Parking at the Del Mar Fairgrounds could decrease after battle over wetlands restoration

Del Mar dirt lots could be restored to wetlands

DEL MAR, Calif. - The California Coastal Commission decided to delay a controversial decision on the future of the Del Mar Fairgrounds for another month.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association struck a deal with the commission to spend upwards of $7 million to return a dirt lot on the south side of Jimmy Durante Boulevard to wetlands in the San Dieguito Lagoon.  In exchange, the district, which runs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, would be able to use its other dirt lots year round.

Wetlands supporters asked to Coast Commission to also consider returning the East Lot to wetlands as well.

“How can a commission charged with protecting the wetlands now allow them to be paved over?” said San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts during the public comment portion of the meeting, which took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego.

Roberts joined about a dozen others in arguing the East Lot should also be returned to Mother Nature.

“Grass grows back in there,” he said.  “The water puddles in there.  So you can still see after years of being graded it’s still wetlands.”

“It would be unworkable,” said former 22nd District President Adam Day.

Day said they’re already giving up 1,200 parking spots in the South Lot by restoring it to wetlands.  He said the fairgrounds would lose an additional 1,500 spots if the East Lot was lost.

Day said it would cripple their ability to make money and host large events like the annual San Diego County Fair, which regularly draws more than a million people every year.

“The bottom line is, we can’t function or survive without the use of that lot,” Day said.

The California Coastal Commission will consider the matter next month.

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