The Legal Issues Currently Facing San Diego County’s Del Mar Fairgrounds – San Diego Attorney

While it’s that time of year again for the San Diego County Fair to take over the Del Mar Fairgrounds, that same tract of land is facing issues even messier than deep fried candy bars.  The Del Mar Fairgrounds is currently involved in a legal battle that will shape how the land is going to be developed and used for years to come.

The Fairgrounds were built in 1937 and covers 370 acres.  It is currently owed by the State of California and managed by the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

In April of 2011, the Association’s board approved a master plan to further develop the Fairgrounds.  Among other things, that plan calls for new exhibit halls, lighted soccer fields on rooftops of parking structures, and increased parking.  However, the city of Solana Beach, the city of Del Mar, the San Dieguito River Park agency, and the Sierra Club have initiated legal proceedings against the Association arguing that it has failed to adequately address the master plan’s effects on the land and city infrastructure surrounding the Fairgrounds.  Specifically, they point to the plan’s effects on the wetlands, traffic, lighting, noise, sewage, and burdens placed on city fire and safety departments.

The litigants’ right to contest the development proposal is found under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires state and local agencies within the state of California to follow a protocol of analysis and public disclosure of environmental impacts on proposed projects.

Local residents may recall that last year, the city of Del Mar reached a deal with the state of California to buy the Fairgrounds for $120 million, which was vehemently opposed by the Association.  A bill authorizing that sale has been introduced in the state legislature.  However, the effort appears to be stalled at this time.

Only time will tell how the issues addressed in the legal proceedings initiated by the city of Solana Beach, the city of Del Mar, the San Dieguito River Park agency, and the Sierra Club will be resolved.  However, it is worth noting that any actual changes to the Fairgrounds, pursuant to the proposed plan, are most likely a few years away, as there is currently a lack of financing to support such a plan.

So while you enjoy eating that giant turkey leg and listening to the Beach Boys at the Fair this year, keep in mind that there is a deeper mess of issues concerning the Del Mar Fairgrounds than who will be cleaning up paper plates and deep fried butter.