22nd Agricultural District Master Plan (3/14/05)
The 22nd Ag District wants to update the Fairgrounds and Racetrack at Del Mar with 65 new projects that would result in more events, additional paved parking lots, electronic signage at Interstate 5 and possible use of the Polo Fields east of I-5 as a horse-training facility with stabling capacity for 700 horses and “… other uses in the off-season.” The updated Master Plan also “acknowledges” the possibility of a conference hotel at the current site.
The entire Racetrack and Fairgrounds complex is located within a floodplain/wetlands area wedged between the mouth of the San Dieguito River at the Pacific Ocean, the River and the San Dieguito Lagoon. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required before any of the projects can be implemented. Unlike other project applicants, however, the Ag District can approve its own EIR because it is a public agency. The only overriding authorities are the California Coastal Commission and public opinion.
The Friends closely monitor proposed development on the site. In 1987 the Del Mar Lagoon Committee and the Friends alerted the community to plans for building a hotel and parking lot in the center of the Lagoon (at the old WWII airfield east of the Grand Avenue Bridge). The developer was essentially scared away by public outcry; the Fair Board was denied permission to buy the property and the State Coastal Conservancy purchased the land for restoration, a critical first step in preserving the San Dieguito Lagoon and River Valley.
Obviously the Fairgrounds Board continues to press for more development at this sensitive location even as the Lagoon Restoration Project gears up to restore tidal wetlands and nurseries for ocean going fish, and to enhance bird sanctuaries. The Friends, the Lagoon Committee and the River Park’s Joint Powers Authority have all submitted concerns and issues to be addressed in the EIR. We are also taking the information to nearby homeowners associations so they can respond to calls for community input, and we will continue to keep you informed on this website.