Solorio’s fairgrounds bill passes Assembly

Legislation that seeks to keep the Orange County Fairgrounds in public hands cleared a major legislative hurdle Wednesday.

The state Assembly voted in favor of Assembly Bill 35, which would allow the O.C. Fair Board to share the fairgrounds’ revenues with the state and in turn provide an ongoing source of income instead of a one-time payment by a private buyer.

“Why sell an asset for a one-time revenue boost when the fair could provide an ongoing annual revenue stream to the state and keep our fairgrounds in public hands?” Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), who championed the bill, said on the Assembly floor before the vote, according to a news release from his office.

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) was one of only three assemblymen who voted against the bill, according to Solorio.

The profit-sharing option could generate at least $100 million for the state over the next 40 years, the statement said.

The bill’s next stop is the state Senate.

“We’re encouraged,” said Fair Board Chairman David Ellis, adding that the board has been working with Solorio on the concept for months.

The Fair Board in August passed a profit-sharing model as an alternative to selling the 150-acre property to a private buyer.

“We submitted sort of a concept to Gov. [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, and it was never reviewed by the governor’s staff, and we essentially regenerated that for the legislative process for Solorio and reminded them that this is something we had on the table,” Ellis said.

In October, the state Department of General Services, which was in charge of selling the fairgrounds, accepted Newport Beach-based real estate company Facilities Management West’s $100-million offer for the property.

The sale was blocked by a group of state, local and community members, who jointly filed a lawsuit to stop the sale from going forward.

The lawsuit is in the Court of Appeal.

A statement on behalf of FMW said the bill is in conflict with public interest.

“The bill has no clear way of generating any new cash for the current fiscal crisis or a bankable long-term cash flow,” the statement said.

Solorio said he believes the bill will pass through the Senate.

“It passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly,” he said. “Once the senators hear the common sense merits of allowing the governor to consider revenue sharing between the state and the Fair Board, I’m sure it will pass.”

The state originally put the fairgrounds on sale as part of a Schwarzenegger’s plan to sell state-owned properties to plug a hole in the budget.