Monday, May 24, 2010

Measure "C" - Yes or No?

As part of the strategy implemented by the City of Costa Mesa to retain the Orange County Fair and Event Center as it is today, the City Council recently approved a General Plan amendment that locks in the uses for that 150 acre site to it's current - or similar - uses.

I've lived in Costa Mesa going on 37 years now and I don't recall any issue that has generated such interest and that brought together so many diverse constituencies toward a common goal - keeping the Fairgrounds as-is. Although there were many different paths toward that goal expressed, I don't recall any local voice advocating the sale of the Fairgrounds for anything except it's current basket of uses.


However, since it only takes three votes of the council to change that restriction and council members come and go like the tides, the current council also approved placing on the June 8th, 2010 ballot a measure - Measure "C" - that, if passed by the voters of Costa Mesa, will further lock in that zoning. Any changes made in the future will require another vote of the people to implement.

The ballot language is pretty straightforward:

"General Plan Designation of Orange County Fair and Event Center 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?"

Trying to get a broad perspective on this subject for you to consider, I asked several members of the community to give me their take on it. This next segment is a compilation of those views.

Greg Ridge, Westside Resident and "Derail The Sale" Activist
"The Orange County Fairgrounds is a tremendous legacy. We were given this asset from our fathers, to steward and enjoy, until we cold pass it on to our children and their future generations. Unfortunately, that stewardship has been corrupted and found severely lacking from those entrusted with it's care and preservation. Measure "C" will firmly place the future use of the Fairground property into the hands of the voters.

Time and again we have witnessed politicians eyeing the fairgrounds to solve their fiscal over-spending. The current battles being waged over the future of the Fairgrounds were started by politicians and appointed political insiders, in back room deals that completely excluded the community at large. The passage of Measure "C" is how we take it back.

Currently the Fairgrounds is zoned for usage through the city of Costa Mesa's General Plan. A simple majority amendment from the city council could change the future of the Fairgrounds forever. The passage of Measure "C" will take that power from a simple "three vote" council majority and put it back into the hands of the community. Any future changes regarding the zoning and "usage" of the Fairgrounds would have to come before the voters.

Our "public" Fairgrounds will finally be protected by a public majority. That majority will be made up entirely of Costa Mesa registered voters that live, work, travel in around the Fairgrounds everyday.

The city is currently in negotiations with a private entity to purchase the fairgrounds for the state. What that actually means for the future of the Fairgrounds is far from certain. The devil is always in the details. One thing is certain. measure"C" is the most secure mechanism to protect "our taxpayer" owned asset from being sold off by desperate politicians and greedy developers.

Please, get out and VOTE YES on Measure "C"... Keep our Fairgrounds "Public"."

Chris McEvoy, former and future City Council candidate
"Measure C is important for the future of the Orange County Fair and Events Center which is home to the O.C. Fair, the O.C. Swap Meet/Marketplace and many other community treasures.

I believe as do others that Measure C contributed to low bids for the OCFEC auction which in effect put Costa Mesa directly in negotiations with the State for the OCFEC and the 32nd District Agricultural Association and I further believe that the outcome of Measure C will be one of the deciding factors the State must consider in moving forward with the sale.

I like the idea of the Orange County Fair and Event Center not developing into something else, which Measure C accomplishes and I like the idea of Costa Mesa owning the OCFEC, which I believe Measure C helps. For these reasons I will be voting yes on Measure C


Sandra Genis, Former Mayor and President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society
"Measure C puts decisions about future land use at the fairgrounds in the hands of Costa Mesa voters--not politicians. The surest protection we have, not only for the fairgrounds but for our community as a whole, is the informed voter. Vote yes on C!"

Councilwoman Katrina Foley, Member of City negotiating team
"The 150 acres that our community claims as the OC Fair & Event Center is prime real estate. Developers can't help but see its potential development as housing, apartments, hotels, strip malls and the like. That's why locking in the existing zoning and protecting the fairgrounds, marketplace, equestrian center and amphitheater is critical now.

This vote will send a strong message to our current and future leaders about what the residents prefer. Anything less than a supermajority will signal an opening. Don't let it happen. Vote yes on C.
Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece
"Frankly, I don't know anyone who is opposed to Measure C. When I cast my vote, I'll be doing it for my grandchildren and future generations who will be able to know the fun and food our family has enjoyed for many years at the OC Fair."

Councilman Gary Monahan, Member of City negotiating team
"Passage of Measure C is crucial to the preservation of the fairgrounds. Measure C locks in the current zoning as a Fair & Events Center. This provides that housing, high rises, commercial development etc..cannot take place without going back to the voters. It's the strongest statement that the voters of Costa Mesa can make to the State of California that we want to keep and save our fair!"
Although I was unsuccessful in finding anyone to speak on the record against Measure "C", some opponents may tell you that we don't know what the future holds and that by putting a stranglehold on that prime piece of real estate we could stifle future growth and prosperity in Costa Mesa. After all, they will say, Costa Mesa is a "built-out" city, with very few parcels left available for development.

They may say that circumstances in the future may make it palatable to consider more diverse development of the Fairgrounds site. Such circumstances as the expansion of Orange Coast College, for example, might make modification of the zoning desirable.

They may say, with some validity, that zoning decisions made at the ballot box tend to be bad decisions. I don't disagree with that philosophy in general terms, but this is a little different. The current City Council has had the wisdom to foresee the potential for capricious changes when they voted to place Measure "C" on the ballot.

The Orange County Register, in both an article and on their editorial pages, recommended a "No" vote on Measure "C". Their reasoning is basically "the state is broke and needs the money", then goes on to attempt to assign blame for the State's fiscal woes in great part to Orange County and it's out-of-control pension plans. That's a real stretch, in my view. The proposed price - $96 million - won't begin to scratch the surface of the State's budget woes. However, if the plan the City presents to them is similar to the one proposed last week, the State will get some cash and a note for a much more lucrative long-term payout.

The Fairgrounds, with it's wide and diverse range of events, including the Fair itself, has been a venue for cultural and entertainment activities for a half century. Literally thousands of folks make their living from events at the Fairgrounds.

Whether the City of Costa Mesa is successful in it's bid for the acquisition of the Fairgrounds or not, it's clear that the State is intent on unloading that property, one way or another. If they reject the City's proposal they will probably immediately put it back on the auction block. Measure "C" insures that any future owner will retain the present mix of events and programs.

Seems simple enough. If you want the Fairgrounds protected from development beyond the scope of the current General Plan, vote "Yes". If you want to protect that site from things like high-rise offices and apartments, outlet malls, casinos, kosher slaughter houses and, as one speaker before the council recently proposed, water slides, a Vatican Library and a Latino Hall of Fame, vote "Yes"on Measure "C".

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