Assembly committee passes bill to stop sale of the OC Fairgrounds
Sale on hold while it hears lawsuit arguments
COSTA MESA, Calif.—Assemblyman Jose Solorio's bill aimed at stopping the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa won unanimous support in an Assembly committee today.
The Anaheim Democrat, who has spearheaded legislation as well as a lawsuit to stop the sale of the 150 acres, hailed the 9-0 vote by the Assembly Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection.
"I feel pretty good. We're making some good momentum,'' Solorio told City News Service. "There continues to be a forum to share with the governor that there's broad support in Orange County and the legislature to not sell the fairgrounds. And now we have a parallel message that there are other ways of generating revenue (for the state).''
Solorio's bill seeks to have the state maintain ownership of the fairgrounds, which also serves as home to an equestrian center and weekend swap meet, and allows for the state to collect revenue from the OC Fair Board.
Solorio has sponsored legislation in the past to stop the sale of the fairgrounds, a move led by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the Solorio his latest effort was different because it is revenue-neutral. Schwarzenegger pushed for the sale in the past to help pay down the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit, but it's unclear where Gov. Jerry Brown stands on the sale. In February Brown stopped the sale and lease back of 11 state buildings.
"This would provide a win-win for all parties because the state would continue to own the property, the fair board would be able to continue to operate it and the community would be able to continue to enjoy the fair for years to come,'' Solorio said.
How the revenue would be shared has not been decided, but Solorio said he expected a lump sum from the fair board and at least $1 million annually in revenue, Solorio said.
The legislation seeks to match the $30 million payment from Facilities Management West, which has agreed to buy the property for $100 million, with $255 million being paid out over the life of the loan. The Fait Family Trust and David Pyle, who owns American Career College and West Coast University, are behind Facilities Management West. A call seeking comment from FMW executives was not immediately returned.
The bill should be heard in the Assembly's appropriations committee in the next few weeks, with a floor vote expected by the end of May, Solorio said.
After that, it would move the Senate.
OC Fair Board members support the revenue-sharing proposal, Solorio said. And Jeffrey Teller, who operates the weekend swap meet at the fairgrounds, joined Theresa Sears of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society in testifying for the bill in Sacramento today, Solorio said.
Next month, appellate court justices will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit Solorio, Teller and others have filed to stop the sale to FMW. The appellate court has scheduled a May 12 hearing, but that could be delayed, Solorio said.
In December, an Orange County Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit backed by Solorio, Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, Newport Mesa Unified District Board of Education member Katrina Foley and the Orange County Fair Preservation Society.
That lawsuit was combined with another one filed earlier by Jeffrey Teller, who operates the weekend swap meet at the fairgrounds, and three unsuccessful bidders for the property.
The appellate court also put the sale on hold while it hears arguments in Solorio's lawsuit, which he said could drag on for years, Solorio said.
COSTA MESA, Calif.—Orange County Fair Board members today proposed a revenue-sharing deal with the state as an alternative to selling the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
"In light of the state's fiscal crisis and Gov. (Jerry) Brown's statements regarding local authorities being empowered to conduct their business more efficiently, the board believes that this alternative would benefit the state and the Orange County taxpayers,'' OC Fair Board Chairman
David Ellis said.
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