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Court Denies Sierra Club’s Challenge to Coastal Development Permits

Released: September 03, 2015

Court Denies Sierra Club’s Challenge to Coastal Development Permits
Approved by California Coastal Commission

DEL MAR, CA. (September 3, 2015) – On Tuesday, September 1, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant upheld the California Coastal Commission’s approval of two coastal development permits for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, rejecting arguments by the Sierra Club that the development authorized by the permits violated the Coastal Act.

The challenged permits resulted from the Consent Cease and Desist and Restoration Orders, a historic settlement agreement negotiated and approved by the Commission and the 22nd DAA in early 2012. The Consent Orders resolved long-standing disputes between the two agencies regarding uses and development on the Fairgrounds, and set forth a framework for future Coastal Act compliance. The permits challenged by the Sierra Club, approved in November 2013 and a key requirement of the Consent Orders, authorized a second thoroughbred horse racing meet in the fall, as well as year-round parking and temporary events on the East Overflow Lot and Golf Driving Range, and other non-Fair/Race time events on the main Fairgrounds property. The Commission’s approval of the permits also triggered a $5 million restoration of the remaining portion of the South Overflow Lot, approximately 9.5 acres, to fully functioning wetlands.

“Following a careful review of the facts and the applicable law, we are pleased that the court properly upheld the two coastal development permits approved by the California Coastal Commission, thus allowing the 22nd DAA to continue providing the citizens of San Diego with the long standing services to which they are entitled,” stated Frederick Schenk, President of the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

In rejecting the Sierra Club’s petition to overturn the Coastal Commission’s decision, Judge Chalfant found that the Commission had correctly applied the Coastal Act’s conflict resolution principles when it determined that approval of the permits would allow the 22nd DAA to expand and vastly improve the quality of the surviving wetlands on the Fairgrounds property by restoring the SOL, while also furthering Coastal Act policies favoring increased public access and public recreational uses in the coastal zone by consolidating parking and event uses in the East Overflow Lot and Golf Driving Range. The Commission found that this outcome, even though it would result in fill of degraded wetland areas of the EOL and GDR, was more protective of coastal resources than denial of the permit application, which would leave all three lots in their current disturbed state and curtail important Fairgrounds operations. The court’s decision rested in large part on its acknowledgement of the Fair’s vested right to use all three overflow lots for parking during the summer Fair and Races, which precluded the Commission from unilaterally ordering restoration of any of the lots.

About the Del Mar Fairgrounds

The 22nd District Agricultural Association is a State of California agency that owns and operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Surfside Race Place, Horsepark Equestrian Center and the Del Mar Golf Center. The 22nd DAA produces three events each year: The San Diego County Fair, the Del Mar National Horse Show and The Scream Zone. The Fairgrounds hosts more than 350 events annually, the largest of which is the live horse racing meet each summer and fall, which is operated by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for the 22nd DAA and the State of California. For more information on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, visit www.delmarfairgrounds.com.

For more information, please contact:
Linda Zweig
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