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Partnership to govern fairgrounds still being discussed by cities

DEL MAR — As county officials consider partnering with the 22nd District Agricultural Association to provide local control over the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, City Council members in Del Mar and adjacent Solana Beach continue their efforts to be included in the process and have representation on whatever model is ultimately created. 

In separate actions, both cities adopted similar resolutions in February stating that position.

Del Mar officials held a special workshop April 1 to further discuss their efforts going forward and drafted a letter that was sent to Ron Cox, chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, reiterating their stance.

Solana Beach council members agreed at the April 10 meeting to send a similar letter to the county.

And earlier that day, the governance model dominated discussions during the Community Relations Committee meeting, a monthly gathering of fairgrounds officials and representatives from Del Mar and Solana Beach.

Noting the majority of activities take place within Del Mar limits, Mayor Terry Sinnott signed a letter stating the events positively benefit and adversely impact the community.

“It is for these reasons that we believe it is imperative that the local agencies have a seat at the table when the (c)ounty of San Diego reviews the proposed governance model,” the letter states.

Del Mar officials are recommending a board made up of eight representatives from the county that include one each from Del Mar, Solana Beach and the city of San Diego — the most impacted communities — “and that the respective Councils be allowed to make the selections for the board.”

Solana Beach City Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said the letter from her city will be somewhat different.

“We still want to convey that we know the fairgrounds is an asset, but there are also impacts,” Heebner said. “So we want a voice at the table and we want to appoint the person who owns that voice. But we’re also concerned about the transparency of these talks.

“What’s behind it?” she asked. “What’s the process? Who’s talking to who(m)?”

The 22nd DAA manages and operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds and includes a nine-member, governor-appointed board of directors.

Last year board President Adam Day began meeting with officials from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office to discuss “a number of very exciting possibilities to develop an enhanced level of local governance.”

In an October 2012 letter to then-Chairman Ron Roberts, Day pitched the idea of a partnership between the district and the county.

Officials from Del Mar and Solana Beach have consistently said they support such a relationship as long as they are included in the governance model.

Solana Beach long ago recommended forming a Joint Powers Authority.

Fair board Director David Watson, a land use attorney who serves on the Community Relations Committee, said a JPA must be approved by the state departments of General Services and Food and Agriculture.

“I basically kind of punted,” telling city officials “more power to you” if you can get the departments to agree to that, he told his colleagues at the April 10 fair board meeting.

Watson also said according to Food and Agriculture, the 22nd DAA has the authority to put on a joint fair with the county, but not other agencies. To do so would require legislation.

Heebner said Solana Beach is looking into those claims.

Day said the ball is currently in the county’s court. “They are doing their due diligence … kicking the tires to see if what we say is true,” he said.

In his October letter, Day wrote the partnership would not create any financial or legal burden for the county.

County supervisors are scheduled to discuss the proposed governance model at their April 23 meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in Room 310 of the County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Coast Highway in San Diego.