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County Leaders Mull Broader Representation On Fair Board

Fair Board Reps
County Leaders Mull Broader Representation On Fair Board
GUESTS:Dave Roberts, SD County Board of Supervisors, District-3Terry Sinnott, Mayor, City of Del Mar

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, it's Wednesday, April24th. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is undergoing a process of expanding the Del Mar Fairgrounds. As Alison St. John tells us, one thing that was very clear at yesterday's supervisors' meeting is that a lot of people care about the Del Mar Fairgrounds. ST. JOHN: San Diegans have been going to the Del Mar fair since 1936. Everybody has a story. (Audio of County Supervisor Dave Roberts plays) ROBERTS: I think all of us remember the first time we went to the fair. ST. JOHN: That's why mayors from as far away as La Mesa and Chula Vista gave their opinions on who should be on a new joint manager committee. It is currently managed by the governor of California. Supervisor Dave Roberts who represents that district says nearby residents feel the most impacts. ROBERTS: A $90 million a year business enterprise, 24/7, 3/65. There's almost 30 events just this month. It's not just the Del Mar fair or the races. ST. JOHN: North County residents sometimes cannot get home if the freeway jams up, and nearby cities have an unfair public safety burden. ROBERTS: Is there some way that Del Mar, Solana Beach, and the City of San Diego can have input? I know by law, they can't have seats. But there some way is that they could have a seat at the table? ST. JOHN: The supervisors voted unanimously to reconsider the subject of the joint powers authority in 60 days. CAVANAUGH: Earlier today I spoke with Dave Roberts. His district includes the communities around the Fairgrounds. Supervisor Roberts, why do you think it's a good idea to have five extra members on the Del Mar fair board? What do you think they're going to bring to the board's decision making? ROBERTS: Well, I think local control is what this is all about, and by adding five additional seats that are appointed locally by the county Board of Supervisors, it's going to give more openness and transparency to the community. Having these people actually appointed from the five districts. CAVANAUGH: Now, the board as it's constituted now, appointees of the governor. Some of those people are not necessarily familiar with the area of San Diego or the Del Mar Fairgrounds or Solana beach or any of those communities. ROBERTS: Well, currently the governor makes the nine appointments to the Fairgrounds. I have lived in that community for almost 18 years, and I know on a daily basis there are impacts, positive and negative. And one of the things we talked about at the county Board of Supervisors yesterday, this is a $90million a year enterprise. So there's a lot of activities that go on there that impact us, even to the point that many of us that live near the Fairgrounds, we have to change our daily living patterns if we know something is going to be going on there because we can't even get into our neighborhoods sometimes because of traffic. CAVANAUGH: What might be another example of an issue at the Fairgrounds that needs more local control? ROBERTS: The Fairgrounds have positive impacts and negative. Some of the negative impacts are demands on the local public safety, both Del Mar and Solana beach, purchasing their public safety from the county and their service. There are local land-use issues around the property. There's a large project proposed in Carmel Valley, and the mitigation is to move the traffic over to the Fairgrounds street, which is via de la Valle. So there's a lot of impact, noise impacts, light impact, traffic impacts, the public safety impacts. And people that live in that area know about this. Is this a balancing act. The fairground has been there a long time, but so have some of the residences. Yesterday we just pulled the calendar from the website, just in April there are activities going on almost every day this from horse shows to car shows to exhibits, gun shows, all types of activities. That wasn't the original intent, in my mind, of the Fairgrounds. But because it's a business interest, they have had to make it profitable. So they have all these activities going on. CAVANAUGH: Now, during your meeting yesterday, the Board of Supervisors meeting, you have mayors from cities around the county show up and talk to you about they wanted their voices heard on the Fairgrounds board, especially the mayors of San Diego, Del Mar, and Solana beach. And you made a suggestion to add advisory seats to the board, nonvoting seats. Tell us about that. ROBERTS: Yes, I was pleased to seat elected leaders all there, including mayor Bob Filner. My goal has been to make this good solution even better. And I'm continuing to work on how and we have at a minimum three ex officio seats on that board, so people have access to information and can be part of the conversation. And the example I'll give, when I was on the Solana beach City Council, I was on community relations with the Fairgrounds for eight years with Del Mar. And we had a lawsuit with the Fairgrounds, and two elected from Del Mar, Solana beach, including my myself, and we sat for over half a day on how to settle that lawsuit. When you bring everybody to a table, it's so much easier. Now that there's going to be 14 JPA board seats, I believe having three nonvoting seats is a step in the right direction. But is this only the beginning of the process. The goal is local control and input from all communities. If we can at least get one seat that is a voting seat, the district 3, my seat, if we can get one that can make an appointment, that's a step. If we can add ex officio seats, that's a step. I would like to see Del Mar and San Diego have voting seats. But this is a process, it's negotiations, negotiations with the state. You can't do everything at once I've learned since I got elected at a supervisor, and I'm trying to move this along. I've heard this from all four of my colleagues, they wanted to keep this process moving. And that's my goal too. But I also don't want to forget because I represent this area, there are a lot of local impact that it has on my communities. CAVANAUGH: You brought up the issue that all five of the Board of Supervisors can appoint one of the new members to the fair board, what's the likelihood they will go to the outside to appoint someone from the community as opposed to just appointing themselves to the board? ROBERTS: I have not talked to any supervisor because we have not been that far down the path on this yet. I think that each supervisor, they could appoint if they chose to somebody from my district. I expect each supervisor will appoint somebody from their district. There's a lot of farming interests in district 3, each has a different interest in this piece of property. And in the ongoing activities of the property. But you have to keep in mind, they think nostalgically about the fair and the races, but that's just one small component of this property. I think when the supervisors make their recommendations, there ought to be some criteria we look for in board members, but again, that's part of this whole negotiating process. CAVANAUGH: You've been talking about this as a process, and I think it's interesting to point out that I don't believe there is any precedence in the state for there to be a joint powers authority for the management and operation of another Fairgrounds; is that right? We're blazing a trail here. ROBERTS: San Diego County is many times the trailblazer in the State of California. We have been told that the governor wants to see what to do with these agricultural districts around the state because we're the most successful one more in San Diego County. They want to see what is proposed locally. And does the governor support this, and can this be replicated around the state? That's why I think if you come up with county supervisor seats and seats for the local impacted communities, I think that is again going to be part of the solution. I think the subcommittee takes us back to at least ex officio seats and see where we go from there. CAVANAUGH: And the Board of Supervisors decided to postpone a vote on this. When are they going to bring it back, and are you going to have the information that you need to present to the board about this proposal you're making at that time? ROBERTS: We did not postpone a vote. We voted yesterday 5-0 to proceed, to have the 5 supervisor-appointed seats, and we've directed staff to bring us back the actual negotiated agreement with the state. I have asked the subcommittee to bring this back. I met with the chair of the fair board, and I would like him to take this idea back to the fair board, see what they think of having nonvoting seats, and when this comes back to the board, I've also asked that all the employees there are protected. So when the subcommittee brings this back, and we're hoping it'll be brought back by June, we will then proceed and make the actual selections of who will be sitting in the five seats, then if we agree to ex officio seats, we can proceed with that also. But we did vote yesterday 5-0 to proceed with this initial piece. Somebody said we delayed, but we believe we have enough information to continue moving. Local control, the district three supervisor and myself. I get one appointee, so that's one more than I got before to make sure we have a local person on that board. CAVANAUGH: Dave Roberts, thank you. ROBERTS: Thank you very much. CAVANAUGH: Joining me now is Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott, and welcome to the program. SINNOTT: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. CAVANAUGH: The Fairgrounds sit right in your backyard. Can you tell us what you think could be accomplished if someone from Del Mar had a voice on the fair board? SINNOTT: Well, as Dave Roberts described to you just a minute ago, we have a facility that's 340acres, almost 25% of our community. It's operating a number of different events throughout the year. And our community provides the fire, the police service, the infrastructure services for that facility, and we're hoping that with this new governance structure being proposed, that we can sit on the board with the other cities and provide input as to how best the facility can be used and lessen the impact on the communities in the surrounding areas. CAVANAUGH: Dave Roberts told us that it's his understanding, his belief, really, that the other supervisors may either appoint themselves or appoint people from their particular constituency, so that would mean if Dave Roberts doesn't appoint someone from Del Mar, you won't get a seat on that board. What's your feeling about that? SINNOTT: Well, the main thrust of having this new joint powers authority is to emphasize regional oversight of this wonderful facility that we have. And their emphasis will be on the whole San Diego region. And I think that's very positive and our community supports that. What is missing is as they make decisions around the fair and the fair facilities, are they also considering the individual impacts of the surrounding communities and making sure that what happens there is a success? That's all we're asking, is to have input for the considerations that are being discussed at the board level. CAVANAUGH: What do you think of the idea being floated by Dave Roberts of creating a nonvoting advisory council made up of members of local communities like Del Mar? SINNOTT: Well, I think Dave's suggestion is a positive suggestion. It provides an opportunity for people to sit at the table and provide input. And I think it would improve the decision-making process that would be taking place at the new JPA authority. And it's something that the same kind of ex officio members that are sitting on the airport, San Diego airport authority, the San Diegito river park JPA. So there's all kinds of situations where what Dave is proposing has been the way to get community and stakeholder input into the decision-making process. So I view it as a very president suggestion. CAVANAUGH: My last question to you is I know that Del Mar was represented at this supervisors' meeting yesterday. What is Del Mar going to be doing to lobby to get that voice on the fair board, a seat at the board or a seat at an advisory council? SINNOTT: Well, we have always said that because of our history and understanding of what happens at the fair and how things work at the fair, and the impacts that is correct we're open to talk with whoever is considering these issues, we're a source of information, and we want to discuss with whoever is interested what our experience has been, and how we can make the governance and decision-making process at the fair to be as best as possible and make it a real positive thing for the whole region of San Diego. CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Del Mar mayor Terry Sinnott, thank you so much for joining us. SINNOTT: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

The 22nd Agricultural District Board, known these days as the Fair Board, has existed since the 1880s, and San Diegans have been going to the Del Mar Fair since 1936.

"I think all of us maybe remember the first time we went to the Fair," said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, at a public hearing to discuss ways to increase local control over the Fairgrounds.

That’s why mayors from as far away as La Mesa and Chula Vista came to give their opinions on who should be on a new "joint powers authority" to manage the Fairground. They joined council members from Del Mar and Solana Beach, as well as a cross section of community members, to urge the county to move ahead with negotiations with the state.


The Fairgrounds are owned by the State of California and the Fair Board is currently appointed by the governor. The county has negotiated for five extra members, one for each of the county’s five districts. The supervisors could appoint someone, or choose to take the seat themselves.

The other Roberts on the board, Supervisor Dave Roberts, represents the district that includes the Fairgrounds. He said this is about more than memories.

"This is a $90 million-a year-business enterprise, 24-seven, 365 days a year," he said. "It’s not just the Del Mar Fair or the horse racing."

Dave Roberts said nearby residents feel the most impacts. In fact, North County residents sometimes cannot get home if the freeway jams up, he said, and neighboring cities have an unfair public safety burden.

"Is there some way that Del Mar, Solana Beach and the City of San Diego could have input?" Dave Roberts asked. "I know by law they can’t have seats, but is there some way they could have a seat at the table?"


Dave Roberts represents people in all the cities around the Fairgrounds, but under the current proposal, he can only appoint one member to the board. However he suggested it might be possible to include a city representative as a non voting member.

The five supervisors voted unanimously to continue negotiations with the state and to put the matter back on the agenda in 60 days.

Corrected: July 18, 2024 at 10:53 PM PDT
KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to this segment
KPBS Intern Rashmi Chugani assisted in this segment.