Orange County Fair Preservation Society

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Hundreds Protest Fairgrounds Sale

By ELLYN PAK

COSTA MESA – Hundreds of residents who are worried about the sale of the fairgrounds showed up this morning at Costa Mesa City Hall armed with questions.

State Assemblymen Jose Solorio and Van Tran hosted the meeting.

Before the meeting, dozens of protesters opposing the sale of the site lined Fair Drive.

“Why go after a facility that creates tax revenue?” said Ann Smith, a Dana Point resident who protested outside. “Why go after this site? There seems to be a back-door deal. There must be something going on. It doesn’t make sense.”

Representatives from the state Department of General Services kicked off the meeting by explaining the process of the sale, which includes accepting bids by Jan. 8 and opening them up for a formal auction Jan. 14.
An offer chosen by the department will be taken to the Legislature for approval. If the offer is approved, the state would move forward with the sale. The transfer of the property could take place next fall, after the 2010 summer OC Fair.

State Supervising Real Estate Officer Bob McKinnon said he could not speculate on how much money the fairgrounds sale could fetch or the future of fairground employees. The state has not completed an appraisal of the site, and it has not received any proposals yet, according to McKinnon.

About 40 people representing various stakeholders – the city, fairgrounds, Equestrian Center, union groups, residents and vendors – spoke out against the sale of the fairgrounds. Most expressed their concerns about the future of segments of the grounds, including the farm, fair, Equestrian Center and OC Market Place.

“This is one of the biggest issues facing our City Council right now,” said Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley. “The impact of the sale of the fairgrounds is huge for Costa Mesa.”

Kristina Dodge, chairwoman of the fair board, said “there are too few places in the county for families to gather, and we need to do what we can to preserve the fairgrounds.”

Dodge said she thought the fair could be much more successful in nonprofit hands. Some questioned whether the Fair Board members lobbied the state to sell the property to buy it themselves.

Others speakers suggested that the Orange County legislators introduce a bill to stop the sale of the fairgrounds.
Joy Williams, a Costa Mesa resident since 1959, said the fairground provides a way for children to learn about the economy, agriculture and their food source.

“How dare you consider selling the fairgrounds?” she said. “That’s just madness. Is this the legacy you want to leave for future generations? I certainly hope not.”

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