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Faculty Backs Trial Run of Fair at Pierce

Times Staff Writer

A plan to move next year’s San Fernando Valley Fair to an empty pasture at Pierce College was endorsed by faculty members Thursday, provided fair operators let school officials help keep the event low-key and quiet.

The school’s influential Planning and Budget Committee voted 12 to 0 to ask Los Angeles Community College District officials to prepare a 1-year contract with the fair’s sponsor, the 51st District Agricultural Assn.

Panel members said they will review the document before it is forwarded to college district trustees for a final vote.

Jubilant fair officials said the faculty’s action clears the way for them to begin negotiating with vendors and carnival ride operators for the 4 1/2-day event, to be held in July.

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“I’m very pleased. This is very encouraging,” fair manager Mel Simas said. “We’re not going to put on something that will embarrass anyone.”

Simas and other fair organizers said they will ask college officials for permission to move permanently to Pierce if next year’s trial run is a success. They are being forced to vacate their home at Devonshire Downs because of a Cal State Northridge development project.

A permanent fair worried some committee members, who met Thursday for the fourth time in a month to discuss the fair proposal.

“I’m afraid that once the camel’s head is in the tent, the whole body will come in,” said Sid Elman, a political science professor. He said that other recent land-use agreements, such as those for a weekend swap meet and a full-time commercial farm store, have nibbled at the campus.

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“Before long, we’ll have dozens of such contracts that will prohibit turning Pierce into what we want it to be,” Elman said.

But the 1-year trial was supported by Eugene Larson, a history professor. He suggested that the fair could help breathe new life into Pierce’s troubled agricultural program and, in turn, help preserve the school’s 200-acre farm.

“If we don’t do something with that land, someone else will--the district, the state, the politicians or Warner Center,” Larson said.

Committee members asked David Czamanske, the Los Angeles Community College District’s contracts coordinator, to draw up a pact that will prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages during the fair, require loudspeakers to be aimed away from nearby homes and ban “grandstand entertainment” such as concerts.

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They said they will review the finished contract to make certain other safeguards are included that will give Pierce administrators a voice in the fair.

Czamanske said it will take about a month to prepare a contract that will cover all the bases and establish a rental amount for the fair to pay. After it is reviewed by the faculty committee, the contract will be scrutinized by acting college President Jean Loucks before it is forwarded to college district trustees.

Leaders of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization said they intend to demand that an environmental impact report be prepared before the fair is allowed to move to Pierce.

If such a report is required, the fair--not the college district--will have to pay for it, committee members decided. And if unhappy homeowners sue the college over the fair’s presence, the fair’s sponsors will have to pay those legal costs too, faculty members said.

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