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Weezer performs at KAABOO in 2017 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Courtesy KAABOO
Weezer performs at KAABOO in 2017 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Courtesy KAABOO
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Solana Beach sues Fairgrounds over KAABOO plans

SOLANA BEACH — The city of Solana Beach is suing the Del Mar Fairgrounds over its agreement to host the multi-day arts and music festival KAABOO this fall, alleging that the Fairgrounds failed to assess potential environmental impacts from the event. 

Hogan Law Group filed the suit on behalf of the city in San Diego Superior Court on March 11. The suit asks the court to vacate the Fairgrounds’ September 2023 agreement with KAABOO operators and approve an injunction preventing the festival from moving forward until the Fairgrounds comply with the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA. 

The city, which directly borders the Fairgrounds to the north, claims that the potential significant adverse environmental impacts, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, traffic, and off-site parking, constitute the festival as a “project” and therefore make it subject to environmental review under CEQA. 

“The District’s failure to perform any environmental review of the Proposed Project leaves the City with no alternative but to seek the assistance of the Court to compel the District to comply with the procedural and substantive requirements of CEQA before taking any action that may result in a potential adverse impact on the environment,” the suit states. 

The 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state board managing the Fairgrounds, approved an agreement in September with KAABOO operator Festival Licensing and Acquisition Corporation (FLAAC) to bring back the festival in September 2024. The exact dates have not been determined.

KAABOO operated for five years at the Fairgrounds from 2015 to 2019, with a three-day festival drawing around 35,000 daily in its last year. Organizers planned to move the festival to Petco Park in 2020, but they were unable to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner said in a statement that the city’s intent is not to stop KAABOO from happening but to reach an agreement with the Fairgrounds to mitigate adverse impacts on the city.

“These include measures that were mutually agreed to and put in place during previous KAABOO events, such as geofencing to prevent Uber/Lyft pick-up and drop-offs in residential neighborhoods, addressing noise and light pollution, putting in place effective traffic controls, an increase in Sheriff presence, removing trash in neighborhoods after each day, and preventing parking and tailgating in our neighborhoods,” Heebner said. “Given the Statute of Limitations in CEQA, we were forced to take this legal step at this time to preserve our rights to ensure our citizens’ concerns are addressed so they too can enjoy the festival.”

The KAABOO case is the city’s fourth lawsuit against the 22nd DAA since 2011 regarding environmental impacts from activities at the Fairgrounds, and the latest example of an ongoing saga of frustration between the two parties. 

Past suits include a March 2022 action to reverse the Fairgrounds’ approval of an onsite sports wagering facility, which never materialized due to the failure of Prop 26 that same year; a 2017 suit regarding the construction of a new onsite concert venue (now called The Sound, which opened last year); and a 2011 suit along with the city of Del Mar and San Dieguito River Park JPA regarding a planned facilities upgrade, which ended in a settlement.

While large events at the Fairgrounds significantly impact Solana Beach, Heebner said they do not receive tax revenue from these events and should not have to foot the bill to address their concerns.

“Solana Beach taxpayers should not bear the brunt of paying for the truly necessary mitigation measures that were agreed to and proved helpful in the past. These costs should be borne by the Fairgrounds or the producers of KAABOO who profit from the event,” Heebner said.

Fairgrounds spokesperson Tristan Hallman said in a statement that the 22nd DAA had contacted the city about their concerns regarding KAABOO. 

“We strive to be a good neighbor, and we have engaged in good-faith conversations about KAABOO with the City of Solana Beach for months. We have worked closely with the festival’s organizers to address the City’s concerns in the contract for this event,” Hallman said. 

Heebner confirmed that the city is currently in talks with the Fairgrounds and hopes they can reach an agreement during a CEQA-mandated settlement conference or even earlier.

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