Dwight Worden | City Council Member
The fairgrounds is owned by the State of California and governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Governor. While the state’s housing obligations apply to all cities, including Del Mar, these housing obligations do not apply to the fairgrounds and no housing allotment is assigned to it. Because the main fairgrounds lies within the city limits of Del Mar the city has identified working with the fairgrounds to see if housing can be provided on its grounds as one of the city housing strategies. The 22 in 5 report identifies several opportunities on the Fairgrounds property: Rehabilitation of back track housing, construction of new housing on the “lay down” lot, and housing or mobile homes on the RV lot east of Jimmy Durante, noting this option would require annexation of that property into Del Mar.
The city is in active discussions with the fairgrounds about these and other options, and the discussions are going cautiously well. City staff indicates that the fairgrounds is not a “silver bullet” that can meet all Del Mar’s housing requirements; rather that at most about 20% of the city’s need can be met on the fairgrounds, and even that much will require consent of the fairgrounds and the state, annexations, environmental review, Coastal Permits, addressing flood plain issues, traffic, access, and more, none of which is a given.
The city will need to aggressively pursue its other options, including rezonings, ADUs, condo conversions, mixed use, tiny houses, use of city owned property, and more, in addition to any opportunities on the fairgrounds, if we are to meet our goals. Moreover, preliminary feedback from the fairgrounds is that housing proposed in areas with horses is a non-starter for them, so rehabilitating the existing dilapidated units in the barn area and building units in the lay down lot area may not be viable. Instead, pursuing options for housing around the perimeter of the fairgrounds and on the RV lot are likely to be more productive.
Del Mar’s legally mandated housing allocation is based, in part, on the number of jobs in town. The jobs at the fairgrounds are counted by SANDAG and the State. Thus, Del Mar, not the fairgrounds, bears the housing burden for those workers. That may not be fair, but it is the current rule. The methodology for assigning job counts is complex. Even if these job numbers at the fairgrounds are reduced Del Mar’s housing obligation is not likely to change very much.
Bottom line: Del Mar is making progress towards its assigned housing goals. For the first time in our history affordable units have been approved and are being built. But, it’s a tough climb. There is no “free lunch.” All of the options with potential to provide more housing have community impacts. Severe legal penalties can be imposed if we fail, including loss of state funding for streets and other essentials, and loss of zoning power. So, meeting our goals is serious business.