Costa Mesa Vote on the Orange County Fairgrounds, Measure C (June 2010)

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A City of Costa Mesa Vote on the Orange County Fairgrounds, Measure C ballot proposition was on the June 8, 2010 ballot for voters in the City of Costa Mesa in Orange County, where it was overwhelmingly approved.[1]

When they approved Measure C, voters were approving the city's general plan amendment language that designates allowed uses for the 150-acre fairgrounds. Under the city's plan, an owner of the property would be able to use the property for equestrian, concert and live entertainment event, but would not be allowed to use the property to house a casino, a shopping center or a residential community.[2][1] An owner would also not be allowed to use the fairgrounds for medical buildings, storage facilities, hotel and motels, exclusive or dedicated usage by athletic sports fields or educational uses that are unrelated to the fair and exposition center.[3]

A future owner would also have to pledge to allow the grounds to continue to be used annually for the popular Orange County Fair. The four-week fair typically draws one million annual visitors.[3]

Previously, the Orange County Fairgrounds was owned by the State of California. However, in July 2009, the California State Legislature voted to sell the property to a private owner in order to raise money to deal with the state's ongoing fiscal crisis.[2] The fact that the fairgrounds was possibly about to pass out of government ownership into private ownership was what led the city down the path of restraining future uses that the land could be put to.

Election results

Measure C
Approveda Yes 13,000 87.7%
These final, certified results are from the Orange County elections office.


Midway of the Orange County Fair in 2008


The official ballot guide section on arguments in favor of Measure C was signed by:

  • Mayor Allan R. Mansoor
  • Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece
  • City Council Member Eric Bever
  • City Council Member Katrina Foley
  • City Council Member Gary Monahan


The editorial board of the Orange County Register urged a "no" vote on Measure C. The basis of their argument was that when more controls are placed on how the property at the Fairgrounds can be used, the value of the property to any future buyer declines. And, when the value of the property declines, less money will be going into state coffers. Finally, the less money coming into the state budget from the sale of property, the higher the odds that the state legislature will have to raise state taxes to balance the budget.

As the paper put it:

"Costa Mesa voters should realize that every dollar lost because the fairgrounds remain unsold, or are sold at a low price, must be made up in the state budget. That well could mean another state tax increase. How much could this meddling cost the state?...These are hard times when economies must be made. Just as private businesses and persons are selling property and valuables to keep afloat economically, so must governments. Tax increases should be avoided at all costs – we repeat, avoided at all costs."[4]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Should an ordinance be adopted confirming the General Plan Designation for the Orange County Fair and Event Center as it is set forth in the General Plan as amended by GP-09-01 which amended the fairground land use designation in the Land Use Element of the 2000 General Plan to describe and maintain current fair and event uses on the site and requiring that further amendment be made only upon majority vote of the electorate?[5][6]

Craig Realty Group

Craig Realty Group had the high bid of $65.5 million in an auction conducted by the state to sell the fairgrounds. Craig Realty, based in Newport Beach, is primarily known as a developer of outlets.

The bid of $65.5 million was considerably less than the $96 to $180 million range that the state government predicted that the land would sell for.[2]

It was suggested that if voters imposed a number of restrictions on what the 150-acre parcel can be used for, it may diminish Craig Realty's interest in purchasing the property at their current bid level, and it may also diminish the general sales value of the parcel, which would ultimately hurt the ability of the State of California to sell the land at anywhere near the price it originally expected.

In March, the state Department of General Services rejected all seven bids that had been submitted to purchase the property, including the Craig Realty bid.[7]

The Fairgrounds

The 150-acre fairground parcel included these components:

  • The Centennial Farm: This was a working farm on the southwest corner of the property. It included livestock barns, and fruit and vegetable gardens.
  • The Equestrian Center: This was a year-round, privately operated horse boarding and training facility. It could board up to 188 horses. The area included four riding arenas, three hot walkers, turnout pens, storage lockers and ample parking. Riding lessons were available.
  • The Orange County Market Place: A weekly outdoor swap meet was held in this area in the property's southeast corner.
  • The Pacific Amphitheatre: This was an outdoor arena that seated up to 8,500 patrons.

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