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Governor Back Pedals On Del Mar Sale

— Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared to back pedal on a deal to sell the state-owned Del Mar fairgrounds during an appearance in San Diego Friday. A bill introduced and withdrawn from the state senate earlier this week spelled out the property’s sale.

That bill was co-authored by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña and Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) and named the buyer and price for the Del Mar racetrack and fairgrounds. It authorized the state’s department of general services to sell the land to the city of Del Mar for $120 million.

Despite that specific language, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters at a press conference that questioning the sale price or process was jumping the gun.

“We are not really at all at that place yet where we say OK, let’s go ahead and sell that," he said. "It’s going through its process, the locals have to be happy with the whole thing. So there’s various different people who are negotiating, who are looking into it.”

Critics have said the deal was brokered between Schwarzenegger's office and the city behind closed doors. Some estimate the oceanfront property is worth between $800 million and $1 billion.

The bill authorizing the sale is now likely to be considered next month during a special legislative session.

Kehoe said the sale is an opportunity to maintain public ownership of the historic property and that the city of Del Mar has been interested since Schwarzenegger proposed selling state properties including the fairgrounds in 2009.

“When that happened the city of Del Mar said, 'What if this calls into private hands?'" she said. "The future of horse racing in California is very uncertain right now. Some of the tracks are closing, Santa Anita is in bankruptcy.”

Under the agreement outlined in the bill, the property would be managed by a board made up of representatives from Del Mar, Solana Beach, the City of San Diego and San Diego County. The fairgrounds are currently managed by a board made up of governor appointees.

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