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Homeowner Group Fears Major Development : Foes Vow to Stop Fair’s Move to Pierce College

Times Staff Writer

Woodland Hills homeowners vowed Wednesday to fight a proposed agreement they fear will turn Pierce College farmland into the permanent home of the San Fernando Valley Fair--and into a large-scale convention center.

Residents charged that a loosely worded “memorandum of understanding” drafted by fair operators for approval next week by trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District will lead to massive development of half of Pierce’s 200 acres of agricultural land.

That contention was disputed by fair officials, who have been negotiating with Pierce administrators for more than a year to move their annual exhibition and carnival from Cal State Northridge, which is developing the site where the fair had been held for more than a dozen years.

The Pierce College pasture area is near the intersection of Victory Boulevard and De Soto Avenue. It is viewed by homeowner and environmental groups as the last significant open space in the west San Fernando Valley.

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Permanent Halls

Residents charged that the land-use pact prepared by the 51st District Agricultural Assn., the state body which puts on the fair, could result in construction of permanent exhibit halls and meeting facilities on pastureland.

Copies of the memorandum were distributed Tuesday night to 200 homeowners attending a campus forum called by fair and college officials. The three-page document specifies that the college district and the fair could negotiate a 50-year lease on much of the farmland if a trial run of the fair at the college next July proves satisfactory to both sides.

As part of any extension beyond the first year, the fair would embark on “long-term improvement programs” that would aid the college and “promote more efficient site use, and enhance the 51st District Agricultural Assn.'s production capabilities for the San Fernando Valley Fair and year-round operations,” the memorandum stated.

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Angry homeowners charged that such a policy could lead to year-round industrial fairs and conventions at the college--something they said fair officials have discussed at past 51st District directors’ meetings.

One-Year Trial Run

They were not mollified when Pierce College President David Wolf--who has resigned, effective next month, to take a post at Santa Rosa Junior College--assured them that the one-year trial run would not involve construction of permanent buildings. Wolf said the improvements would involve new fences and landscaping and minor grading.

“It seems to us to be pretty well cast in concrete as to where this is going and what this will be,” said Gordon Murley, president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization.

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Fair employee Ted Nauman, who is coordinating the proposed Pierce College move, said that only 40 acres are needed for an eight-week period for next year’s 4 1/2-day fair. He told the crowd that any future expansion would be up to the fair and the college district. “The college’s ultimate control over its facilities is clearly identified in the memorandum,” Nauman said.

Nauman, the principal author of the memorandum, said Wednesday that permanent structures built on the campus by the fair would not be “exclusively by and for the fair.”

Fair officials have said they have about $13 million available in the bank or in promised state funds for construction of permanent facilities.

According to Nauman, relocation of the fair “represents the finest opportunity in many years to finally do things to make the Pierce College agriculture department stronger” by providing more facilities and drawing public attention to the program.

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