Commentary: Fair Board Constituencies

Without much public involvement, the Fair Board is crafting a new master plan which will guide this public enterprise for years to come. The Fair Board is a rare public entity which has little accountability to the people it serves (probably the last little box on the state’s org chart). Most of its members have no particular qualifications other than good political connections to the Governor (both parties). Technically it is the 22nd Agricultural District, although some time ago it expanded its mission well beyond the original prime focus on all things agricultural. It proudly boasts its identity as a regional recreational body with a very small percentage of its activities focusing on the region’s  farm families and ag entities.


I suggest that the master planning process should be diligent in addressing its many constituencies. Even though its activities serve the entire region, its greatest impact is on the adjacent neighborhoods of Solana Beach and San Diego, as well as its municipal home within the city limits of Del Mar. Perhaps its most fragile constituent group is the flora and fauna ecosystem in the lagoon estuary where it sits on a grand entrance to the Pacific Ocean. Clearly, the agricultural community of the county lays a claim as a prime constituency. The welfare of employees of this large employer and its many subcontractors deserve to be considered as valuable constituencies to be respected.


Another important constituency is a large number of potential occupants of affordable housing that the state has asked every public entity to address. The fairgrounds employment numbers were included in the calculation for Del Mar’s target allocation for affordable housing so it is logical that the fairgrounds does its part. So far the Fair Board is tentatively agreeing to consider allowing one or two of its more than 300 acres for a housing project. Fairgrounds employees could qualify for affordable housing so this has potential for a win-win solution.


Given the broad impact of Ag District activities on all of these constituencies, It would be reasonable to ask the Fair Board to open up its planning process with a vigorous outreach and involvement effort that could produce a master plan that all could embrace.