OC Fair Board Wants Back In

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Staying true to this year’s OC Fair motto, “The Beat Goes On,” the much-maligned fair board, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is defying the governor’s request to stay on the sidelines and has jumped back into the fold with its own proposal for keeping the fairgrounds in public hands.

This morning, the fair board will unveil an ambitious plan to counter a private sector plan to purchase the fair for $96 million from the state just as public opposition begins to mount.

The Orange County Register editorial board has recently come out against the proposed sale, and so has County Supervisor John Moorlach.

Last week, former Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis — now president of the OC Fairgrounds Preservation Society — also penned a blistering op-ed against the deal.

And Latino legislators in Sacramento continue to promise strong opposition to the proposed legislation authorizing the sale because of Costa Mesa’s recent adoption of a resolution supporting the state of Arizona’s new immigration law.

Fair Board members are apparently seeing these hiccups in the deal proposed by Facilities Management West and the city of Costa Mesa as an opportunity. When the deal with Costa Mesa was announced in April, the board members stayed quiet.

Back then, Fair Board Chairwoman Kristina Dodge said, “We are not in competition with them (the City of Costa Mesa). We are supporting them.”

But it looks like now they’ve changed their tactics.

In a July 31 letter sent to Schwarzenegger, Dodge now sounds a much stronger and independent tone.

From the letter:

We were appointed to the Board of Directors to be stewards of the OC Fair and fairgrounds in service of Orange County residents, and as such we feel it important that the Board be part of the public discourse at this pivotal point in visioning the fairgrounds future.


As such, we plan to offer a set of ideas for public discussion that preserves the fairgrounds for future use by residents of Costa Mesa, the Orange County community and people of California. These ideas, organized as a revenue sharing plan between the governing 32nd DAA and the State of California will be a framework for local discussion and input and presented as a community-based plan to the Governor’s office for consideration.

Board members are apparently offering an 80-year revenue-sharing agreement that would send $5 million to Sacramento immediately and then promise at least $2.5 million in ensuing years.

It’s unclear if the different uses that would be proposed for the property could generate those kinds of profits. But it’s expected that this morning board members will begin trying to sell the idea to the public.

What’s clear from Dodge’s letter is that the Fair Board isn’t going to be shy in pushing its ideas forward. “This plan does indeed achieve the highest return while keeping the property in the State’s real estate holdings. It is undoubtedly the best model for a win-win outcome for all,” Dodge wrote.



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