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State report proposes sale of fairgrounds

August 05, 2004

Alicia Robinson

An outside-the-box proposal to sell the Orange County fairgrounds has

made it into a plan commissioned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to

"blow up the boxes" of government inefficiency.

The idea to sell the fairgrounds, proposed by 70th District

Assemblyman John Campbell in April, was listed as an example of the

state's "underutilized or surplus property" in the California

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Performance Review, a voluminous report on how the state could

potentially save $32 billion over the next five years.

The governor commissioned the report, and the legislature must

decide whether to adopt it as a whole or in part, but because the

legislative session ends Aug. 31, lawmakers won't take up the issue

until 2005.

When Campbell suggested the sale of the 190-acre property, he

thought it could bring as much as $300 million to help fill the

state's budget gap, but some of that would have been devoted to

relocating the fair facilities to Irvine's Great Park. Those working

on the governor's report apparently liked the idea, though their

estimate of the sale price was about $230 million and didn't mention

moving the fair.

Campbell didn't push for the proposal to be included in the report

and only found out Tuesday it was in there, he said.

"I think it means it has a higher profile than I thought within

the administration," he said.

Costa Mesa officials haven't changed their position opposing the

fairgrounds sale, but the latest developments may spur them to be

more vocal. Despite concerns about the loss of community activities

and revenue, the City Council didn't take an official stance on the

proposal earlier because they weren't sure if it was even legally

possible, City Manager Allan Roeder said.

"Given the city's opposition, we thought there was a good

possibility that the idea would simply go away," he said. "With this

now in the California Performance Review, that may well cause us to

take a change in that posture, knowing that it has been committed as

part of a specific proposal."

The report makes a sound overall proposal to streamline how the

state identifies and disposes of underused land, Roeder said, but it

doesn't address the impacts to Costa Mesa. The city would lose about

$600,000 a year in sales tax revenue from fairgrounds activities as

well as employment and peripheral income from tourism, and having the

facilities and events the fairgrounds offers is highly valued by the

community, he said.

It's possible the fair won't move. The report still has a lengthy

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