Campus Home : Robbins to Ride to Fair’s Rescue With Pierce Bill

Times Staff Writer

The patron saint of the San Fernando Valley Fair continues to bless its Ferris wheels, home-canning exhibits and livestock pens.

State Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), who for years has struggled to keep the fair alive, said he plans to introduce legislation aimed at giving the event a permanent home at Pierce College in Woodland Hills--even though the campus is outside his 20th District boundaries.

The fair’s sponsors have asked to use 30 acres of the campus for a 4 1/2-day event in July. If it is a success, they want to move to the school permanently.

Neighboring homeowners oppose the request. They contend that the fair will disrupt their neighborhood and lead to further commercialization of the 400-acre Pierce campus--perhaps including construction of a year-round convention center.


Decision Expected Soon

Donald G. Phelps, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, met with homeowners and fair officials last week to listen to their arguments. He said he will decide soon whether to recommend that district trustees lease part of the campus to the fair.

Robbins is urging Phelps to welcome the fair as a way to complement Pierce’s struggling agriculture program and to preserve “two of the important community traditions in the Valley.”

Robbins wants homeowners to be fair-minded too.

To soothe them, Robbins said, he is proposing legislation that would ban further leases or sale of Pierce land “for retail, office, industrial or residential development because of the year-round problems . . . and other impacts on the adjacent community.”

In a letter to Phelps, Robbins said he intends to introduce a bill this year that calls for the “continuation of the agricultural program at Pierce without reducing the quality or size of the program.”

His proposed legislation would also block use of the campus for a controversial weekend used-car sales lot and would bar construction of a convention center at the campus, Robbins told Phelps.

Phelps had no immediate response to Robbins’ letter. It remained unclear whether Robbins could bypass the college district’s Board of Trustees with legislation that controls district property or curriculum.

Robbins could not be reached for comment. But Sandy Miller, his administrative assistant, said the senator has clout because much of the college district’s funding comes from the state and the money is controlled by the Legislature.

‘Heard Us Loud and Clear’

She said there has been no reaction yet to Robbins’ letter from college officials. She said she doubts that it will be necessary for Robbins to flex his muscle, however.

“I think the community college district has heard us loud and clear,” Miller said.

Such a bill would not be Robbins’ first attempt to help the troubled fair.

Robbins was instrumental in reviving the fair 15 years after it was legislated out of existence in 1960. Later, he arranged to have up to $10 million set aside by the state for development of a permanent home for the fair.

In 1986, he introduced legislation that would have allowed the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to help buy a permanent site for the fair.

In 1987, when the fair was hoping to win permission to move to a 25-acre Air National Guard site in the Sepulveda Basin, Robbins sought to insert $1.95 million in the state budget to pay for an exhibit hall. Robbins also promised to lead the drive for a new site for the Air National Guard.

Legislative Support

This time, Robbins said, “other members of the Valley legislative delegation” will support his proposed legislation.

Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) has indicated to college district officials that she is among them.

In her own letter last week to district trustees, La Follette outlined her support for turning the college into the fair’s permanent home--provided that homeowners’ concerns are dealt with.

In a separate letter to fair directors, La Follette warned that it is vital “that the fair board address the legitimate concerns of local homeowners who fear increased traffic congestion, noise and crime. For this reason, I am making my support conditional on the strictest control and minimizing of the carnival element.”