Schwarzenegger Signs Off on OC Fairgrounds Deal; Latino Legislators Still Vow to Spike It

Stung by a failed auction in January, the Schwarzenegger administration announced Wednesday it has signed off on the deal to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds to Costa Mesa for $96 million.

However, standing in the way of final approval is the state Legislature, which includes Latino members who have vowed to spike the deal because of Costa Mesa's official stance against the undocumented.

Schwarzenegger Signs Off on OC Fairgrounds Deal; Latino Legislators Still Vow to Spike It

Under terms of the deal, the 150-acre property would be transferred to the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority, which would be composed of the city and the Costa Mesa Public Finance Authority and overseen by all five City Council members.

According to the State and Consumer Services Agency, the fairgrounds authority will immediately pay $19.2 million. The remainder will be financed with a 40-year promissory note with 5 percent interest.

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"This is an excellent opportunity for the local government to gain control of this valuable asset while guaranteeing the state will receive revenue that is critical to help shore up our state budget," said State and Consumer Services Agency Secretary Bill Leonard in a statement.

Revenues from the sale would go toward helping erase a $19 billion state deficit. But the City Council is actually batting .500 when it comes to getting everything it wanted when it comes to the fairgrounds' future.

As reported by the Daily Pilot, the city will not assume any lingering fairgrounds' debt in the deal, but it also will not have total control over the property, according to a separate management agreement it was under the gun to negotiate with a private firm that failed to win the Orange County Fair site in the winter auction.

Under the terms of that pact with Facilities Management West, the council, acting as the local authority, will meet regularly with company officials and offer suggestions on fairgrounds operations. But the private firm is under no obligation to accept any of them--and can even change the configuration of the existing property.

The city had to move on a deal with Facilities Management West because that state threatened to put the fairgrounds back on the auction block unless a management contract was approved by Wednesday.

Of course, all of this is moot if the sale is not approved by the California Legislature, where some Latino members remain miffed over Costa Mesa in May declaring itself a "Rule of Law City" (translation: the welcome mat has been pulled away for undocumented immigrants).

While the 25-member Latino caucus accounts for roughly 20 percent of the state Assembly and Senate, state Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, the caucus chairman, tells the Orange County Register that other lawmakers who are not caucus members also support the opposition to Costa Mesa.

If the deal between the state and city is torpedoed, the Schwarzenegger administration has indicated the property would go back up for sale, possibly to a private developer.

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