OC Fairgrounds Equestrian Center Demolition Proposed to Create 245 Space RV Park

The latest proposal for the OC Fairgrounds (Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) Master Site Plan shows the Equestrian Center being demolished and replaced with a 245 space RV park which can also be used as a 900 space parking lot. Demolishing the Equestrian Center eliminates the single largest agricultural use at a property which claims to have a mission of  "Celebration of Orange County's Communities, Interests, Agriculture and Heritage [. . . ]". Removing the Equestrian Center is unacceptable and must be taken off the table.

Board Directors (Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk) and Executive Management  have wasted over $250,000 in Public money on Master Site Plan proposals which do not take into account the needs and desires of the Public and are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.  The time is now to rip up both the September 2017 and April 2018 Master Site Plan proposals and start over with a process which focusses on the needs and desires of the Public who own OCFEC and which includes the Public in the process at the same level of effort as the Board, Executive Management, contractors, and staff. 

View the entire proposal on the OCFEC website or see the two slides about the replacement Equestrian Center with an RV park and parking lot here:

Master Site Plan CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April-2018

As a PDF:  Download Master Site Plan CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April-2018


As a PDF:  Download RVPark_CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April-2018-FINAL-DRAFT_040218

If you are already fed up, sign the petition asking to save the Equestrian Center and to start over with the Master Site Plan process which includes the Public in the process. 

Rip Up the 2 OC Fairgrounds Master Site Plans, Start Over with a Public-Friendly Process!


How Did This Happen?

In September 2017, a Master Site Plan proposal converting OCFEC to a convention center was presented. (See Board Workshop – Concept Presentation MSP files.)  The Equestrian Center was retained in the September 2017 Master Site Plan proposal. This proposal was helmed by VP of Business Development Ken Karns with Directors Doug La Belle and Robert Ruiz comprising the Master Site Plan Task Force overseeing the project. The Master Site Plan proposal was shown one (1) time in September 2017 and then whisked away to a backroom for changes to be made. Despite the Public begging for additional meetings to be held to allow the Public to have input into changes, Directors Doug La Belle and Robert Ruiz kept the process in the back room and refused to allow the Public to participate in decision making. During the same time, an Equestrian Center Task Force with Directors Ashleigh Aitken and Stan Tkaczyk and retired real estate investor Theresa Sears made statements which led many to believe that the Equestrian Center would be retained. 


Converting the Equestrian Center to Parking Creates Millions in Annual Revenue

245 Space RV Park is Sized for Year Round Use

The proposed RV park has 245 RV spaces with restrooms and showers and is across the street from TeWinkle Park, the Skate Park and Bark Park. At 245 spaces, the proposed RV park is in between than the 185 space RV park at  LA County Fairplex in Pomona, CA, operated by KOA, the 195 space Orangeland RV Park in Orange and Newport Dunes located on the Back Bay of Newport Beach, CA, with 382 RV spaces. The proposed RV park can be used year round for both camping by those working at OCFEC events or by members of the public desiring to park their RV in a coastal area.  A little research shows a daily rate of $50 per day is a comparable daily rental rate. A conservative projection of about $1.6 million in annual revenues is made as follows:

  • Total Spaces  245
  • Number of Available Days to Rent to the Public  270 (Remove June, July and August from the public rental schedule to the OC Fair)
  • Daily Rate $50.00 
  • Capacity 50%

Once the RV park is built, there is nothing preventing OCFEC from converting the area to year round use or engaging an operator such as KOA to manage the park.


RV Park Can Also be 900 Parking Spaces

The Master Site Plan includes using the former Equestrian Center area as a 900 space parking lot in addition to functioning as RV parking. Parking is a signficant source of OCFEC revenue with the 2018 budget showing $5,305,113 in total parking revenue as follows:

  • $2,758,813 in Fair Parking Revenue (line item 4370)
  • $94,700 in Vendor Hang Tag Parking (line item 4393)
  • $2,161,700 in Year-Round Event Parking Sales (line item 4710)
  • $268,900 in VIP Event Parking Revenue (line item 4711)
  • $21,000 in Preferred Parking (line item 4715)

Download the 2018 OCFEC Budget  Download 17_1108_2018_Budget_Roll-up_CapEx_DRAFT

A revenue projection can be made for a 900 space parking lot using a similar methodology as used for the RV park and shows a conservative estimate of about $1.2 million per year.  

  • Total Spaces  900
  • Number of Available Days to Rent to the Public  270 (Remove June, July and August from the public rental schedule to the OC Fair)
  • Daily Rate $10.00 
  • Capacity 50%


Safety of Arlington Drive & New Bike/Pedestrian Trail Jeopardized by New Parking Lot

Davis Elementary School, TeWinkle Park, Bark Park, Costa Mesa Tennis Center, and Volcom Skate Park are also located along Arlington Drive. Arlington Drive is a neighborhood street to be used to school, park and residential use, not for carrying 900 cars to park at $10 car to make $9,000 per day, at a minimum. It is not clear if Executive Management or the Board of Directors have noticed that Arlington Drive is not a major street designed to carry large amounts of vehicle traffic or heavy vehicles such as RVs and carnival equipment. A multipurpose trail for use by bicycles and pedestrians has been added to Arlington Drive in addition to the bioswale. Creating a 245 space RV park adds a minimum of 490 trips across the bike and pedestrian trail to fill and empty the RV park. Creating a 900 space parking lot adds a minimum of 1800 trips across the bike and pedestrian trail. Vehicle trips over the bicycle and pedestrian trail create safety problems with creating the conditions which can allow pedestrian and bicycle accidents to occur for the sole reason of making money.  Creating safety problems to make money is appalling and the proposed parking lots replacing the Equestrian Center must be removed.


April 2018 Master Site Plan Proposal is Yet Another Example of Lack of Accountability of OCFEC Directors & Executive Management

An ongoing lack of accountability exists at OCFEC which tars the Board, Executive Management. A recent example is the attempt to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center to store more shipping containers. While some have tried to portray these actions which involved expenditure of staff time and public money as a "misunderstanding", that is simply not the case. Decisions were made, plans were drafted, contractors were hired, money spent and staff time was used to perform these actions. Executive Management who were involved in these actions must be held publicly accountable.

Earlier in 2018, the Board was made aware of actions taken by the Board, Executive Management, and staff which have endangered safety, manipulated bids and financial records to achieve outcomes desired by staff, worked to evade legal settlements entered into by the Board which protect the neighborhoods around OCFEC, and have turned a blind eye to conflicts of interest, among other problems. It is not clear why the Board allows these problems to continue. No one has been held publicly accountable for these actions. 

The proposed demolition of the Equestrian Center in the April 2018 Master Site Plan proposal is yet another example of the lack of accountability. It is time for the Board to cease and desist aiding and abetting actions by Executive Management which are against the interests of the Public. New Executive Management is needed along with new Master Site Plan proposals.  The time is now for the Board to fix these problems. 


Rip Up the Master Site Proposals & Start Over

Over $250,000 of Public money has been wasted by the Board and Executive Management on Master Site Plan proposals which ignore the needs and desires of the Public who own the OCFEC property, are incompatible with the neighborhoods, and create safety problems.  There is money in the budget which can be used as seed money for a redo of the Master Site Plan. The $115,449 from the "PR/Manager Function" at line item 5475 in the 2018 Budget (posted above)  is the Public money used to pay for the Directors and their families and Executive Management to have catered premium buffets with grilled salmon with Florentine cream sauce; beef tenderloin sandwiches on brioche buns; bacon wrapped medallions of beef; sauteed citrus garlic buttered shrimp; swordfish; top sirloin steaks with crispy shallots; pepper crusted roasted tri tip; Portobello filet mignon with Danish bleu cheese sauce; carved rosemary and garlic stuffed prime rib; Tuscan T-bone steaks; pan roasted halibut; and tomahawk rib eye steaks among the fancy salads and desserts.  That $115,449 will make a downpayment on a new Master Site Plan. 


Contact Information to Follow Up on Issues

Contact the Fair Board Added May 3, 2018

Chair Barbara Bagneris
Vice Chair Robert Ruiz
Ashleigh Aitken
Nick Berardino
Sandra Cervantes
Doug La Belle
Gerardo Mouet
Newton Pham
Stan Tkaczyk

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 the Governor's Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil Rogers at to discuss OCFEC Director performance  issues. 

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns who is charge of the Master Site Plan

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

Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor




Gun Show at OC Fairgrounds Shows Room for Improvements in Transparency & Accountability

Check It Out (1)

Students are walking out of school on March 14, 2018, to protest the deaths of students and others from gun violence. While Los Angeles County bans gun shows, Orange County allows gun shows. The Crossroads of the West gun show takes place at the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC), also known as the OC Fairgrounds, several times a year and is a steady source of over $300,000 in annual facility use revenue in addition to parking and concessions revenues.  About a year ago, OCFEC closed for the weekend because the Make America Great Again rally announced that they would hold their unpermitted rally near Fair Drive and Fairview Road on the same weekend as the Crossroads of the West gun show, which caused the cancellation of the gun show for that weekend. The irony is the gun show caused their own cancellation because they agreed to host the Make America Great Again rally without permission to do so.  The gun show was allowed to reschedule the date of the show which was cancelled due to their own actions. 

A recent trip to the gun show raises questions about the conduct of the show including:

  • Photography and video recording are prohibited.
  • A list of of sellers is not available.
  • A "pentagon AR-15 coupler" which attaches five ten-round magazines to an AR-15 was for sale. This apparently legal workaround allows up to fifty rounds to be fired in quick succession. The video linked to is for illustrative purposes only.
  • Several gun show sellers specialize in AR-15 weaponry and accessories.
  • It is not clear if a person is able to obtain the parts needed to assembly an AR-15 from the sellers at the gun show. 
  • Booths do not have signs with the name of the business at each and every booth and not all booths had marketing materials or business cards with the business name and contact information.
  • A number of sellers do not match to a list of Costa Mesa business licenses although a Costa Mesa business license is required to conduct business at OCFEC.  See Costa Mesa Municipal Code Title 9, Chapter I to learn more about business license requirements. A Costa Mesa business license allows sales tax generated at OCFEC to be paid to the City of Costa Mesa, Orange County, and Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), among other agencies. OCTA uses the M1 and M2 OC Go sales tax increments to fund transportation improvements.  
  • Pawn shops which are called "second hand dealers" in statute are among the sellers.  Pawn shops/ second hand dealers need permission from the Costa Mesa Police Department to operate in Costa Mesa. See Costa Mesa Municipal Code Title 9, Chapter II, Article 12 to learn more about business license requirements for pawn shops/ second hand dealers. 
  • A man was observed pushing a hand truck with a box of ammunition for sale throughout the show for several hours. He was holding a handwritten cardboard sign asking people to purchase items from his box. There was less product in the box later in the day than at the beginning of the day.


Reform of gun laws is outside the jurisdiction of the OCFEC Board but the Board can require changes to be made in the way all public events are conducted on the property. Shows open to the public, with free or paid admission, should publish a list of all sellers and exhibitors at the event. The list should state the business name, mailing address, phone number, and email to allow sellers and exhibitors to be contacted outside of the show. Show promoters should be required to have the list available at the show and the information should be kept on file by the OCFEC staff to be provided to the public. One simple change to enhance transparency and accountability which is within the grasp of the OC Fair Board is a step in the right direction. 

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns

Contact VP of Business Development Michele Richards

Contact the OCFEC Board Added May 3, 2018

Chair Barbara Bagneris
Vice Chair Robert Ruiz
Ashleigh Aitken
Nick Berardino
Sandra Cervantes
Doug La Belle
Gerardo Mouet
Newton Pham
Stan Tkaczyk

Public Records Requests




What Happened After the Carnival Ride Accidents Last Summer?

Carnival Question (2)

The rides are in the process of being fixed if the rides have not already been fixed. In summer of 2017, a Fireball ride manufactured by KMG broke apart and killed one person. The G Force ride at the OC Fair was closed after the accident as a precaution.  An inspection of the damaged ride revealed problems with corrosion. Fixing the problems include replacing the gondolas and new inspection routines. G Force was closed for several days and reopened after repairs were made.

In California, amusement rides, including carnival rides, are overseen by the Amusement Ride and Tramway Unit of the Department of Industrial Relations.  Reporting requirements include submitting a schedule of locations the at which the ride will be used,  submitting information about  new rides or alterations to existing rides, and reporting injuries, accidents, or major mechanical failures. The district office for Southern California is at 2000 E McFadden Ave, Suite 210, Santa Ana, CA 92705. (714) 567-7211

An industry group, Council of  Amusement and Recreational Safety Equipment (CARES) works to disseminate information on service bulletins from ride manufacturers and consults on ride safety regulations.  Some of the information available from CARES includes technical bulletins,  how the nationwide ride tracking system is implemented, and a list of rides with specifications for non-destructive testing (NDT).