Court bolsters its fairgrounds sale opinion

The California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana released its opinion on the Orange County Fairgrounds sale to the public Wednesday, cementing its ruling last week that the sale to a private company is invalid.

In the published opinion dated June 7, the court ruled that the state Department of General Services erred in how it put the 150-acre property up for bid in 2009. The court said DGS should have gotten an independent appraisal of the property's value and installed a way for losing bidders to appeal the state's ultimate selection.

Last year, DGS selected Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West's $100-million offer as the winning bid, but the process was quickly blocked in court by local bidders, state and local officials.

FMW claimed in its appeal to the Court of Appeal that the state could go back and fix both errors the court pointed to, but the three-judge panel last week rejected that claim.

DGS and private developers now await Gov. Jerry Brown's opinion on if the state will continue pursuing a sale. Legislation is working its way through Sacramento that would enable a profit-sharing model between the Orange County Fair Board and the state, should the fairgrounds remain in public hands.

—Joseph Serna

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