Monday, October 26, 2009

Fairgrounds Sale - The Fit Hits The Shan

Well, that didn't take long...

On Tuesday the Costa Mesa City Council instruc
ted the staff to prepare a Specific Plan for the 150 acres the Orange County Fair and Events Center sits upon - obviously, to influence the potential sale of that property. If the city is successful in restricting the uses of that property to the current mix of uses - Fairgrounds, Orange County Market Place, Equestrian Center, etc., that will almost certainly make it a much less attractive property to potential salivating buyers.

Without the opportunity to, somewhere in the future, develop that land as commercial/residential or other lucrative uses, almost any buyer will put on the bra
kes and put their purchase efforts into a screeching halt. Except, perhaps, those devious folks on the current Fair Board who have put together a foundation to buy the place and "retain the current uses". Ha!


So, last Friday, October 23rd, Teresa Bierer, Acting Deputy Director, Real Esta
te Services Division of the state Department of General Services, sent a scathing letter to Mayor Mansoor and the City Council demanding the city "thoroughly consider the State and local economic ramifications that could result from the preparing and adopting of the Specific Plan, and refrain from taking any further action that could reduce or otherwise negatively impact the Fairgrounds' value."

After getting our attention with that line she goes on to say, "But if the City moves forward with the Specific Plan and the Fairgrounds' value is diminished, the State will consider whatever option
s may be available to preserve the Fairgrounds' value." Gulp!

Basically, she's telling us she's got a gun to our municipal head and, if we persist, she will cock the trigger. I don't know about you, but this really has me steaming!

The Daily Pilot posted an article on this issue today, HERE, and the Daily Voice posted one this afternoon, HERE. I've posted the entire letter at the end of this post so you can read it for yourself. It includes Bierer's telephone number and email address... I've placed a call to her, to get some clarification on just what kind of "options" they have in mind.


After my second c
all to Bierer I received a call from Jeffrey Young, Deputy Director for Public Affairs in the Department of General Services late this afternoon. He, of course, couldn't respond when I asked exactly what the "options" might be. When I asked if one of them might be to simply take the Fairgrounds off the table, he told me that's up to the legislature. The Department of General Services simply prosecutes the legislatures wishes. I told him to find a better word... Anyhow, apparently no one in Sacramento is going to give us any idea what they have in mind until the City does, in fact, adopt a Specific Plan for the property.


Since that's probably the case, and since the bids for the property will be opened on January 8th, it seems prudent for the city to get the lead out and get a Specific Plan in place immediately. Otherwise, I suspect there might be some legal issues with bidders who assumed a certain value when they put in their bid, only to have that value knocked for a loop by the Specific Plan. And, I still wonder just what the State has in mind for us if we go forward. I don't know what punitive actions they might take if we do go forward.


In the meantime, it seems entirely appropriate for us to communicate with our elected leaders, both at the local and state level, and let them know how you feel about the sale of the Fairgrounds. I also think that a good turnout at the planned hearing on November 9th at 9:00 a.m in the Costa Mesa City Council Chambers might be instructive for our state leaders.
Reservations for a seat at that party can be obtained by calling John Nam in Assemblyman Solorio's office at 714-939-8469. I'm thinking this is going to be a sold-out affair. It will be televised live in Costa Mesa on Channel 24 and also streamed live via the city web site for those outside the city.

(Click on image for larger size)

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Blogger G. Ridge Studio said...

If the state wants us to sell a property that is zoned for maximum potential. High density residential, commercial, industrial. They should have sold San Quentin instead of "our" fairgrounds.

10/26/2009 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Or DelMar - lovely beachfront location...

10/26/2009 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

I would like to think that the state doesn't have a leg to stand on, but I have to believe that if a community rezones a property to the detriment of the owner the community may be liable for the owners loss in value.

10/27/2009 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous CM North Resident said...

No, the City should not move swiftly and risk a law suit. There is no reason why a private citizen can gather the required signatures and put this on the ballot, not the City. As citizens we can put this on the ballot, leave the City out of it, and state how it should be zoned.
As a sidenote, Jim Righeimer is doing a pretty good job organizing this movement.

10/27/2009 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

CM North Resident,

Because of peculiarly slow and curiously confusing information provided - or not provided - by the contract City Attorney's office, it was implied at the council meeting that there might be legal pitfalls if the city launched the initiative. We are told that there will be a solid legal opinion forthcoming at the next council meeting, on November 3rd.

Riggy is moving forward with his effort, but the clock is ticking. The timetable is still murky, but it sounds like he'll need at least 8,000 valid signatures within a month. That's a lot of work in a very, very short time.

10/27/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Unless the law has changed dramatically since I researched the issue of sovereign immunity for a paper I delivered at a meeting of the City Attorneys division of the League of California Cities in 1985, the law favors the City, as long as the zoning is within the City's power, which a specific plan retaining the current use would be. The State can override local zoning only for certain public uses, and selling the land for development is not a public use.

I do think an initiative is a fine idea, but it's too late to have an election before the scheduled date for bids to be accepted.

BTW, Bruce is mistaken. A rezoning is not a "taking" and does not create liability. Plus, in this case, it would be a retention of the current zoning, not a change of zoning or of permitted uses.
My guess is that the State (at least while Schwarzenegger is in office) may be able to retaliate politically against Costa Mesa, but I doubt there is anything it can do legally to reverse the City's decision.

10/27/2009 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

As always, Eleanor, your wise and reasoned opinion is welcome here. I hope you're right. It will be very interesting to hear the view of the contract City Attorney on Tuesday.

10/27/2009 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Eleanor's post is additional confirmation of what I have learned while researching the “taking” issue since my last post. I find it fascinating that a property owner can be denied partial utilization of their property without any compensation through actions such as “downzoning.” I have read extensively on the subject now and realize the can of worms created if that were the case. It just seems inequitable to me.

10/28/2009 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

And the plot thickens with Supervisors Campbell and Moorlach forming a sub-committee to study the possibility of the County purchasing the Fairgrounds site. The stench of this whole situation is palpable!

10/28/2009 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

If the county buys it, will they turn it over to Larry Agran to run? After all, he has done such a bang-up job with the El Toro Airport, oops... I mean "Great Park."

Happy Halloween everyone with that scary thought!

10/29/2009 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

The Orange County Register's columnist Frank Mickadeit has an interesting take on this issue today.

I especially liked his view that the City should take over Riggy's plan to place the issue on the ballot in June. Tuesday's council meeting should be VERY interesting.

10/29/2009 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Costa Mesan said...

At this point in time, I can't imagine anything worth fighting for more than our Fairgrounds. I hope we can all come together and block the sale entirely or come up with a Specific Plan to ensure it's survival. I think we need to fight it every way possible. I hope people call Teresa Bierer's office (916-376-5000) and send her an e-mail at telling the DGS they are way out of line threatening our community and telling use we can't zone it anyway we want. I also hope we can get a huge turn out on November 9th in council chambers. We all need to demand Jose Solorio and Van Tran back us out of the deal they voted for or else give us the money to buy something that us taxpayers already owned free and clear that they gambled away! Let's also ban Dick Ackerman from ever coming to Costa Mesa again.

10/29/2009 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

So, Costa Mesan, how do you feel about this issue? :-) ;-)

You might be interested in an item scheduled for the Closed Session portion of the City Council meeting on next Tuesday, November 3rd. It deals with negotiations on the sale of property at "88 Fair Drive" - that's the address of the Fairgrounds. Of course, unless they "report out" an action from that closed session, we, the voters, may never know what that's all about.

Reservations are required for the hearing Solorio and Tran are holding on the 9th. Call John Nam in Solorio's office at 714-939-8469.

10/29/2009 03:18:00 PM  

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