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Garrick weighs in on fairgrounds sale

DEL MAR — Prompted by his constituents, Republican Assemblyman Martin Garrick recently mailed a survey to residents in the 74th District seeking input to the proposed sale of the Del Mar Fairgrounds to the city of Del Mar.
The mailer provided a brief history of the site and some background information on the facility and the sale. It also posed seven questions, with only two requesting specific responses.
Three asked for yes, no or unsure/don’t care answers, including whether respondents supported the sale, if they thought horse racing should continue as part of any deal and if an open bidding process should determine the price.
Respondents were also given six options as to who should manage the facility and four regarding who should be consulted if the site is sold.
Del Mar officials have been working with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office to purchase the 340-acre site for more than a year. Legislation authorizing the sale was introduced and almost immediately pulled in early October.
After the news broke, Garrick, in whose district the state-owned property lies, said he felt the bill was rushed and the $120 million sale price, determined without a competitive bidding process, was too low.
Garrick said he remains open as far as selling the site as long as the process is fair.
“I’m in favor of full review of any sale and all of the assets,” he said. “I love the facility and want only the best for that facility, now and into the future. If it’s sold it needs to be at the true appraised market value.”
An appraisal, which was not released to the public, has been conducted, but Garrick described it as “very limited.” He said it was based only on the fair and horse racing and did not include the $191 million in capital improvements that have been made in the past 18 years or the more than 300 other events held annually.
Garrick said he sent the survey as a way of “reaching out” to his constituents. According to the document, responses “will help shape the debate on the possible sale.”
But at least one resident and possibly a few city council members saw it differently.
“On its face it looks like it’s a fact-finding mission as to … what are our views towards the purchase,” Steve Ostrom said to Solana Beach council members at a Nov. 24 special meeting. “But rather, it seemed quite prejudicial.”
Ostrom said he viewed the mailer as endorsing opposition to the sale. “It’s insulting,” he said. “It’s just biased.”
“I think it’s safe to say that many of us share your concerns,” Mayor Tom Campbell said. “We are looking into that particular matter.”
Garrick said he had “no intention of being biased.” He said the survey was formatted to ask multiple-choice questions.
“They all had yes or no answers or some variation in between to try to get a full spectrum of responses,” Garrick said.
“Any sale needs to be looked at very carefully and needs to be done in the light of day with full exposure,” said Garrick, whose district includes Vista, Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, San Marcos, Escondido and parts of Oceanside, Rancho Santa Fe, Valley Center and San Diego.
“We need to know what is the cost to the state,” he said. “What would we be losing? What would we be gaining?”