State puts fairgrounds up for sale -- again

Call for proposals comes same day as city is scheduled to vote on ground lease.

August 24, 2010|By Mona Shadia,

COSTA MESA — The state put the Orange County Fairgrounds back up for sale Tuesday in a move that flew in the face of City Hall, which has been working to buy the property with the help of a private developer.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley said she did not believe the state's decision is in the best long-term interest of the residents or the city, which has been working to finance the sale of the 150-acre property with the Newport Beach-based real estate company Facilities Management West.

Foley referred to the call for offers by the California Department of General Services as a bullying tactic.

"And I don't like bullies," she said.

The state announced in a news release that it issued a request for proposals, which allows interested parties to make offers on the fairgrounds through Sept. 30.


Sacramento is asking for a minimum of $96 million in case the Legislature does not pass bills that would allow Costa Mesa to go through with the purchase, the release stated.

In June, the state tentatively accepted the city's offer for $96 million.

Tuesday's decision to put the fairgrounds up for sale for the second time within a year coincided with one of the last steps Costa Mesa was taking to finalize its plans with Facilities Management. The City Council, which also acts as the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority, was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a controversial ground lease with Facilities Management.

"To put the property up for sale on the same day is not a coincidence to me," Foley said. "That is a bully tactic to force us to take whatever is offered in the ground lease."

The state has previously threatened to put the fairgrounds back on the market during its negotiations. On the night the City Council was scheduled to vote on the initial agreement with Facilities Management, officials from the governor's office announced that the property would be placed on sale the next morning if the agreement was not approved by the council.

At one time, members of the Legislature's Latino caucus considered withdrawing support for the plan after Costa Mesa ceremoniously declared itself a "rule of law" city opposed to illegal immigration. That position, at least publicly, appeared to dissipate when a key Orange County caucus member, Assemblyman Jose Solorio, said he supported city control of the fairgrounds and would personally not try to block a deal.

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