Pols doubtful of fair sale

COSTA MESA — After thousands of hours and dollars, disagreements, threats and emotion, Costa Mesa might end up without control of the Orange County Fairgrounds, at least two politicians familiar with the deal said Wednesday.

Although technically the city still has time for a lawmaker to save the day and attach the necessary legislation to the state budget bill and allow it to buy the fairgrounds from the state, the proposal is considered all but dead.

"All vital signs tell me that this entire deal is in intensive care," Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Westminster) said.

Tran doesn't plan on submitting any legislation for the city to buy the fairgrounds and doesn't know of anyone else who would.

"There's a sentiment from some members in the community that everyone should get back to the status quo ante and just wait it all out until the new governor comes along to deal with the idea," he said.

Early signs of it falling apart came when the state last month placed the 150-acre property back on the market and asked for a minimum of $96 million, the amount the city offered to pay. And the latest and final sign came Tuesday when Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), the one the city relied on to submit legislation and allow it to buy the fairgrounds, announced he's dropping his support.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley said it's not looking good and that's because the city's deal with Facilities Management West, the company that's been ushered-in to finance and operate the fair, doesn't guarantee the public's interest.

"At the end of the day, the deal that was voted on last night and finally signed with the city and the tenant, it really is a private property-owner model, it's not a public property model," she said. "And the whole point of this whole process was to hold the ground in public ownership. Other than the landlord is technically a public entity, it's essentially a private property model."

On Tuesday, the City Council and the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority approved the few outstanding issues in the ground lease agreement, including the community use and access.

Foley tried to get the council to revise some language in the lease to guarantee the city's side of the deal, but her attempt failed after Councilman Gary Monahan, rolling his eyes at every one of her suggestions, said the city can't keep making changes to the lease and motioned for approval. It passed 4-1.

But the 55-year lease with Facilities Management might not matter after all.

"I don't see anyone on the horizon," Tran said. "I don't see anyone of my colleagues stepping up at this late date and understanding the challenges and the minutia of the entire process to offer a comprehensive piece of legislations to deal with this issue."

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