DEL MAR — The San Diego Association of Governments responded to the second of two letters from Del Mar that expressed concerns about a proposed project to add a track and platform at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but the reply does not appear to assuage the issues, at least according to the mayor.
“While we appreciate SANDAG providing a written response to the City’s concerns about project mitigation measures, we still do not have a commitment on a location and design of the Special Events Platform that lessens the impact to Del Mar residents and the natural environment, as well as features and mitigations to address the visual, noise and vibration impacts of the platform, double tracking, and the bridge replacement,” Mayor Lee Haydu wrote in an email commenting on the letter.
SANDAG, the region’s primary public planning and transportation agency, is working with the Federal Railway Administration, which is providing most of the funding, to double track the railroad, replace the nearly 100-year-old San Dieguito River Bridge and add a special events platform at the fairgrounds.
While the city supports the concept, officials and residents say the 1,000-footlong platform and 8-foot-high bridge should be reduced, and several other issues, including increased light, noise and trash, need to be addressed.
The city sent SANDAG a letter late last year listing the concerns but did not receive a response. SANDAG staff, however, acknowledged receipt and provided the city with an updated version of the frequently asked questions, according to a June 2 letter to the city.
Council voted 3-1-1 in April to send a follow-up letter. Councilman Don Mosier, who cast the dissenting vote, said he could support many of the mitigation measures but not a request to shorten the seasonal platform by 250 feet.
To fund the project the agencies involved must comply with federal and state rules, Mosier said.
A federal policy adopted in 2005 requires all new commuter and inner-city rail platform stations to have a platform running the full length of the passenger boarding area of the station, he added.
Projects that don’t comply “will not qualify for grant funding,” Mosier said.
“So for … Del Mar to insist that this platform be shorter as their primary opening concern is nonproductive,” he added. “It’s saying, ‘Del Mar says SANDAG and (North County Transit District) should ignore federal law, ignore state law and adhere to Del Mar’s wishes.’”
In the June 2 letter to the city, SANDAG noted the project is currently 75 funded from the FRA through the preliminary engineering and environmental phase.
“Because of where we are in the federal environmental process, it would be premature for us to comment on specific mitigation measures at this time,” SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos stated in the letter.
According to the letter, the FRA is currently reviewing 10 draft technical studies and a draft environmental assessment.
SANDAG’s primary goal is to avoid environmental impacts. When that can’t be done efforts will be made to minimize them and identify appropriate mitigation measures.
The letter states many project features discussed in Del Mar’s second letter and at an April 30 meeting between SANDAG and city officials “will be addressed as the project progresses in future design phases” and is determined to be feasible.
“Once we receive feedback from the FRA and publish the draft technical studies and environmental document later this fall, it would be appropriate to discuss mitigation measures,” the letter states.
“Del Mar feels it is appropriate to incorporate mitigation measures now while the project is in preliminary design and feasibility studies are being conducted,” Haydu wrote in her email. “To ensure the community’s needs and concerns about this project are met, we look forward to accepting SANDAG’s invitation to continue to dialogue on the progress of this project.”
Haydu also stated the city “will continue to monitor and be proactively engaged in the discussions regarding” the $140 million project.