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Lawmakers Sue To Halt Sale Of OC Fairgrounds

Temporary restraining order granted last month
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(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

COSTA MESA (CBS) — Two legislators, a Newport-Mesa Unified School Board member and the Orange County Fair Preservation Society filed a lawsuit Friday to stop the state’s sale of the Orange County fairgrounds.

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop the sale of the 150 acres in Costa Mesa to Facilities Management West.

The sale has already been put on hold by Orange County Superior Court Judge Frederick P. Horn who granted a temporary restraining order last month.

Horn is scheduled to hear arguments for a preliminary injunction on that lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in Santa Ana.

The lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of American Fairs & Festivals Inc., Advanced Real Estate Services Inc., and Tel Phil Enterprises Inc., against the state Department of General Services, which is in charge of the fairgrounds sale.

The most recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Newport-Mesa Unified School Board member Katrina Foley and the Orange County Fair Preservation Society.

“After following this issue for over a year and continually fighting to keep the Orange County Fairgrounds under public ownership, I could not sit by and watch the governor, in his rush before leaving office, sell this important asset when there are too many unanswered questions,” Solorio said.

The state tried to auction off the site at the beginning of the year, but later rejected the bids because they were too low. Later, Costa Mesa officials tried to put together a $96 million public-private deal with Facilities Management West that would eventually lead to the city acquiring the fairgrounds property.

The city’s deal with Facilities Management West faltered when officials failed to get the approval of state lawmakers, most notably Solorio. That prompted state officials to ask for new bids for the property, which yielded Facilities Management West’s winning $100-million offer.

“Why was there no appraisal done to learn the fair market value of the property?” Solorio asked. “Why weren’t the requirements of the original legislation and the Department of General Services own bid documents followed?

“How do we know the bid process was fair when the terms of the deal favor one bidder above all others? This whole bid process has been flawed.”

The plaintiffs in the other lawsuit allege the bidding process was rigged in Facilities Management West’s favor. The Fait Family Trust and David Pyle, who owns American Career College and West Coast University, is behind Facilities Management West.

Facilities Management West officials say their deal will benefit the community and that they are committed to maintaining the fairgrounds as is with an annual summer fair and the weekend marketplace and equestrian center.

Solorio said the fairgrounds generate about $180 million annually in economic activity and hundreds of jobs.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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