Fair board takes no action on request to rescind Surfside remodel decision

Fair board takes no action on request to rescind Surfside remodel decision
Solana Beach officials asked the board that governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds to rescind its approval of a project to turn a portion of Surfside Race Place into an entertainment venue. Directors took no action at a special July 13 meeting. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — After a one-hour closed session meeting on July 13, 22nd District Agricultural Association directors took no action on a request to rescind their approval to transform about half of Surfside Race Place into a concert venue, meaning the project will go forward as planned, at least for now.

Board members for the 22nd DAA, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds where Surfside is located, on May 23 authorized the repurposing and found the project to be exempt from California Environmental Quality Act guidelines because it is a remodel of an existing building and will have no impacts on the environment.

The adjacent city of Solana Beach disagreed and the following month filed a writ — a document asking that action be taken — because officials there believe increased activity from the proposed 1,900-seat concert venue “needs to be evaluated pursuant to CEQA,” City Manager Greg Wade said.

We want a full evaluation to ensure the potential impacts to the community are addressed, he said.

Wade and City Councilwoman Ginger Marshall attended the public portion of the special July 13 22nd DAA meeting but left before board members returned from closed session.

At press time neither he nor the city attorney responded to requests for comments on what the city’s next steps might be.

Surfside is an approximately 100,000-square-foot satellite wagering facility built in 1991 to accommodate 5,000 people. At one point it attracted about 2,700, but a decrease in offsite betting has resulted in an average daily attendance of about 350 or less.

Fair board members for more than three years have been considering options to make the venue profitable.

A study conducted by students from California State University San Marcos concluded the entertainment venue proposal would be “highly profitable,” with a return on investment in less than five years if at least 90 concerts are held annually.

Plans include restaurant and bar areas, a history-of-beer garden and a flexible concert hall that can be reconfigured to accommodate a variety of events, including weddings and corporate or church meetings.

Director Stephen Shewmaker, who has spearheaded the repurposing effort, said fully seated shows would accommodate only about 900 people.

The Saddle Club will remain as is. Satellite wagering will continue.

Director David Watson, a land-use attorney, said he doesn’t believe CEQA review is required because the building was authorized to accommodate 5,000 people. Some argue that while that may be the case, attendance was never at capacity.

Fairgrounds staff is working with the California Coastal Commission to determine whether an amendment to the facility’s existing coastal development permit is required.

Board members were also scheduled to take action at the July meeting on a loan to fund the approximately $13.2 million renovation project.

President Russ Penniman said he and his colleagues agreed to table that discussion and the request to rescind until the Aug. 8 meeting, which starts at 1:30 p.m.

1 Comment
  1. Don Wood 3 months ago

    It’s just a matter of time before the fair board announces that horse racing is no longer profitable enough, and try to sell the fairgrounds off to some big LA developer for condos and apartments. It’s happening at state fairgrounds all over California.

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