Gov. Brown to review fairgrounds case

COSTA MESA — The state department in charge of selling the Orange County Fairgrounds has asked an appellate court to reschedule a Feb. 8 lawsuit hearing to give Gov. Jerry Brown time to review the case.

Brown took office Monday. His predecessor, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, supported selling the state-owned fairgrounds to a private group.

"[The Department of General Services] is making this request so the new administration and the governor have the opportunity to review the case and determine how it wants to proceed," said state Deputy Atty. General Michael Glenn Witmer, who represents the department.

The stipulation needed to request the 30-day extension is expected to be filed to the appellate court by the end of Wednesday, after all parties agree to it, Witmer said.

Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West, which was declared the winning bidder after offering $100 million for the 150-acre property, is hopeful about the state's request.

"We were encouraged and embraced the request because we believe it shows that Jerry Brown wants to consider it fairly and review the facts, and when he does, I think he'll find that the sale to FMW is in the state, the county of Orange and the city of Costa Mesa's interest," said Tom Gibbs, the attorney representing Facilities Management.

An attorney representing the group of community leaders, government officials and business owners who filed the lawsuit to block the sale also supported giving Brown time to familiarize himself with the case.

"We think the governor will take a whole new look and we're very hopeful and expect that he will basically take the property off the table," said attorney Wylie Aitken. "It means he wants to weigh in on his own.

"We see that as a very positive sign — that he's taking the matter very seriously and we would like to see it become a political resolution, which will not require the court to intervene."

Brown has not publicly shared his views on the sale of the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. But he has indicated that he wasn't interested in selling the other 11 state properties that Schwarzenegger placed on the market. The appellate court is also expected to rule on the sale of the other properties.

In December an Orange County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to block the state from proceeding with the sale, but the court later rejected the plaintiffs' argument. However, the appellate court agreed to hear the case and extended the restraining order.

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