The Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) voted to stay their decision on a special event permit for the Avocado Half Marathon and 5k run, which planners hope to host in Fallbrook on April 18, 2015. The decision was due to concerns by various agencies and local community groups in addition to traffic issues on residential streets.
This would be the second year for the Avocado Half Marathon, which has partnered with Homes for our Troops, a privately-funded, national, non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization committed to helping veterans who have returned home with serious injuries by building a specially-adapted home for them.
Currently, the proposed racecourse is set on 13.27 miles. With beginning and ending activities at Live Oak Park, the official race route begins westbound on Winterhaven, north on South Mission Road, east on Stage Coach Lane, east on Reche Road and south on Gird Road.
Gird Road, Reche from Gird to Stage Coach Lane, and Stage Coach Lane from Reche Road to Mission Road, and Brooke Road and part of Winterhaven would be closed from 6:45 a.m. to approximately 10:45 a.m. on the day of the race. Some roads are expected to open by 8:15 a.m., with the majority of other roads being opened before the anticipated time.
In order to hold the marathon, organizers must be issued a special event permit by the San Diego Department of Public Work’s (DPW) traffic engineering and loss mitigation department, allowing for the road closures. The FCPG provides insight to the DPW regarding permits for local events.
Murali Pasumarthi, a manager from the Department of Public Works, attended the FCPG meeting to provide directions from the county board of supervisors for consideration.
Pasumarthi stated the county code requires that the special event be an event that benefits the community, and that no permit should be issued to a for-profit event.
“There are guidelines on how special event permits are to be processed,” said Pasumarthi. “Event coordinators are to solicit and receive input from homeowners, homeowners associations, and emergency responders to minimize event impact. We have asked the event organizers to present a proposal to get input and buy in from the community and to obtain support from law enforcement agencies ahead of their April event plan.”
Andrew Petterson, a senior partner of Seasick Sports Marketing Group, stated that the proposed date for the Avocado Half Marathon is the day before the Avocado Festival.
Vickie Knox, the founder of the Avocado Half Marathon, approached Seasick Marketing to help her get the race off the ground in 2014, and has continued to collaborate with the Del Mar company to help with organizational matters.
“When our company came in [for the 2014 run], we had four months of planning,” explained Petterson. “We have put on events nationwide, and had a few hundred signed up for the event, including two from outside the country, so we had enough to move forward without changing the date and canceling it. We knew notification for residents impacted by the course would be an issue; typically we would like to give multiple notification warnings in advance.”
Petterson stated that event organizers sent mail-out fliers with information regarding the event to residents who would be impacted by the race, but some fliers did not arrive to the residences until seven to 14 days before the race. Signs were also put up along impacted roads two weeks prior to the race to inform residents their streets would be closed off.
Because of the short notice last year, residents were unaware they would not be able to leave their homes, and called various agencies, including the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, Supervisor Bill Horn’s office, and the Village News to voice their concerns.
“People were upset because they had to get to work, go to doctors appointments, and leave for swim matches,” said Petterson. “A lot of the calls were mostly people asking for notifications to go out further in advance, so they could plan for the event. We want to send out fliers a month before the event this year.”
Petterson said that of the roughly 2,400 homes that were impacted by the race, approximately eight percent of residents called to voice concerns or lodge complaints.
“We found that [about] half of the calls were people looking for more notification,” he explained. “That leaves less than four percent of residents who had complaints.”
“This year, we are a little over eight months from the proposed date, and we have put word out in hopes residents would come to meetings and ask questions they had as a whole from the event’s standpoint,” said Petterson.
The event has a significant, positive community impact, insisted Petterson, who said that various local companies, such as Jim’s Sign Shop, Jeremiah’s Ranch, Fallbrook Brewing and the U.S. Post Office, were able to benefit from $14,000 in purchases made by organizers. Petterson stated that Seasick Marketing did not generate a profit from the 2014 race, and had to pay for certain expenses out of pocket.
“We had 165 students from Fallbrook High on hand to volunteer, and they received community service hours. Twelve students from Potter Jr. High also received credit,” said Petterson. “Moving forward to 2015, we have partnered with Homes for our Troops, and have worked on houses in the area.”
The Avocado Half Marathon agreed to donate one dollar from each $56 race registration fee to Homes for our Troops, and would feature a “donate” section on the website, where 100 percent of those specific donations would be given to the non-profit.
“Our runners get medals and shirts, so the percent that we are getting for this is minimal,” said Petterson. “If you look at what is being deducted for the event costs, we easily cut our money in half. The $5,000 is just a minimum that we want to raise.”
Several residents voiced their concerns against the race in its current form. One of the residents mentioned that she was a self-employed florist.
“It’s very likely I could lose a job from lack of information,” she said. “There are three adults in our home that all work on the weekends and deal with deadlines. [The race] does impact us financially as well, and it would be great to get as much notification as possible.”
According to Knox, there has been discussion about changing the track for the run, eliminating a part of Winterhaven, which contains approximately 80 homes.
“The roads are impacted either way on both sides,” said Knox. “That [proposed] route has not gone to the county. We did not have complaints from runners, and you want to put on an event that half marathon people come back to. One other thing we needed to look at is that we could not impact any side of Mission Road, which is a main vein in and out of town. Looking at that, there are not a whole lot of options.”
Pasumarthi stated that the route may be changed to address impacts made by the run.
“The county is willing to work with planning groups, as long as the community approves the event,” he said.
The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce had several directors in attendance, some with strong opinions regarding the race organizers and coordination of the event.
“These people cared nothing about the community, or about the hundreds of people that were blocked off and couldn’t get out,” said Jon Frandell, president of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. “The schedule was crammed down our throats at the last minute. You didn’t care about coming to the chamber, and you didn’t care about the community. You wanted to come in, run it the day before the Avocado Festival, the biggest event in Fallbrook, and stretch volunteers and the CHP thin before the festival. You took some connection for personal gain. Ten dollars from each fee should go to cause. Your attitude and lack of cooperation is just wrong.”
“Notwithstanding all the value they brought here, it really doesn’t feel comfortable,” said Charley Wolk, a chamber board director. “This is a for-profit event, and is a marketing tool. There is a price to pay for those residents on the route who cannot go in and out of their homes. It violates county law, and I consider it un-American to wrangle Marines to stand guard. As a retired Marine, when I look at all this, my conclusion is we are not getting that much in its present format.”
There were also many in attendance who came in support of the run.
Tatyna Beath, who was responsible for coordinating Marine volunteers stated that she saw a large amount of the community who wanted an event that promoted health and fitness.
“We requested 100 volunteers from the Marines, and got close to 250,” said Beath. “Over 200 marines volunteered their time and had a blast. The majority of people I met in the community support family, health and community. I believe very strongly that this event does all those things. It has a positive impact not only on the community and runners, but also on the base, and for all those around us.”
Tom Harrington of the FCPG stated that the Avocado Half Marathon has four basic issues.
“The first is the monetary issue of the event,” he said. “Community benefit is more than the dollar that exchanges hands. The race enhances the community with a whole different group of people, and that is worthwhile.”
Harrington stated that it was a requirement to bring experts from Del Mar to facilitate this event, as Seasick Marketing filled the void for Knox and her race plans.
“This is a springboard event, and a good opportunity to make the Avocado Festival a better event,” said Harrington. “Fallbrook needs to be a part of this.”
Harrington made a motion to approve the permit.
However, not all of the FCPG board agreed.
“If the motion is for having the run on the specified date, then I am opposed,” said Jack Wood. “It is an atrocity to not consider other dates. As a volunteer with the Sheriff Dept.’s Senior Volunteer Patrol, I know what traffic conditions in town are like when we have a severe void of roads to get out of this community. We have limited amount of avenues to get out of this community.”
“I support the event, but not the time,” said Wood to the organizers. “I figure by your adamant statement that you will not consider an alternate route.”
Bill McCarthy also stated that he could not support the proposal as it stood.
“Our job is to look at the impact on the community, not just making runners happy,” said McCarthy. “We need to look at the impact on the community overall, and determine if it’s worthwhile. You’re not talking about blocking off side streets, but main roads through town. I can’t support the motion as it stands now, especially with the small amount of money that is being generated. Good ideas are being raised, but need changes.”
Anne Burdick also stated that as the motion stood, she could not support the event as it was scheduled. In addition, Burdick wanted to hear from the Sheriff’s Department and North County Fire, both of which had representatives at the meeting, but due to the overwhelming amount of public comment had to leave before they could speak.
“I don’t think we can act responsibly without comment from emergency personnel, who have be in charge that day,” said Burdick. “They might say it was a great idea, but they didn’t have a chance to comment.”
Four FCPG board members voted to approve the motion, but it was denied.
Eileen Delaney made a motion to continue the board’s decision for a month so that organizers could meet with safety personnel and the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce.
“We all want this to happen,” she said. “One month isn’t going to affect [the race] one way or the other.”
Pasumarthi concurred, stating that if more time would be needed in order to have stakeholders work together, the department would work with organizers to schedule and process the permit on time.
According to Jackie Heyneman, Parks and Recreation chair, there would be no impact on Live Oak Park, where the race would have events at the beginning and end.
“We anticipated a parking issue, but that did not transpire because [race coordinators] arranged for shuttles to the park. With that thought in mind, a motion was made to recommend approval from the park’s perspective.”
Eileen Delaney stated that $5,000 in donations to the non-profit Homes for Our Troops was not sufficient, given that the run organizers anticipate 1,700 to 2,500 runners.
“The registration fee is below average, so my suggestion is that you raise that to give more to the non-profit,” she said. “How can I make a decision on an event that’s only benefiting the non-profit by a dollar per person? I know you have expenses, but I would be more inclined to support it if more was going to the organization.”
In addition, Delaney strongly recommended that organizers move the date for the run.
“Consider an alternate weekend, because we are a small community, and that will impact our volunteers,” said Delaney. “The fire department, sheriff’s deputies and volunteers are the same ones volunteering for the Avocado Festival, and we are a small community, so it will impact us.”
Petterson stated that there are a significant amount of marathons within the 80-mile radius on other dates, which would take away from opportunities for runners to come to the Fallbrook run.
“The Avocado Half Marathon is in its infant stages, and if we can’t get anyone to run, the non-profit doesn’t make a dollar; it doesn’t make anything,” he said.
The motion was carried, but Jim Russell, FCPG president, warned the organizers that it was important to be open to possible event changes.
“You seem to be intransigent, opposed to any kind of changes whatsoever,” he said. “If that’s not the case, you will not waste our time and you may win.”