Orange County Fair Preservation Society

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Why The Sale Is A Bad Idea

November 2009
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The Sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds

The residents, businesses, unions and elected officials are almost unanimously opposed to the sale of the fairgrounds. There is no organized support in favor of the sale.

If sold, the one-time infusion of money generated by the sale of this property would not cover even the interest on the state debt for 24 hours.

Our local government – The City of Costa Mesa and the County of Orange – were never given an opportunity to purchase the property from the state. They have since formed a JPA and if the Governor rejects the bids, this JPA could purchase the land to ensure both local control while maintaining the public transparency that exists today.

Operating as-is, the OC Fairgrounds turns a profit and is self-sustaining. It also employs hundreds of people and serves as a venue to the OC Marketplace, which has hundreds of vendors, creating thousands of jobs. According to the 32nd DAA Economic Impact report, the Orange County Fairgrounds:

  • Creates 2,184 local jobs
  • Generates $2.5 million annually in local tax revenue
  • Contributes more than $185 million annually to the local economy

If sold, thousands of jobs could be lost at a time when California’s unemployment is around 12 percent.

The California taxpayers already own this property. It is not right for the taxpayers to be forced to purchase this property again (through the county/city JPA) since we, the people, already own it.

The Orange County Fairgrounds, along with many other large parcels of state property, was put up for sale in an effort to reduce the state deficit.

After further consideration, it was pulled off the auction block, including all other large state parcels.

The 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) also known as the Orange County Fair Board, is a state entity within the California Department of Food and Agriculture overseen by its Division of Fairs and Expositions.

The 32nd DAA came up with a scheme to form a non-profit foundation made up of themselves as Directors, then buy the fairgrounds at a discount to do as they wanted with the property without public input or oversight.

The 32nd DAA hired former Senator Dick Ackerman to lobby in Sacramento to get the OC Fairgrounds put back on the auction block.

  • Because former Senator Ackerman was out of office for less than a year, it may have been illegal for him to lobby on behalf of the 32nd DAA Board Members in Sacramento.

With no public meetings and very little media attention, the 32nd DAA Board formed a non-profit organization called the Orange County Fairgrounds Foundation Board, which intended to bid on the property and the OC Fairgrounds was put back on the auction block.

Because the 32nd DAA Board may have violated open-meeting and conflict-of-interest laws, the public began questioning the tainted process, the District Attorney opened an investigation and the Attorney General informed the 32nd DAA Board it would no longer represent it. A coalition of local residents, local business owners, vendors at the fairgrounds, equestrians and labor representatives formed the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society in an effort to “Derail the Sale” of the OC Fairgrounds.

To encourage public input and air the issues, Assemblymembers Jose Solorio and Van Tran held a public meeting and received overwhelming public opposition to the sale of the fairgrounds.

Since that public meeting in October, more than 20 cities, public agencies, community college districts and the county of Orange have passed resolutions opposing the sale of the fairgrounds and asking the governor to stop the sale. Additionally, more than 50,000 residents signed postcards and petitions opposing the sale.

Assemblymember Solorio has introduced legislation designed to stop the sale of the fairgrounds. It has the bipartisan support of the majority of the Orange County state delegation.

When the issue was brought up in an Assembly Committee, other assembly members were shocked at the strange process that could result in Orange County losing its fairgrounds. One Assemblyman summed it up best by uttering “It’s just bizarre!”

Despite the overwhelming opposition from Orange County residents, businesses and elected officials, the Governor held the live auction on January 14.

The Governor had hoped to get as much as $200 million for the property, but the high bid from a mall developer was just $56.5 million.

  • This bid is ridiculously low and offers the state just 25 cents on the dollar for this prime Orange County real estate.
  • The city and county are working jointly on an offer that would provide the state with more money over time, if the Governor will stop the sale.

Ask the Governor to STOP THE SALE! Support and pass the state legislation proposed by Assemblyman Solorio that will stop the sale of the Fairgrounds


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