Fairgrounds deal still faces uncertainty

COSTA MESA — Although there's still a chance that a bill allowing Costa Mesa to buy the Orange County Fairgrounds will be presented alongside a state budget bill, the deal might not go through after all, an area legislator said Monday.

Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Westminster) said while he is in favor of keeping the fairgrounds in local hands, if the sale with the city and its private partner, Facilities Management West, does not guarantee accountability and transparency to the public — and if the sale doesn't ensure that the fair will remain in place indefinitely — then he will not support the deal.

"I'm concerned with the entire package right now, frankly," Tran said.

Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), who has taken the lead on the matter, has said he's working with all the parties to ensure the deal is good for the public. He said he is also addressing the fate of the 80 full-time state employees who work at the fairgrounds, but so far no bill has been completed for submittal.

Solorio did not return calls seeking comment Thursday, Friday and Monday. However, in an email sent Monday night, Solorio said he's still discussing outstanding issues with the city of Costa Mesa and is hopeful that all matters will be resolved.


Tran said he senses Solorio is also not certain about filing the necessary legislation to complete the purchase.

"This is just my interpretation," Tran said. "From my conversations with him, I don't get the sense that he's certain … He's not certain that he'll submit … legislation or not."

For the city to finalize the $96 million purchase from the state, the Legislature must give the deal the green light. Talk of the Latino Caucus not supporting the purchase dominated the state capital after Costa Mesa passed a resolution ceremoniously calling itself a "Rule of Law" city, or one that does not welcome illegal immigrants.

Solorio, a member of the Latino Caucus, has said that while he is critical of Costa Mesa's resolution, he doesn't plan to block the city's purchase of the fairgrounds.

He has not yet drafted a bill.

The pressure to complete the transaction intensified last week when the state put the 150-acre fairgrounds up for sale for the second time within a year.

The state's Department of General Services, which is in charge of selling the fairgrounds, set a Sept. 30 deadline for all parties interested to come forward. The state is seeking a minimum of $96 million for the fairgrounds to be sold "as is."

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