Most of us have enjoyed the Orange County Fairgrounds for the OC Fair, the exhibitions, the swap meet and the other community-oriented activities.
The fairgrounds are surrounded by Costa Mesa and, therefore, increased activity on the fairgrounds will have increasing effects on our community and neighborhoods.
The fairgrounds' impact on our community has been mostly positive, with traffic, parking and noise invading our neighborhoods only intermittently. This is somewhat balanced by the positive aspects of the venue providing education, passive exhibits, events such as the fair and swap meet, and well-controlled concerts on a limited basis.
I have noted, with apprehension, that the fairground's board of directors and staff are becoming focused on the commercial and for-profit activities of the fairgrounds and making the fairgrounds an entertainment and convention destination rather than a balance between the different parts of its mission statement: "Celebration of Orange County's Communities, Interests, Agriculture and Heritage."
They are presently developing a new master site plan that includes three potential versions ("minimal," "aspirational," "bold"). All plans add buildings, reduce open space and increase the number of events per month ("aspirational" by 30 to 90 above current level).
Most of the board members indicated they liked the "bold" version, which is an even more intense use than "aspirational" but oddly, on their website, "bold" is only included as pictures without numbers on increase usage.
These changes could move the fairgrounds from a low-impact facility to a year-round, seven-days-a-week event center and, to be successful, will have to become an entertainment/meeting/convention destination. The suggested increase in events doesn't include year-round concerts at the Pacific Amphitheatre or motorsport events at the Speedway, which will negatively impact our neighborhoods. Also, there are no limitations on the total number of events that can be held at any time.
The proposals include a 20,000-square-foot ballroom (nearly half the size of a football field), which can only really be used to support large meetings. To accommodate meetings, there is included about 150,000 square feet of additional meeting space, above what already exists.
Convention meetings often last three to five days, meaning our streets and neighborhoods will be dealing with the same traffic, noise and other impacts felt during the OC Fair on a daily, year-round basis, often during rush hour traffic.
There have only been three meetings to gather public input, all of which were poorly noticed and seemed orchestrated to assure participants would not see or hear other resident concerns until it was filtered by staff. Many other meetings were attended by the board, staff, stakeholders (i.e. equestrians), vendors, and/or exhibitors, without the benefit of the public.
Get involved. Look at the master site plan shown at www.ocfair.com/public-information/master-plan.
The board of directors anticipate the new master site plan to be finished by mid April. The board meets at 9 a.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month. For most working folks, it is very hard to attend. Knowing that, I ask all people who may be affected by this new master site plan to come to the next board meeting. If you can't attend, e-mail the board of directors with your concerns.
Remember, we, the residents of Costa Mesa, who will bear the brunt of traffic, noise, etc., only have a couple of months to make sure the board acts as a good neighbor and that any impacts caused by their facility will be appropriately mitigated.
The writer is a former member of the City Council.
Let’s protect Laguna before it slips away
As a 26-year resident of Laguna Beach, David Hansen's column article almost brought tears to my eyes ("Laguna Beach culture chips away with losses". The first thing I said to my wife was that I wish I'd written it.
I have watched with sadness as my quaint little town becomes increasingly bland and upscale. Life is change and I, for one, fully embrace that belief, but change is a state of being, not a destination.
Change doesn't have to mean the ruin of valued places and things. I think we all understand the forces driving these changes (as your article points out so well).
These changes are going on all over the county, but there are few places that lose as much value as we get "Irvined" like the rest of the county.
Change does not have to mean losing your personality, and we are. The only folks who will be building memories of their own here in the future are the ones who live in Newport Coast now and can afford $50 hamburgers and the like.