Costa Mesa Vote on the Orange County Fairgrounds, Measure C (June 2010)
Voters will decide whether to approve 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., 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.
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.
The Orange County Fairgrounds is currently owned by the State of California. However, the California State Legislature in July 2009 voted to sell the property to a private owner in order to raise money to deal with the state's ongoing fiscal crisis. The fact that the fairgrounds will pass out of government ownership into private ownership is what has led the city down the path of restraining future uses that the land could be put to.
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 urges a "no" vote on Measure C. The basis of their argument is 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, that means that there will be less money going into state coffers. 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 puts 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."
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 sale is not final.
The bid of $65.5 million is considerably less than the $96 to $180 million range that the state government predicted that the land would sell for.
If voters impose a number of restrictions on what the 150-acre parcel can be used for, that 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.
The 150-acre fairground parcel currently includes these components:
- The Centennial Farm: This is a working farm on the southwest corner of the property. It includes livestock barns, and fruit and vegetable gardens.
- The Equestrian Center: This is a year-round, privately operated horse boarding and training facility. It can board up to 188 horses. The area includes four riding arenas, three hot walkers, turnout pens, storage lockers and ample parking. Riding lessons are available.
- The Orange County Market Place: A weekly outdoor swap meet is held in this area in the property's southeast corner.
- The Pacific Amphitheatre: This is an outdoor arena that seats up to 8,500 patrons.
- Official website of the Orange County Fair
- Measure C details
- Impartial analysis of Measure C by city attorney
- Argument in favor of Measure C
- Orange County Metro, "Costa Mesa officials approve fairgrounds ballot measure", February 16, 2010
- Daily Pilot, "Fairgrounds’ land use goes to a vote", February 15, 2010
- Daily Pilot, "Fairgrounds use to be clarified", February 2, 2010
- Orange County Register, "State needs cash from selling fairgrounds", May 3, 2010
- Daily Pilot, "Activists celebrate bid rejection", March 18, 2010