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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
May 10, 1999


Although Surf ‘n Turf was a stupid name, you can't see the ocean from that location and the turf in question is synthetic, I am sorry to see it go. Having not played miniature golf in the past decade, my concern is that relatively benign business is about to be replaced with yet another shopping center.

Much like the Manchester issue in Oceanside, this is a case of a public lands being squandered to benefit development interests. This is state land. The nine member, governor appointed, fair board has agency only to oversee the 400 acre fairgrounds. Considering that the 22nd District Agricultural Association is an agency of the Department of Agriculture, this seems out of their jurisdiction. The fair board should not be in the development business. Their task is to observe the operations of the fairgrounds, and to protect the public holdings. They have done a admirable job.

The fact that three "plans" presented to the fair board where remarkably similar, is evidence that public input was not even considered when Surf ‘n Turf's lease expired. The three projects competing for the pleasure to develop the 14 acres adjacent to the San Dieguito Lagoon, envision restaurants, retail shops, bookstores, movie theaters, and a gourmet grocery. Somehow the Fair Board has strayed from livestock, and flower shows.

Does Del Mar really need more movie theaters and retail space? Current business owners say no, as does Jerry Harmon and Solana Beach Mayor Marion Dobson. One thing this region needs is a moratorium on redundant development. The no-project alternative, suggested by Mayor Dobson, is a good one. Actually I like the idea of including Surf ‘n Turf, the Rv Park and the Driving Range land in the $50 million plan to restore the San Dieguito Lagoon. If they have to build something, it should only be a wildlife interpretive center.

This is a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse. Currently traffic in and out of the fair grounds is more than the current infrastructure can handle. Does it makes sense to add another traffic generating venue. During the fair and racing season, surface roads and I-5 are gridlocked. How does adding movie audiences to the melee address the problem. What is wrong with allowing this piece of property to sit undeveloped for a while? It's not like it's going anywhere.

One thing that is rapidly disappearing is native habitat, even more rare is open space alongside the regions lagoons. Here is a chance for local officials, both appointed and elected, to do the right thing. Our natural environment is in dire straits, to ignore this fact any longer is suicidal. How can we expect tourists to flock to the area, when the area is just one gigantic strip mall, with the occasional horse track thrown in for flavor. Now is the time to heal, not to continue business as usual.

Trying to restore sensitive wetland habitat and planning a three-story parking garage is at cross purposes, the Fair Board would have known this had they asked. The plan put forward by Caruso Affiliated Holdings of Santa Monica includes water fountains and statues, and all are promising Mission-style architecture. Let's be honest, San Diego County has more to offer the world than mission-style architecture, yet we destroy it with every new multiplex. Stripmalls on the fairgrounds is not smart growth.

Personally I will be sending E-mail to Governor Davis to ask him to take a personal look at this area as a potential restoration site. He can be reached at gdavis@gray-davis.com.

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