community.

“The message that I tried to get across to the committee was that I hope we can do a better job of communicating this stuff in advance,” he added.

Del Mar council members said they are hopeful their former colleague, Lee Haydu, who was appointed to the fair board Feb. 27, will be added to the Community Relations Committee.

“That will help,” Mosier said.

Haydu was appointed to the committee on March 25.

This story has been updated since its original posting.