San Diego County Equestrian Foundation

Status Report and Recommendations


San Diego County Equestrian Foundation

Status Report and Recommendations

September 27, 2010



Summary:   After years of requests, andmost recently in response to a concerted push from the San Diego CountyEquestrian Foundation (SDCEF), senior County management and County SupervisorBill Horn have agreed to support a County-wide effort to reform equestrianregulations in the unincorporated area of San DiegoCounty.     The reform effort is targeted at all sizes ofstables, including both private and commercial, and especially seeks tostreamline permitting and reduce the frequency/severity of codeviolations.  


Background:   In July of 2010, the SDCEFwas established by Michell Kimball, who coalesced like-minded constructiveequestrians into a group determined to work with County staff to eliminatepointless regulations and update the ordinances governing horseactivities.   One example is the need to correct the contradictionbetween the number of  personal horses allowed on a site (no limit) andthe number of horses that can be boarded without a permit (none).  An executive director, Jim Whalen of J. Whalen Associates, was hired to workwith staff and stakeholders.


At a special meeting held in Mission Valley on August 23rd,Chandra Wallar, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer addressed the SDCEFmembership and committed herself and her staff, Devon Muto, Joe Farace, andCarl Stiehl, to a work program including a CEQA document (an EIR, mostlikely).  Funding was already identified for most of the effort, and theBoard of Supervisors will be requested to indentify the roughly $300,000 neededfor the EIR. 


Since the issues are complex and interrelated, Ms. Wallaradmonished the group that progress would be slow.  She indicated that theprocess would be as follows:


1)    Staff is to either assemble a single stakeholder group, if possible,given the many disparate groups in the County.  The SDCEF agreed to workwith staff to try to bring as many people as can be done into the group, andhas had some success.  Recently the Valley Center Planning Groupequestrian subcommittee folded its organization into SDCEF.  Staff willcontinue to work with individuals and other groups not part of SDCEF to ensuretheir input is taken.

2)    In a parallel effort, staff has agreed to put all but the most egregiouscode enforcement actions on hold pending revision of the equestrianregulations.

3)    SDCEF has agreed to work with staff to coordinate a statewide review ofother County equestrian regulations with an eye on not creating newregulations, but rather, adapting known, functional tools used elsewhere inCalifornia to San Diego County.   An example of this is the San MateoCounty program offering pre-application assistance to equestrian permitseekers, which offers the significant benefit of helping the uninitiated wendtheir way through the permit process.

4)    Once the ordinances are revised, the County will draft the CaliforniaEnvironmental Quality Act documentation needed to support the enactment of newregulations, which will have significant potential to have an effect on theenvironment requiring analysis and mitigation.  Most likely, a full EIRwould be needed to cover issues ranging from water quality, biologicalresources, land use, and  zoning/permitting.

5)    After the CEQA document is completed, it will be circulated for publicreview, the comments addressed and incorporated into a final CEQA document, anda hearing of the Board of Supervisors will be scheduled to consider approvingthe new ordinance(s). 


The length of time to complete a new ordinance is estimatedby the County to be 12-18 months, dependent the timing of securing CEQAfunding, the level of controversy, and staff workload. 


In the interim, a parallel effort will be undertaken to workwith Pam Elias, who is the County?s chief of code enforcement, in an effort tocreate an informal ombudsman program designed to correct potentially seriouscode violations before they become problematic.   Except for verydangerous or other matters needing immediate attention, staff has beeninstructed not to prosecute ostensible violators while the code is beingrevised.   The intent of the new program would be to have the partieswho could benefit from early intervention get directed to an ombudsman whowould help solve problems so no code enforcement action is needed.


For many years, regulation of equestrian users has beenunworkably counterproductive, and it is clear that change has to happen. SDCEF, working in collaboration with the Board of Supervisors, County staff,other stakeholders,  the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish & Game looksforward to codifying and implementing 21st-century best managementpractices while expediting the permitting of  the full range of equestrianoperations.



Cc:  SDCEF members

        County staff






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