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Sale of Del Mar Fairgrounds Arranged Behind Closed Doors

The fairgrounds and racetrack in Del Mar may soon be in the hands of new ownership, according to state and local officials.

Aerial view of the Del Mar Fairgrounds
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Above: Aerial view of the Del Mar Fairgrounds

A preliminary agreement for the city of Del Mar to purchase the property from the state for $120 million was reached behind closed doors. The deal only became known when legislation to authorize the sale was introduced late Wednesday.

Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, said the sale will not significantly affect activities at the fairgrounds, according to the Union-Tribune. Kehoe was involved in the secretive talks on the sale over the past months.

Fair board member Barry Nussbaum expressed "complete shock'' over the secrecy of the deal, according to the Union-Tribune.

"Why this would have to happen in the middle of the night without consulting experts who run this facility is flabbergasting,'' Nussbaum said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed selling state properties as a means to create new revenues. The fairgrounds measure is part of a larger budget agreement the Legislature will vote on today.

Kehoe said she does not expect the measure to be passed easily.

"It's going to be a challenging day,'' she said.

The legislation includes provisions for a city-appointed, nonprofit corporation which would oversee operations and maintenance. Currently overseeing the fairgrounds is the fair board, which is appointed by the governor.

The legislation only authorizes the sale, leaving the final purchase price and details to be worked out between the state and the city of Del Mar.

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Avatar for user 'bulldog2221'

bulldog2221 | October 7, 2010 at 10:08 a.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Here is how the Del Mar Fairgrounds deal will probably go down: We all vigorously objected to the sale of such a huge State-owned revenue-producing asset. The backroom deal has now changed the issue, however, from "if" to "when and for how much." We are now merely outraged that the State plans to sell a "$400 - $700 million" asset for only $120 million. First of all, one can be certain that no full appraisal has been done. 400 acres at $700 million is only four dollars per square foot. That would be $20,000 for a typical 5,000 square foot homesite. Is that a good price for oceanview property? Is $4 per square foot a good price for an oceanview hotel site? Let's pretend for this exercise that it is. Now, there will be plenty of opportunity for politicos to argue that the State should receive top dollar for the sale rather than only $120 million (sixty-nine cents per square foot!) Arguments against the higher figure will involve savings to the State for disposing of what will be depicted as a burdensome property, with its costs of management, maintenance, potential liabilities, etc. The buildings will be found to be antiquated, full of asbestos, and possibly even dangerous in some way. Costs of redevelopment will be estimated at a scary amount. Takeover by the city of Del Mar will be somehow depicted as a net public benefit, probably with visions like "nature preserve trails" and "children's cultural center" thrown in for good measure. After a few weeks of posturing, the politicos, amidst much hearty backslapping, finally will agree on the $700 million figure. At this point, Del Mar will threaten to back out of the deal, raising the spectre of sale to a private developer who would want to build condos, probably at the west end in the fair ride area. A special payment deal will then be cut, whereby the city does not pay any "real" money, but instead pays with some kind of IOU. Once the city owns the property, they may discover that they still need or want more money. The Fair will go on as they have promised, but look for it at the east side of the racetrack, maybe with a new parking structure to replace the open lots lost to hotel etc development. Just guessing.

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Avatar for user 'bulldog2221'

bulldog2221 | October 9, 2010 at 7:47 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Typical back door deals by the State. There are land swaps on I-5 of Caltrans land for land of much less value going on for the 'sake' of the I-5 widening. Look specifically at anything to do with Caltrans and Scripps. Auditors should go crack the books on I-5 right now to make sure that the taxpayer doesn't pay for shady backroom deals.

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