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February 2018

Did You Know the Pacific Amphitheatre Changed California CEQA Law?

Cow Sign Question (2)

On December 1, 1986, the California Supreme Court upheld the rights of Costa Mesa neighbors to sue the OC Fairgrounds over problems caused by the construction of the Pacific Amphitheatre. The case Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa, Inc. v. 32nd District Agricultural Association granted the neighbors an additional 180 days to bring their case because the OC Fairgrounds (32nd District Agricultural Association) had presented one project to the neighbors and built an entirely different project.

The Pacific Amphitheatre was built facing a into the neighborhoods instead of facing away from the neighborhoods, had the seating capacity doubled,and increased in size from 6 to 10 acres.

This California Supreme Court case Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa v. 32nd Dist. Agric., 727 P.2d 1029, 42 Cal. 3d 929, 231 Cal. Rptr. 748 (1986) is a case which continues to be cited to this day. This case also teaches why it is important to participate in the CEQA process and to do so in writing.

Kill The Bill: AB 2396 Brings the Carnival of Corruption Back to the OC Fairgrounds

Kill AB2396 (1)

Remember back to 2009 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the Governor and our OC Fairgrounds was put up for sale? Directors of the Fair Board asked for the property to be sold and a majority of Fair Board Directors formed a non-profit corporation, the Orange County Fair and Event Center Foundation, to buy the property from the Fair Board that they were on. This kleptocratic self-dealing scheme surfaced and was called out by the California Attorney General who represented the Fair Board at the time. Due to possible conflicts of interest arising from a majority of Directors being on both sides of the transaction, the Attorney General refused to represent the OC Fairgrounds in late 2009. Nearly 6 years later in 2015, the Attorney General agreed to begin to represent the OC Fairgrounds again.

The Public, who own the OC Fairgrounds, were able to fight back because the California Government Code (Sections 1090, 18000, and 19990) bars Fairgrounds Directors and employees from having financial interests in contracts with the Fairgrounds, holding employment which may conflict with their Fairgrounds employment or Director duties, and accepting extra compensation not paid by the state for their services. Conflict of interest laws are on the books to protect the Public from self-dealing self-interested kleptocrats and those laws are usually amended to strengthen the laws when the kleptos find a way around the laws currently in place. For some reason which needs serious explaining, conflict of interest laws are propose to be removed.

AB 2396 introduced by Assembly Member Bigelow (AD 05) wants to remove conflict of interest laws for the OC Fairgrounds and all other state owned fairgrounds (District Agricultural Associations).  State conflict of interest codes are found in the California Government Code sections Sections 1090, 18000 and 19990. Self-dealing in government contracting and employment is legalized under AB 2396 Bigelow.  Under this bill, Fairgrounds Directors and employees can set up companies and funnel contracts to those companies. This can be done because Fairgrounds employees and Directors make the purchasing decisions without oversight from the state. This is a bad sequel to the carnival of corruption which played the OC Fairgrounds from 2009 to 2015. There is no good reason for this bill to exist other than to further self dealing, corruption, and graft. 

This bill allows the OC Fairgrounds to be privatized and leaves the Public with no real tools to stop the privatization. OC Fair Board Directors and employees would be allowed to form a company to manage the OC Fairgrounds, be employed by said company, and have the OC Fair Board enter into a contract to manage the OC Fairgrounds on whatever terms the Directors and employees negotiated for themselves.This would be hard or even impossible to stop because it would be legal. Annual revenues around $45 million with a profit margin of around $8 million a year make legalized kleptocracy lucrative. This bill does not serve the interests of the Public.

Job #1: Kill the Bill

The bill is in the Assembly and we need to contact Assembly Members to have the bill killed. The Assembly email system does not allow you to email anyone but the Assembly Member representing your district, but you can call their offices. Email your Assembly Member using the emails on their page found at the Assembly Member list.

Call Assm. Frank Bigelow (AD 05) at (916) 319-2005  and ask that AB 2396 be killed. Assm. Bigelow represents the area around Yosemite.

Call or Visit Local Assembly Offices

Call, visit and write letters to our Assembly Members to ask them to oppose AB 2396. 

Travis Allen (AD 72)

Sacramento Office 916) 319-2072

District Office 17011 Beach Blvd, Suite 1120, Huntington Beach, CA 92647 (714) 843-4966

William Brough (AD 73)

Sacramento Office (916) 319-2073

District Office 29122 Rancho Viejo Road, Suite 111, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 (949) 347-7301


Phillip Chen (AD 55)

Sacramento Office (916) 319-2055

District Office 3 Pointe Drive, Suite 313, Brea, CA 92821 (714) 529-5502


Steven Choi (AD 68)

Sacramento Office (916) 319-2068

District Office 3240 El Camino Real, Suite 110, Irvine, CA 92602 (714) 665-6868


Tom Daly (AD 69)

Sacramento Office (916) 319-2069

District Office 2400 East Katella Avenue, Suite 640, Anaheim, CA 92806 (714) 939-8469


Matthew Harper (AD 74)

Sacramento Office (916) 319-2074

District Office 1503 South Coast Drive, Suite 205, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (714) 668-2100


Sharon Quirk-Silva (AD 65)

Sacramento Office (916) 319-2065

6855 La Palma Avenue, Buena Park, CA 90620 (714) 521-6505


Job #2: Contact the OC Fair Board & Ask Their Help to Kill the Bill

Please contact the OC Fair Board to ask them to oppose this bill and to do everything in their power to kill the bill. As one of the largest fairs in the western US, the OC Fairgrounds can influence fairs legislation. Directors did not give clear direction during the February 2018 Board meeting to take action to kill AB 2396 Bigelow and need to hear from the Public, who own the OC Fairgrounds, to kill the bill. 

OC Fair Board Directors are: Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Douglas La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Newton Pham, Nick Berardino, Robert Ruiz, Sandra Cervantes, Stan Tkaczyk 

OC Fair Board Directors choose to not have official emails so you have to mail a staff member and ask the staff member to forward your email. Email Summer Angus

You can do a public records request to check if your email was forwarded to the Board.


If You Don't Like State Conflict of Interest Laws, Then Find a New Position

There is no excuse for what you are doing by proposing to ending conflict of interest laws for state owned fairgrounds. If you do not like conflict of interest restrictions placed on you as a Director or an employee, no one is forcing you to be a Director or an employee. 

Do the Mitigation Measures Really Have to Be Done? Are Mitigation Measures Legally Enforceable?

Dig Question (2)

Yes, mitigation measures really have to be implemented and are legally enforceable. Following the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is not just the preparation of documents and reports about possible environmental impacts but is the actual reduction or elimination of environmental impacts.

The OC Fairgrounds has tried to get out of mitigation measures required under prior environmental studies, so pay attention to the new mitigation measures required for the implementation of the Master Site Plan. Check back to find out if all of the mitigation measures required were implemented the way they were supposed to be implemented and in a timely manner.

How Can Environmental Impacts be Mitigated or Avoided?

Funnel Cake Question (2)

Environmental impacts can be mitigated or avoided at the source of the problem. Examples are: Reduce event traffic impacts by limiting the size of events and not allowing concurrent events to be scheduled over a set limit. Reduce lighting and noise impacts by enforcing a curfew and enforcing limits on the amount of lighting and noise spilling into neighborhoods. Limit truck traffic entering and exiting the property to the gates and times which impact the neighborhoods the least.

Environmental impacts can be mitigated or avoided by including project features which make implement permanent mitigation measures. Examples are adding traffic stacking lanes using property owned by the agency to avoid traffic stacking on city streets and adding a second main entry gate to avoid traffic stacking on city streets, among other measures.

Mitigation measures are funded in part by the agency causing the environmental impact.


What Are Alternatives to the Project?

Goat Question (2)

Alternatives to a project include a smaller project on the same property, remodeling existing facilities instead of building new facilities, dropping or reducing the portions of the projects which cause the most problematic potential environmental impacts, and changing the project to fit in better with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Alternatives to a project also include disapproving the project and going back to the drawing board or not going forward with any project. An agency is not supposed to come forward with only one project which is acceptable. Alternatives must be given serious consideration.

How Will the Extra Traffic from the Fairgrounds be Managed?

House Question (2)

Unknown. Records are unclear if the Fairgrounds participated in the Costa Mesa General Plan Amendment and associated environmental impact report (EIR). A traffic management plan is part of both the General Plan Amendment and EIR, and it looks like the Fairgrounds did not tell the City to expect a lot more traffic from the Fairgrounds. It is not clear how the extra traffic from the Fairgrounds will be dealt with. You could talk to the City Council about how the Fairgrounds can pay their fair share of changes to roads and streets needed to accommodate their traffic.

How Can the Agency be Required to Protect the Environment Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?

House Question (2)

CEQA requires more than merely preparing environmental documents. The EIR by itself does not control the way in which a project can be built or carried out. Rather, when an EIR shows that a project could cause substantial adverse changes in the environment, the governmental agency must respond to the information by one or more of the following methods:

(1) Changing a proposed project;

(2) Imposing conditions on the approval of the project;

(3) Adopting plans or ordinances to control a broader class of projects to avoid the adverse changes;

(4) Choosing an alternative way of meeting the same need;

(5) Disapproving the project;

(6) Finding that changes in, or alterations, the project are not feasible.

(7) Finding that the unavoidable, significant environmental damage is acceptable as provided in California Code of Regulation Section 15093.

How Are Potential Environmental Impacts from a Project Identified and Evaluated?

Starburst Question (2)

Potential environmental impacts can be identified by reviewing previously prepared environmental documents such as EIRs, traffic studies, noise studies, lighting studies, and surveys of historic and cultural resources, among other information. Members of the Public can identify additional potential environmental impacts in their letters to the agency.

Adding your voice to call attention to the impacts which can impact your life in the community is a vital part of CEQA.

What Happens During CEQA?

Man Question (2)

This is a general summary of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process which does not include all scenarios.

You can ask the OC Fairgrounds to tell you specifically what the CEQA process is for the implementation of the Master Site Plan proposals. State law obligate the OC Fairgrounds to provide you with this information.

Learn more about CEQA from the California League of Cities

An agency proposes a project, which is evaluated to determine if the project falls under a previously approved CEQA document or has minimal potential environmental impacts which do not require a new CEQA process.

If a new CEQA process is required, the agency in charge of the project must notify the Public, any interested party, and many state and local agencies that there will be an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared. This is called a Notice of Preparation (NOP).

The NOP has a lot of important information you need to make your voice heard during the CEQA process: project information, who to contact, how to reach the contact person, and how long the period is for you to make comments. The comment period can be as short as 30 days. Once the comment period ends, you cannot submit comments.

During the comment period, you need to tell the contact person in writing how the project will cause problems for you and what your concerns are about the project. The comments are read and used to assist in preparing the EIR. A copy of the NOP for the most recent Costa Mesa General Plan Amendment EIR is available so you can see how this process works.

Download Appendix B - Notice of Preparation

The Draft EIR is prepared and may include traffic, lighting, noise and other studies to identify and quantify potential environmental impacts. Identification of mitigation measures, which are ways to reduce or eliminate potential environmental impacts is a mandatory part of the EIR.

The Draft EIR is circulated for comments. Review the Draft EIR to check that your issues have been addressed to your satisfaction. Check that the information presented is correct and accurate, including checking for typos. When there are issues which must be addressed, such as inadequate mitigation measures, your issue not appearing, or errors, send a letter raising the issue. The agency preparing the EIR is supposed to address each and every issue raised in writing the Draft EIR.

The Final EIR is supposed to be circulated and include all of the comments received for the NOP and Draft EIR, along with the agency responses to comments. The agency must then adopt the Final EIR in its entirety before the project can begin physical work.