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Del Mar Fairgrounds
Residents are calling for transparency as Del Mar officials work towards their goal of housing on the fairgrounds. File photo
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Del Mar estimates $450,000 in costs for housing agreement with fairgrounds

DEL MAR — The City of Del Mar is estimating a cost of $450,000 in its budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to secure an agreement with the Del Mar Fairgrounds to build low-income housing as part of its 6th Cycle Housing Element.

Del Mar has requested that at least 54 lower-income units on fairgrounds property as part of the housing element the city submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) earlier this year.

A binding agreement must be reached with the fairgrounds by mid-2024 or else a contingency plan must be used to reach the city’s required number of low-income units. The process will likely be long and frustrating for all sides as they attempt to come to some kind of agreement that can be satisfactory to both sides.

That cost includes different economic studies that will need to be done on the feasibility of building housing on fairgrounds property as well as other costs the city will likely incur as part of the process.

“Something that we’re accounting for in this cycle is really the legal budget because of lot of these programs are specific to housing issues which play into state housing law and we do need a legal budget put into the overall budget so that way we can control costs and make sure there is enough money available for legal reviews,” said Joseph Smith, the city’s director of planning & community development.

In the meantime, the public is calling for openness and transparency as Del Mar works towards its goal of housing on the fairgrounds.

A letter from Del Mar resident Amy Snyder was copied by several other residents and sent to the council and called for the city to disclose any non-confidential information regarding the fairgrounds including any official communications shared between the parties, any formal or informal sub-agreements that can be publicly disclosed or anything required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I want to let (those who wrote those letters) that I agree with them,” Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden said. “Being transparent and open I think is the way we are intending to do this and it’s important to do that because this is going to be controversial in our own community.”

Worden also noted that being consistently transparent with the process will likely lead to more help from the state, particularly from HCD.

“If we should run up against that three-year deadline and need some more time, we’ll be in much better shape to ask for it if we’ve been transparent and working with them every step of the way,” Worden said.

All of the council members acknowledged the difficulty of the task ahead of them but seemed optimistic they will be able to achieve their goals set in the housing element, including those regarding the fairgrounds. Specifically, there seems to be much optimism that they will receive help from state officials if and when they go to them for help in the process.

“We need to have a sustained marathon approach. This isn’t a sprint,” Worden said. “We’re not gonna be to (State Senator) Toni Atkins for help, we’re going to have to have something going and know exactly what we need help for and then ask for and I think we’ll get it. This program is a super-high priority for the city.”

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