Some Lagoon History
Some Lagoon History
After Pearl Harbor, fairs and racing at Del Mar were suspended, and the Navy added the fairgrounds and racetrack to the main facility where the blimp mooring masts and landing fields were located. The fairgrounds became barracks, galleys, mess halls, offices, recreational facilities and classrooms for Navy personnel stationed there during the war.
Using radar, magnetic detection equipment and visual sightings, the blimps were used along the California coast to detect enemy submarines. They were K-types assigned to the blimp squadron ZP-31 based at the Santa Ana Naval Air Station. Approximately 134 K-type blimps were built for the war effort, each measuring 251.7 feet in length, able to lift 7,770 pounds, and with a maximum speed of 67.5 knots.
Usually only two blimps operated from the Del Mar field at one time since there were only two mooring masts. They were refueled at Del Mar and then continued anti-submarine patrols up and down the coast and as much as 100 miles out to sea.
The Del Mar Naval Auxiliary Air Facility was decommissioned in 1945 and the fairgrounds and racetrack returned to the State of California.
The Navy retained ownership of the airfield until 1947, when the 80.4 acres were quitclaimed to the County of San Diego for one dollar. The field was used as a civilian airport until 1959 when it was transferred to the State as part of the I-5 right-of-way.
After the airport closed, a company called Non Linear Systems moved its operations into the site barracks. NLS produced digital voltmeters, started in 1952 by a young Del Mar engineer, Andrew Kay. Work at NLS led to the production of the "Kaypro", one of the first home computers. NLS moved its plant to Solana Beach in 1968.
Saving the Lagoon
In 1987, Birtcher-Pacific, a developer, bought the old airport area. It sought to amend the Lagoon Enhancement Plan to permit development of two 300-room hotels, a shopping center, an access interchange from I-5 and a 200 seat restaurant. Several public hearings were held, hundreds of concerned people spoke against the plan and were happy to see it eventually abandoned.The San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority is the multi-city agency formed in 1989 by the San Diego Association of Governments to create an open space greenway and an extensive trail system within the San Dieguito River Valley. There was great satisfaction in seeing the Birtcher property become its first land purchase. In 1991 the Coastal Commission required Southern California Edison to restore 150 acres of wetlands as mitigation for the impacts on the marine environment caused by the San Onofre nuclear power plant and fortunately chose the San Dieguito Lagoon for the project. Forty years have elapsed since the Del Mar Lagoon Committee formulated its dreams of saving the lagoon. The persistence and hard work of many organizations has produced the exciting progress we see today in saving the San Dieguito wetlands.
Jan McMillan, April 1984