DEL MAR — Gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and governance of that state-owned facility were the two main topics at the monthly meeting of officials from Del Mar, Solana Beach and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a gathering, Fair Board Director Dave Watson described as interesting, intense and candid.
“But I think we’re all still friends,” he reported back to his colleagues later that day during the Feb. 12 meeting of the 22nd DAA, which manages and operates the fairgrounds.
In response to recent mass shootings, Del Mar City Council members adopted a resolution Jan. 14 urging the 22nd DAA to not renew its contract with Crossroads of the West, which holds several gun shows annually at the fairgrounds, or contract with any other gun show sponsor.
Watson, an attorney, said he told Del Mar officials, in his opinion, the fairgrounds couldn’t respond to the resolution based on the First, Second and Third Amendments to the Constitution.
“If we did we would be inundated with lawsuits,” Watson said.
In an effort to increase local control of the fairgrounds, the county Board of Supervisors has been looking into possibly creating a joint powers authority to manage the facility.
Watson said officials from Del Mar, in which the site lies, and adjacent Solana Beach had several questions and concerns about the proposal, not the least of which was a fear they would be left out of the process.
Watson said he told them the fair board is receptive to their inclusion, but negotiations are currently between the county and the state and nothing is moving fast.
He said for now, officials from both cities seem content to have Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former Solana Beach City Council member, representing them at the county level.
During the community relations meeting, Watson said, Del Mar officials also asked the fair board to, at some point in the near future, adopt a resolution indicating it is willing, as part of its master plan, to convert 21 housing units to meet the state definition of a living unit.
That would help the city meet its state-required housing needs. Watson said he didn’t have a problem with that.
In other board news, the fairgrounds manager reported the San Diego County Fair, based on attendance, is now the fourth largest fair in the country. It jumped two spots from 2011, surpassing San Antonio and Los Angeles.
It also received 26 awards at the Western Fairs Association Convention and Trade Show last month, more than any other fair at the event.
“I know it didn’t come without a lot of hard work,” Adam Day, fair board president, said in congratulating the staff.
The fairgrounds also received 27 awards for its recycling and resource conservation programs. Now in its 27th year, the program achieved a diversion rate of more than the 75 percent required by the state.
Between the fairgrounds, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Premier Food Services, a combined recycling and diversion rate of slightly less than 92 percent was achieved, with a financial benefit of more than $1 million.
Highlighting another milestone, Manager Tim Fennell noted the 10-year anniversary of the Wave Volleyball Club, housed under the big white tent east of the fairgrounds.
“When this project was introduced, a lot of people in the community didn’t support it and I didn’t understand it,” Fennell said.
The creation of Don Beaumont, whose daughters played the sport at Torrey Pines High School but had limited space for practice, and Ed Machado, the club recently had all 20 of its graduating seniors enrolled at colleges that included Yale, Princeton, the University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles and Stanford.
USC’s Katie Fuller and Natalie Hagglund, both Wave alumnae, were recently voted All-Americans at the NCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championships.
Fennell said when he was approached by Beaumont, who financed the infrastructure, “we met, scratched our heads and found space that wasn’t being utilized.”
“It’s been a success story ever since,” Fennell said, adding that the fairgrounds nets about $30,000 annually from the club. “It’s been a great community asset.”
Meanwhile, as the fair board met, workers continued to dismantle the large tent in the parking lot that was home to the short-lived Valitar horse-and-human acrobatics show.
The tent, valued at $1.3 million, sold for $85,000 at a Jan. 29 bankruptcy auction. The winning bidder was given 10 days to remove the structure, which took 90 days to erect.
“The easy part has been removed,” said Linda Zweig, media director for the fairgrounds. “They need specific machinery to take the rest of it down.”
Zweig said crews have been “working diligently” to remove the 45,000-square-foot structure and the 10 days was simply “some parameters” to get the tent off the premises.
She said there was no point in penalizing the buyer for the delay, “but we’ll be happy when it’s gone.”