Fairgrounds Master Site Plan: $450 Million for WHAT???


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Cross-posted from the Fans of the OC Fairgrounds blog, originally posted as “Nearly Half of a Billion Dollar Price Tag for OC Fairgrounds Master Site Plan Proposal: Little Discernible Public Benefit From Over a Decade of Continuous ConstructionTitle streamlined by the Orange Juice Blog.

The latest Master Site Plan proposal from the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) proposes to use $170 million in bonds to fund a decade of construction projects which only create construction work for the sake of construction work and additional parking. Analysis provided by the Master Site Plan process proposes a $170 million bond issue at 6% with annual debt payment of $15 million for 30 years, which is $450 million. 

Is this proposal worth nearly half a billion dollars to you?  Read on:

Phase 1: More than double the size of the Administration Building built around 2010. Increasing the size of the Administration Building removes the campground between the Administration Building and The Hangar. Cost: $22.93 Million

Phase 2: Demolish existing livestock barns, build storage space for Spectra (onsite caterer who holds the ABC license and operates the Orange County Market Place), build a livestock barn for temporary animal use during the OC Fair and for emergency evacuations. Cost: $21.82 Million

Phase 3: Demolish the Equestrian Center and build a 245 space RV park/900 space parking lot. Cost: $16.1 Million

Phase 4: Demolish the building with the flower exhibits during the OC Fair and the Century Barn, build an outdoor kitchen, build new offices for the Orange County Wine Society, build a new Century Barn and an Education Center. Cost: $27.4 Million

Phase 5: Put a fence around the property. Cost: $9.4 Million

Phase 6: Move the Main Entrance about 200 ft closer to Newport Blvd. Cost: $50.81 Million

Phase 7: Build a parking garage at the corner of Fairview Rd and Arlington Dr. Cost: $27.4 Million

Public Wants & Needs Ignored in Current Proposal

In the only meeting where the OC Fairgrounds bothered to ask the Public what they wanted for their Fairgrounds, the Public said they wanted more open space, agricultural, educational, and community use and work toward resolving traffic issues and fitting into the surrounding neighborhoods better. Plans brought forward look like those in charge looked at what the Public who own OCFEC wanted and did the exact opposite.

The Public wanted more open space so more parking was created. The Public wanted more agriculture so the single largest agricultural use at OCFEC, the Equestrian Center, is being demolished to make a 245 space RV park. Members of the Public expressed an interest in being able to use parts of OCFEC as parks and recreation space so a fence to keep the Public off the property they own is proposed. OCFEC Board Directors (Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk) have brought forth a plan which ignores what the Public asked for and which will stick the Public with nearly half a billion dollars in debt payment to pay for something they did not want and which has no discernible bnefit to the public.

Revenues Need to Double or Even Triple to Make the $15 Million Annual Debt Payments

Current OCFEC operations generate about $45 million a year with about $6 million in profits. Getting to $15 million in annual profits to make the debt payment requires annual revenues of about $115 million which is achieved by more than doubling the current revenues which means significant increases in business at OCFEC which will harm the surrounding neighborhoods with more traffic, noise, night lighting use, and related issues. Neighbors will be asked to endure over a decade of construction work which will require more than doubling the business at OCFEC, to the harm of the surrounding neighborhoods, just to foot the bill. It is entirely unclear how the Public benefits from any of this, especially when the Public is stuck with the $450 million bill for this mess.

Building Trades Benefit from Construction for the Sake of Construction

Moving the Main Entrance 200 ft closer to Newport Blvd is something that was not requested to improve safety or was requested by the Public. However, spending $50 million on this make-work project creates a lot of building trades jobs. So does erecting a parking garage, building a 245 space RV park after the Equestrian Center is demolished, and erecting the fence around the property to keep the Public off the property they own. Not surprisingly, Director Robert Ruiz who is on the Master Site Plan task force and was instrumental in drafting this proposal, is the elected Secretary-Treasurer of Laborers Local 652, a division of Laborers International of North America (LiUNA.) LiUNA is engaged in the construction business including demolition, building, paving, and a wide variety of other occupations which will be employed for over a decade by this Master Site Plan proposal. Robert Ruiz is up for election in June 2018 and has timed this well as the Master Site Plan comes before the Board for one (1) meeting in April 2018 before being approved and the CEQA and EIR process started after approval at the May 2018 meeting.

While the building trades benefit for years, the Public pays with their hard earned money, damage to the neighborhoods around OCFEC with over a decade of construction, and the required fundamental changes to the OCFEC business model,which will be needed if there is any hope of paying for this construction for the sake of construction. Sacrificed will be what agricultural character remains at OCFEC.

Building trades profit and the Public loses.

Contact Information to Follow Up on Issues

Contact the Fair Board by emailing Board Clerk Summer Angus and asking her to forward the email to the Board sangus@ocfair.com

Contact the Governor’s Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil Rogers atmona.pasquil@gov.ca.gov to discuss OCFEC Director performance issues. Fair Board Directors are appointed by the Governor and may be removed for cause by the Governor at any time. (Cal. Food & Agriculture Code § 3959-3960.)

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer kramer@ocfair.com

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns who is charge of the Master Site Plan kkarns@ocfair.com

Contact the Costa Mesa City Council to share your concerns regarding safety and traffic issues resulting from replacing the Equestrian Center with a large parking lot and/or RV park.

Mayor Sandra Genis sandra.genis@costamesaca.gov

Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor allan.mansoor@costamesaca.gov

[This has been chosen as your Weekend Open Thread: talk about this or whatever else you’d like unders reasonable bounds of discretion and such,]


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