Foes of Pierce Fair Site Propose Van Nuys Airport as Alternative

Times Staff Writer

The homeless San Fernando Valley Fair could be operating on a wing as well as a prayer this year if Woodland Hills residents have their way.

Homeowners fighting the proposed relocation of the fair to Pierce College want it to land instead at Van Nuys Airport for its 4 1/2-day run in July.

Officials of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization said Saturday that the fair should be held at the airport site recently vacated by a California Air National Guard wing rather than on college pastureland.

Staging the fair at the airport would give college officials a chance to prepare a permanent land-use study for the 400-acre Pierce campus, said Robert Gross, vice president of the Woodland Hills homeowners group.


Gross said the airport proposal, his group’s latest solution to the ongoing dispute, will be made Thursday night to Los Angeles Community College District administrators meeting at Pierce to review the fair’s request to rent a 30-acre portion of the college farm for the 1989 event.

Evicted From Former Home

The fair has been evicted from its former home at Devonshire Downs to make way for a planned Cal State Northridge development. Nervous fair operators have pegged all their hopes on a Pierce College site, acknowledging that they have no alternate site in case Pierce’s land is unavailable.

If the 1989 fair at Pierce is a success, the sponsoring 51st District Agricultural Assn. has announced its intent to ask for permission to move permanently to the Winnetka Avenue campus.

The Thursday meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. at Pierce’s Campus Center, was ordered by college district Chancellor Donald G. Phelps after homeowners and others complained about the fair’s plans.

The opponents contend that opening the campus to the fair would lead to future commercialization of other portions of the college’s 200-acre farm, which is considered the last major open space in the West Valley.

College district trustees ruled in September that all future development projects at Pierce should be postponed until a long-range master plan is completed.

Test of Fair Backed

Pierce officials have said the earliest that a master plan can be completed is next summer. Last month, however, a Pierce faculty review committee tentatively approved a one-time test of the fair at the campus for July.

Phelps has indicated that Thursday’s meeting between college officials, fair organizers and homeowners will determine whether the fair can be held at the campus before the master plan is finished.

Gross said Saturday that Pierce officials have notified homeowners that testimony from the community on Thursday will be limited.

In a letter to Gross’ group, Pierce vice president William Norlund noted: “This meeting will not be a general meeting for the public to express viewpoints, but a meeting to discuss the issues. Therefore, the participants will be limited to the leaders of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization.”

Gross said his association will protest that limitation Tuesday when college offices reopen after the New Year’s holiday. He said development of the Pierce farmland is “not a parochial issue that involves just the homeowners who live adjacent to Pierce College.”

Norlund could not be reached Saturday for comment; Phelps was reported on vacation.

‘Pretty Wide Open’

But college district spokesman Norman Schneider said he doubts that Phelps intends to restrict discussion. “I think Dr. Phelps’ intent was for it to be pretty wide open, for everyone to put their 2 cents worth in,” Schneider said.

Air National Guard officials were unavailable for comment Saturday. Although most of the wing’s planes are gone, the headquarters is expected to remain at Van Nuys through the end of this year.

Gross said use of the 62-acre military base--left mostly empty by the relocation last month of the 146th Tactical Airlift Wing to Point Mugu in Ventura County--would give fair organizers time to prepare a permanent Pierce College relocation proposal. That plan could then be factored into the college’s own campus master plan, Gross said.

If the airport space is unavailable, the fair should consider seeking an extension of its Devonshire Downs lease or using Hansen Dam in the Lake View Terrace area, Gross said.