Probe of Possible Violations Continues : Bid to Ban Grand Prix at Del Mar Track Denied

Times Staff Writer

Local administrators of the California Coastal Commission Thursday rejected a Del Mar resident’s request that the state panel consider revoking a permit for grand prix-style auto racing at the fairgrounds later this year.

Deborah Lee, chief of permits for the commission in San Diego, said the request was denied because “we could find no evidence of bad faith or of intent to mislead on the part of fairground officials,” who received approval to stage the race last month.

Meanwhile, a separate investigation into possible violations of the Coastal Act at the fairgrounds continues. Lee said the alleged violations, which include the placement of fill dirt along the San Dieguito River channel and the construction of a retaining wall, could result in fines against the 22nd District Agricultural Assn., as the Del Mar Fair board is formally known.

Last week the commission suspended a permit for the auto race and launched an inquiry into charges that fairground officials misrepresented their intentions and withheld information from their permit application.


The investigation came at the request of Joe Shirley, a Del Mar builder and opponent of the high-speed auto race. Shirley, who lives near the fairgrounds and has become its self-appointed watchdog, maintains that fair officials misled the commission by implying that no permanent construction, grading or filling would be necessary to accommodate the event.

Shirley maintains that permanent construction has taken place in the southwest corner of the property, where a retaining wall has been erected and a large amount of fill dirt has been placed. In addition, he cited officials’ plan to pave a 175-foot stretch of the course to stage the race, the object of a bitter controversy here.

Under the state Coastal Conservation Act, “the inclusion of inaccurate, erroneous or incomplete information” on a permit application may be grounds for revocation.

But Lee said Shirley provided no evidence that fairground officials deliberately misled the commission by failing to include certain information on their application. Basically, Lee said, Shirley’s concerns were technicalities unrelated to the major issues--noise and environmental impact--in the debate over the race.


Moreover, she said, fair officials have agreed to alter the race course and obtain a separate permit to pave the 175-foot stretch.

Shirley expressed anger at the commission’s decision and vowed to “write everybody, anybody who will listen, to get this thing taken care of.”

“The way I read the Coastal Act these guys are in violation,” Shirley said. “If I had the money I’d go to court in a second. I’m a fighter and I know I’m right on this.”

The grand prix, approved by the Coastal Commission in May, is a 10-day affair scheduled to begin Oct. 31. Fair board members approved a five-year lease with race promoters, who also sponsor the Long Beach Grand Prix, in an effort to increase utilization of the fairgrounds and raise revenue.


The event is expected to draw peak crowds of 40,000 and generate up to $250,000 annually. But two lawsuits, filed by the City of Del Mar and a local homeowners group, seek to block the race, which opponents say will be intolerably noisy.

Disagreement over the grand prix has also sparked a feud between the city and the fair board, which is investigating the possibility of seceding from Del Mar and forming its own special district.