San Diego

Solana Beach Sues Del Mar Fairgrounds Over New Concert Venue

The City of Solana Beach has filed suit against the Del Mar Fairgrounds over planned concert venue

There's trouble in paradise: It doesn't look like everyone is a fan of a plan to open a 1,900-seat venue at the Del Mar Fairgrounds next year -- namely, the City of Solana Beach.

As we reported in May, the 22nd District Agricultural Association (which owns and operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds) voted at a board of directors meeting on May 23 to unanimously move ahead with a $13 million rehaul/renovation to the existing fairgrounds off-track betting facility known as the Surfside Race Place.

As it turns out, more than a few area residents aren't happy about it.

Solana Beach City Councilmember Jewel Edson, Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott, and several county residents have voiced objections to the project -- which included concerns about traffic, air quality, noise pollution, security and an overall negative impact on the community.

The 22nd DAA board ultimately dismissed those objections to the project, which has a planned completion date of May 1, 2018. In addition to the two-level live-music venue (at which organizers plan to host 90 shows per year), the building will also be expanded to include a 7,000-square-foot beer-tasting area and exhibit named the History of Beer.

However, the project's opponents weren't done: On June 23, the city of Solana Beach filed a civil complaint in San Diego Superior Court to halt the project and, according to court documents, require the 22nd DAA to "comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) ... and its implementing regulations ... and to perform the environmental review required by law before approving a proposed expansion of existing uses and redevelopment of existing facilities."

The 22nd DAA has previously informed residents that environmental impact studies performed more than 30 years ago for the site, and its existing permits, are still valid and exempt the new project from further review.

According to an article published in the Coast News, 22nd DAA Director David Watson said at a Jan. 3 board of directors meeting: "This building [under] the current permit allows a 5,000-per-day occupancy. It is nowhere near that number.

"Simply converting a portion of it to a 1,800- or 1,900-seat concert venue should have no changes in traffic, no changes in parking," Watson continued. "Considering all the major, huge events that this fairgrounds does, this is just a little blip on the radar in terms of impacts outside the fairgrounds."

The recently filed injunction looks to address that by forcing a halt to the project until a full environmental impact report can be performed and evaluated.

When reached for comment, the 22nd DAA replied that Watson's above quote is sufficient regarding their stance on the matter. A request for comment from Solana Beach City Attorney Johanna Canlas has gone unanswered at the time of this article's publication.

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow, plays in Diamond Lakes, and runs the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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