City to share fair goals

The Costa Mesa City Council is scheduled to meet today in a special closed session to discuss the purchase of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

Although it’s unlikely that the council will take any reportable actions during the meeting, City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow said there will be an open session after the meeting to provide the public with officials’ objective and goals for the purchase proposal.

“We wanted to provide for the possibility that there might be a need to take action,” Barlow said. “We also felt that given some of the transparency concerns, and frankly, the council’s goal of having transparency, that there be an item to walk through the council’s objective for the proposal.”

The city has until Monday to provide the state with a proposal to buy the 150-acre property in Costa Mesa.


Meanwhile, the Orange County Fair Board is preparing to make another kind of offer to the state: “a profit-sharing proposal.”

Details will become available Friday, said Robin Wachner, fairgrounds’ communications director.

In February, the Daily Pilot reported that the Fair Board was looking to provide the state with some of the fairgrounds’ revenues on an annual basis; the move is in line with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2004 California Performance Review, which calls for local control of statewide fares.

The plan would keep the state as the sole owner of the land, while also allowing it to benefit financially from the fairgrounds’ profits.


But as the state continued to struggle with its budget deficit, the governor proposed selling some of its assets to shore up revenues. Although nine high-valued properties were proposed by Schwarzenegger, the 150-acre fairgrounds was the only one placed on sale. The Department of General Services, which is in charge of selling the fairgrounds, estimated its sale would bring between $96 million and $180 million.

In March, the state rejected all offers, including the highest bid of $56.5 million by Newport Beach-based Craig Realty Group, an outlet developer, because it deemed them too low.

Subsequently, Costa Mesa began exclusive negotiations with the state to buy the fairgrounds. City officials said that by ensuring that the fairgrounds is self-sufficient, the purchase will not place a burden on the city’s general fund or its residents’ tax money.