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Del Mar still seeks letter of support

COAST CITIES — The volley continues in Del Mar’s quest to obtain a letter from Solana Beach supporting its purchase of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
At the Nov. 8 meeting, Del Mar council members opted to continue discussions with its northern neighbor rather than provide a direct response to Solana Beach’s request for equal representation and ownership.
They said it is too early in the process to make any commitments.
“I think it’s important to keep this conversation alive,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “Working out the details of everything is premature if we don’t get to the purchase.”
“It just seems like we’re getting the cart before the horse,” Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said. “We need to get over the hurdles of ownership.”
Shortly after the news broke in early October that the county’s smallest city was planning to buy the 340-acre site, Del Mar asked Solana Beach for a letter supporting the purchase.
Solana Beach council members said they support local control of the fairgrounds, but deferred the request until some of their questions and concerns were addressed.
During a special Del Mar meeting Oct. 25, Solana Beach City Manager David Ott said council members in that city would like some assurance that noise, parking, traffic and light impacts would be mitigated. As a first responder to the fairgrounds, he said Solana Beach is also seeking reimbursement for the public safety services it provides.
Del Mar responded with a letter dated two days later highlighting the benefits of local control of the state-owned facility. In the letter, Del Mar also states that it “is committed to working with” Solana Beach on the key issues of traffic, parking, noise and public safety calls.
Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest described the Solana Beach response to the letter as “nice but not sufficient.”
Earnest and Del Mar Councilman Carl Hilliard also made a presentation at the Oct. 27 Solana Beach council meeting. No issues were resolved but both council members from both cities agreed to meet and continue the discussion.
If the purchase is successful, Del Mar is proposing that the facility be run by an 11-member board made up of five appointees from Del Mar, one each from Solana Beach and the city of San Diego and two from the county, one of which would represent agriculture.
It will also include the directors of the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority and the San Diego Association of Governments.
Solana Beach council members have consistently said they believe the city should have equal representation at best, but at least more than one appointee. The recent request for equal ownership was unexpected.
“I, for one, was a little surprised with the latest proposal that we received,” said Hilliard, who doesn’t appear to support either proposal.
“I don’t see how we can possibly accommodate their request for shared ownership and partnership,” he said.
While his colleagues didn’t comment much on equal representation, most did not support divided ownership.
“I really have trouble conceiving how dual ownership … would actually work,” Mosier said. “I, for one, don’t contemplate that as a reasonable solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.
“The control of what happens at the fairgrounds is what impacts Solana Beach, not who owns it,” he said. “I think having Solana Beach own part of the fairgrounds is a nonstarter.”
Councilman Mark Filanc said it could cause logistic problems with future projects at the site. “Whose codes would we use?” he asked.
A bill authorizing the $120 million sale was introduced last month as a trailer to the budget, however, it was pulled within days. If the governor called a special meeting, the bill could have been taken up before the end of the year.
Anticipating that, Del Mar was hoping to have a support letter from Solana Beach sooner rather than later. Since it now seems likely the bill will be reintroduced next year, the mayors of both cities, Hilliard and Solana Beach Councilman Dave Roberts will continue discussions.