DEL MAR — Angry area residents Wednesday threatened lawsuits and accused Del Mar Fair Board members of violating their property rights, their peace of mind and religious freedom by proposing to allow a 10-day Grand Prix racing event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds next fall.
Worries about noise, traffic congestion, parking problems, air pollution and a dozen other woes were expressed at a meeting of three fair board members to review the environmental impact of the event, scheduled to take place during the first two weekends in November. The objections were made by about one-third of the 120 residents who attended the meeting to protest.
The 110,000 spectators expected at the racing and sports car exhibition, which would be similar to the Long Beach Grand Prix, will mean 2,000 jobs and millions of dollars in local sales and tax revenue, proponents argued. But their support was drowned out by overwhelming opposition from the majority of the audience, which punctuated criticism of the race with applause and the hissing of five souls who dared support the event.
The racing of high-powered sports cars brought expressions of wrath from residents surrounding the state fairgrounds who have learned to live with the crowds and noise accompanying the thoroughbred horse racing season at the Del Mar Racetrack. But most of the speakers argued that the noise from the race cars is much worse and a violation of their airspace and peace of mind.
A minister, whose church abuts the fairgrounds, said that the noise pollution expected on the two Sunday mornings in November represented a violation of his congregation's constitutional rights to worship, because no service could be heard over the roar of the Grand Prix racing.
Del Mar City Council candidate Brooke Eisenburg announced that she was organizing an effort to block the racing event by gathering signatures on a petition to send to Nissan Motors executives, hoping to convince the firm not to sponsor the races.
County noise engineer Raymond Sacco and Jim Dukes, an acoustical consultant hired by the City of Del Mar, are conducting noise studies, testing the accuracy of the environmental impact report commissioned by the fair board.
Sacco said the race would violate county noise ordinances, which restrict noise levels to the 50-decibel range in residential districts. But, he explained, county noise ordinances do not apply within the City of Del Mar, where the state fairgrounds are located.
Del Mar Mayor Arlene Carsten said that the city is attempting to toughen its noise ordinance to county standards but admitted that the local ordinances do not automatically apply on the state-owned fairgrounds. Special legislation, similar to laws obtained by Sacramento residents plagued by noise from the state-owned fairgrounds there, would have to be granted by the state Legislature, she said.
Christopher Pook, president of the Del Mar Race Management Inc., sponsors of the Del Mar fairgrounds racing event, has promised residents within 3,000 feet of the race track that he will give them all-expenses-paid vacations out of earshot of the high-decibel event on the two weekends it will be held.
Pook makes the same arrangements for the Long Beach Grand Prix.
One Solana Beach resident eligible for the mini-vacation scoffed at such an offer.
"It may be easy to get people in Long Beach to leave town, but we like where we live and we lived here first," he said. He refused to give his name, explaining, "I may change my mind and want to take them up on the offer."
Msgr. Jeremiah O'Sullivan of St. James Catholic Church in Solana Beach, who said he was representing 1,500 families, urged in a letter that fair board members to put a damper on "this age of pollution" by "firm rejection" of the racing event.
Pook has estimated that the fairgrounds will gain about $100,000 from the fall event, adding that merchants in the surrounding communities will gain much more in revenues from race participants and racing fans. Fair board members are seeking additional off-season events to add to the revenues from a seven-week thoroughbred racing season and 15-day county fair to finance a new main grandstand at the Del Mar Racetrack.
Fair board directors already have voted tentative approval for a five-year contract with Pook's Long Beach-based racing promotion firm. Final approval for the event is contingent on the acceptance of the environmental impact report showing mitigation measures for the noise pollution and traffic congestion that the two-week race meet is expected to bring.