Grand Prix Is Done But Noise Debate Races On

Times Staff Writer

Auto racing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds proved to be quieter and less disruptive than envisioned in “worst case” scenarios, but it appears to have made few converts among its opponents.

“I still don’t feel this event enhanced Del Mar,” Councilwoman Brooke Eisenberg said. “I don’t see how this helps the peace and tranquility of our community. It just doesn’t seem to me that a community should have to undergo this for an event that doesn’t do anything for the community.”

More Lawsuits Uncertain

Eisenberg said it is premature to discuss whether Del Mar will again sue to block the races--though she noted that previous legal action failed.


Solana Beach resident H.K. Friedland, active in the unsuccessful two-year fight against the return of auto racing to Del Mar, predicted that residents will plead with the California Coastal Commission not to issue a permit for a second-year of the Camel Grand Prix of Southern California.

Monitors on the fairgrounds and in Solana Beach and Del Mar showed the noise was below the maximum levels allowed in the Coastal Commission permit. But Friedland and other race opponents argue that decibels tell only one part of the story.

“There is a quality of noise that is not described by decibels,” Friedland said. “The pounding surf or a symphony orchestra are a great deal less annoying than car racing, with the undulating whine of the engines.

“To subject us to this racing noise for the amusement of some and financial enhancement of others is wrong.”

Friedland said the noise became particularly unbearable when the wind shifted toward Solana Beach. He said he fielded complaints from as far away as Rancho Santa Fe and the Torrey Pines area of San Diego.

Next Race Being Planned

Jim Michaelian, vice president of Del Mar Race Management, said the promoters expect continuing opposition from some residents but are already planning for next year’s event.


“We’re not out to convince everybody that racing is their bag because we know that it’s nearly impossible to make converts,” Michaelian said. “What we would like is that people who don’t like it will realize it was not the cataclysmic event, the end of an age, that they had feared.

“Hopefully, people will realize they can survive it and we’re doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible on them,” he said.

Del Mar Race Management has signed a five-year lease with the Fair Board to hold the race annually at Del Mar. But the Coastal Commission permit was only for one year; a new one must be obtained.

Officials from Del Mar and Solana Beach patrolled the fairgrounds and environs Saturday and Sunday, checking noise monitors and talking to residents.

“Overall, the impact does not seem to have been that bad,” Del Mar Councilman Scott Barnett said. “It was a nuisance to those who heard it, but not a disaster by any sense. I had even been caught up in the cycle of fear myself about noise and traffic and safety, but Del Mar was not attacked by a beer-drinking race crowd.”

Attendance on Sunday, the most popular day of the two-weekend event, was estimated at 32,500, more than the average 19,000 during the 43-day horse racing season but less than half the size of a good crowd during the Del Mar Fair.


Traffic was slow-and-go on Interstate 5 in the late morning and the late afternoon.