DEL MAR — Del Mar Fairgrounds officials are eager to begin traffic studies that allow use of a vacant lot east of the state-owned facility even though they have a decade to complete them.
“I see the 10 years as a reprieve, not final approval,” Director David Watson said at the Dec. 17 fair board meeting. “Because the Coastal Commission told us to do it, we have to do it, and I’d rather do it sooner rather than later.”
One of two permits granted in November by the California Coastal Commission allows the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which oversees the fairgrounds, to continue year-round use of what is known as the east overflow lot for parking and other events.
The commission was established in 1976 as part of the Coastal Act. Because the 22nd DAA used the south and east lots for parking during the fair and horse races before that time commissioners haven’t challenged those uses during those events.
But additional uses during other times of the year were considered violations. About two years ago the two agencies reached an agreement that requires the 22nd DAA to completely restore the south lot to wetlands.
In exchange for the loss of 1,250 parking spaces there, fairgrounds officials sought to continue using the parcel east of Jimmy Durante Boulevard for year-round parking and temporary events such as the pumpkin patch and Christmas tree sales.
County Supervisor Dave Roberts and representatives from environmental groups and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority said the southern third of the east lot should also be restored because a recent study indicates additional wetlands are there.
Commissioners voted 7-3 in November to grant the fairgrounds a 10-year permit to use the east lot year-round for parking and other events with the condition that two traffic studies be done in that time.
“Ten years is really not that long,” Watson said. The board plans to take action on the studies at the Jan. 14 meeting.
Watson said he would also like to begin work to rename the 9.5-acre south lot once it is restored.
With a recommendation from Jacqueline Winterer, from Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, board members will look into forming an advisory committee that includes representatives from the JPA and the fairgrounds.
“I’d like to come up with a better name,” Watson said. “I don’t want to go on calling it the south overflow lot when it becomes a restored wetlands.”
The board recently agreed to name a 100-foot buffer on fairgrounds property after former state Sen. Christine Kehoe. That will not change. Watson said the south lot does not necessarily have to be named after a person.