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Del Mar to comment on more fairgrounds events

DEL MAR — City Council members agreed unanimously at the Sept. 16 meeting to weigh in on permit applications presented to the California Coastal Commission for increased activities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. 

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the state-owned facility, submitted two coastal development permit applications, one of which is scheduled for the commission’s October meeting in San Diego. The second is tentatively set for the November meeting in Newport Beach.

The applications, which cover several proposals for different areas on the fairgrounds, were submitted partly in response to requirements of consent orders from the CCC in 2012 to address activities that were occurring without that board’s approval.

Many requests in the first application are for temporary annual events already taking place on the east overflow lot, such as the pumpkin patch and Christmas tree sales.

Although the lot isn’t located in Del Mar, all vehicular access to and from it is along Jimmy Durante Boulevard via Villa del la Valle. This is a major route into and out of the city and there could be potential traffic impacts to the entire community, the staff report states.

“The activities that would occur potentially on that site would have potentially some pretty significant impacts on the roadways that are within Del Mar,” Planning Director Adam Birnbaum said, adding that the letter should concentrate on those issues.

“Part of the concern … is that the application materials themselves don’t contain a lot of detail as to exactly what is proposed in the way of activities,” Birnbaum said. “So one of the comments might be that we’re seeking more information as to exactly what’s proposed in order to gauge the potential impacts.

“Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear that the extent of the activities that are proposed would have some impacts and we need to address, or the ag district needs to address and the commission needs to address the impacts on Del Mar’s roadways,” he added.

Councilman Al Corti asked that the language for traffic mitigation be strong.

“The traffic breaks down on Jimmy Durante today,” he said. “Somehow they need to address how we’re going to mitigate that with additional events. … It fails today, and to the extent that we’re going to have more events, it’s only going to make it worse.”

The permit applications also seek authorization for other unspecified future events on three segments of that lot and permission to install related temporary structures such as tents and canopies.

There is also a request for a paved vehicular route and bus lane and trail parking along the south overflow lot.

The 22nd DAA is working on a required traffic impact and mitigation study, but because the review of impacts isn’t complete, it would be difficult to determine any further impacts from new activities, the staff report states.

According to staff analysis, some stakeholders in the region may submit comments about potential impacts on sensitive resources, however, the focus of the city’s letter will be on on-going traffic and parking impacts and the increase of those impacts that could result from more activities.

Council members also declined to ask in the letter that a farmers market at the fairgrounds be removed as a potential new activity.

The request came from resident Jacqueline Winterer on behalf of the current farmers market held in Del Mar.

Winterer noted the board is all volunteers and profits are split, with half going to scholarships for children of market participants and the other half donated for community projects such as library improvements.

“The farmers market, for 27 years, has been a meeting place at the heart of community life,” Winterer said. “It’s the only source of fresh fruit and vegetables in our community.”

Council members said it would be better if the farmers market submitted its own letter.

“It sort of would put the city in an awkward position because we’ve been trying to emphasize the fair’s mission is agriculture and even proposing a demonstration farm on the site,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I’m not sure that the farmers market would happen anytime soon or would threaten the existence of a Del Mar farmers market.

“I’m not even sure they would need a coastal development permit for a farmers market,” he said. “At this point in time I think it’s better for the farmers market people to comment and say that they don’t want to threaten the existence of a current Del Mar market.”

The public can weigh in during the Coastal Commission meeting, set for Oct. 9 through Oct. 11 at the Crowne Plaza San Diego. The exact day the item will be discussed will be announced when the meeting agenda is posted on the commission’s website.