Trustees Deny Use of Pierce College Site for Valley Fair

Times Staff Writer

This summer's San Fernando Valley Fair was placed in jeopardy Wednesday when fair organizers were told that they cannot use a 30-acre Pierce College site for the 4 1/2-day event.

Los Angeles Community College District trustees voted 7 to 0 to refuse use of the Woodland Hills campus after deciding that the fair's educational benefits would not outweigh its negative impact on the community.

The rejection stunned fair organizers, who said they have no alternative place to hold this year's proposed July exhibition.

Angry directors of the 51st District Agricultural Assn. stalked from a four-hour trustees meeting at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and refused to comment.

For nearly two years, officials of the state-chartered association had anticipated using the Pierce campus--since they were told they faced eviction from their longtime fair site at Devonshire Downs to make way for a Cal State Northridge expansion project.

Another Location

But fair consultant Ted Nauman predicted that the fair would make an appearance somewhere this summer.

Nauman said fair officials were committed "to the kids" to stage an agricultural show and exhibition. "It could easily be held in a back yard," he said.

"We intend to proceed. What form, what scale, what shape, I don't know," Nauman said, before he was silenced by an association public relations man.

College district trustees said they may be willing to consider letting fair officials stage such a scaled-back event at Pierce this year. But fair officials must return with a radically reduced proposal, the trustees said.

Any reconsideration this year would hinge on elimination of the fair's popular carnival midway--something both fair organizers and fair-goers might object to, said trustee Lindsay Conner.

Said trustee Wallace Albertson: "I don't think I would go to a fair without rides. That's the money-making part of a fair."

Chancellor's Recommendation

In rejecting the fair proposal, trustees followed a recommendation by newly hired Chancellor Donald Phelps that the fair plan be shelved until a long-range land-use master plan is developed for Pierce's 200-acre farm.

Phelps said fair organizers were hoping to move permanently to the campus if a trial-run fair in July was a success. He said he was not convinced that the fair's presence on campus would add to the college's educational program or enhance the school's standing in the community.

He dismissed suggestions that the event could serve as a student recruiting tool. He said that to hope that new students would be moved to enroll after visiting the campus for the fair "is leaving a lot to chance. . . . We don't want to leave education to chance."

Several residents who live near the campus, leaders of the Friends of the Pierce College Farm and representatives of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization also urged trustees to reject the fair proposal.

But fair organizers turned over petitions supporting this year's trial fair, which they said were signed by about 900 West Valley residents. They pledged that the fair would be well-run and beneficial to Pierce.

Organizers rented a bus to carry about 60 supporters to the hearing. Each wore a large blue ribbon similar to those given in past years to the fair's livestock and produce-growing champions. Instead of "first place," the ribbons labeled each wearer as a fair booster.

Fair board member Robert Wilkinson told trustees that his association has no fallback site for this year's fair.

"There's no other place for us to go," he pleaded. "We looked at Sepulveda Basin and Hansen Dam and they are taken up."

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