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Del Mar Fairgrounds
22nd DAA board says they will need to consider the implications of the California Environmental Quality Act before entering into an agreement with the city. File photo
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Fair board to revisit low-income housing proposal at Del Mar Fairgrounds

DEL MAR — The 22nd District Agricultural Association voted Tuesday, February 9, not to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the City of Del Mar regarding its request to build low-income housing on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but motioned to create an ad hoc committee to continue discussions on the proposed project.

The city first approved a formal letter requesting the construction of low-income housing on the fairgrounds in October of last year with the goal of creating at least 51 affordable housing units on the fairgrounds.

The 22nd DAA, the state board charged with operating the Del Mar Fairgrounds, was concerned with where it stands with meeting regulations to complete the project.

“The first requirement would be compliance with the California Coastal Act,” said DAA Counsel Josh Caplan at the board’s public meeting. “The main fairgrounds property, including the overflow lots, are part of the coastal zone.”

The California Coastal Commission has issued permits to the 22nd DAA in regards to the annual county fair and horseracing. Caplan says the language in the permit is limiting in such a way that building housing units on the property would not be allowed as written.

“In other words, because the permit doesn’t specifically authorize the use of this property for affordable housing, this special condition would prevent the district from doing so without either requesting that the commission amend the coastal development permit, or seeking a new permit from the Coastal Commission,” Caplan said.

The board says they will also need to consider the implications of the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, before entering an agreement with the city. Under CEQA, projects such as the proposed affordable housing may be subject to a detailed study called an Environmental Impact Report to determine the environmental impact of the construction.

Because the board is in charge of the property and would be leasing the land for use of affordable housing, they would then be the lead agency that makes it responsible for compliance with CEQA.

“This is something the board would need to comply with before it enters into a binding agreement that would require the construction and maintenance of affordable housing,” Caplan said.

Caplan also notes that the CEQA process of conducting an initial study and completing an Environmental Impact Report would take “a number of years.”

Director Frederick Schenk of the 22nd DAA said that due to the issues raised by their legal counsel, he recommended the board not enter into a binding agreement with the city of Del Mar at this time.

“I would suggest to the board that we continue with the resolution of 2013 that we are intent and our purpose is to work with the city of Del Mar but that we do not enter into an [memorandum of understanding] at this date,” Schenk said.

Board President Richard Valdez says he has reached out to board directors Kathlyn Mead and Don Mosier about potentially spearheading an ad hoc committee continuing discussions with Del Mar officials regarding this issue.

On the motion to create an ad hoc committee for that purpose, the board voted yes unanimously. Valdez will likely officially form that committee at the board’s special meeting on February 23 or their next regularly scheduled meeting on March 9.