OC Fairgrounds: Revenue-Sharing Plan Gains Traction; Governor Releases Revised Budget; Costa Mesa Mayor Would Rather the Land Go to Highest Bidder

​In breaking news, Assemblyman Jose Solorio's bill (AB 35) passed the Appropriations Committee--with a vote of 10-2--and will now move to the Assembly Floor. The bill allows for a revenue-sharing option if Governor Jerry Brown decides not to honor the $100 million bid by Facilities Management West for the Orange County Fairgrounds.

That's but another small step in the ever-developing, brow-scratch-worthy story of the 150 acres of state land.

In its totality, understanding the saga of the Fairgrounds is like trying to figure out the villain in a Dan Brown novel.

With each passing month and year since our former baby-making governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended the land be put up for sale, the plot has thickened. As it stands today, the former bad guys became the good guys, and some of the good guys became bad guys.

First the board of directors for the OC Fair & Event Center tried to sell the land to itself for 30 cents on the dollar (we presume, since no appraisal figure yet exists). Now the Fair Board agrees with the OC Fairgrounds Preservation Society that the land be preserved as state-run property. 

In the past couple years the city of Costa Mesa put together a couple unsuccessful bids to buy the land in hopes of keeping it within local control. Days ago, Mayor Gary Monahan (who seems to become more unpopular with each new decision) wrote a letter to the governor on city letterhead supporting the sale to a private bidder (which is in direct conflict with the letter the city council sent in Nov. 2009 opposing the sale) since he so thoroughly disagrees with Solorio's proposed revenue-sharing plan. When the letter was mentioned at a recent city council meeting, fellow council members appeared puzzled, according to Lisa Sabo, a Preservation Society member.

Facilities Management West, a company people seem to know little about, swooped in and won the land in auction with a bid of $100 million. FMW feels it still has a legal right to the land. What it plans to do with the land if it gets it is a mystery. But the company is known to have lobbyists up in Sacramento doing what they can to get final approval on its bid.

According to the OC Register, at a court hearing on Friday, the three-person panel spent the majority of its time asking the same question so many opponents of the sale have presented: what's the land actually worth? FMW believes its bid is fair and should be upheld, but the panel didn't seem completely convinced this was a sale that it wholly supports.

Governor Brown has remained quiet. Prior to his (re)election he voiced his opposition of the sale, but once he took office, he focused first on balancing the budget (rightly so). In his recently released revised budget it's difficult to ascertain which way the governor is leaning. How would you interpret the following:

Develop a Comprehensive Policy for Fairgrounds
Individual legislative initiatives have been introduced to sell fairgrounds over the years. These proposals should be evaluated in the context of a statewide policy and a property by property review of fairgrounds. The Secretary of Food and Agriculture will develop a plan to be included in the Governor's 2012-13 Budget, addressing the future operation, maintenance and oversight of the Network of California Fairs, including real and personal property and the feasibility to restructure the governance of the fairs within this network. 

Not bad news, but not great news, right?

Stay tuned and keep your "spidey sense" dialed high.

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