Board to Discuss Future of Fairgrounds

Is Petaluma losing out on much-needed revenue by leasing the fairgrounds for just $1 a year? Many say "yes" and argue that it's high-time the city make more money off the property


The Sonoma-Marin Fair Board of Directors will hold a special meeting this Wednesday to discuss the future of the fairgrounds, including whether to open the property to new development in an attempt to generate more revenue for the city, which owns the parcel.

Currently, the Fourth District Agricultural Association, whose board is appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, leases the 60-acre property for just $1 a year. That’s the same price the organization has been paying the city since 1937, when it was considered the eastern edge of town.

Today, it’s prime real estate and many, including City Manager John Brown and Mayor David Glass, say the city should make a lot more money off the parcel that a mere buck. And even if the fair board continues the day-to-day operations, they want a lot more control over how the property gets used.

In addition to the fair, held every June, the fairgrounds is used for car and wine shows, circuses, quinceñeras and an antiques auction. There is also a preschool and charter school onsite along with Java Hut, Petaluma Speedway and Airport Express. But all revenues currently go to the fair board, not the city.

“We shouldn’t be paupers and be begging for land that is ours from a discretionary board,” Glass said. “This is city property and the community needs to be able to enjoy it.”

A lease agreement between the fair board and the city expires in 2024, giving Petaluma chance to explore new uses for the area, such as a park, ball fields and even new housing.

The fair board has pushed the city to renew the lease in order to secure bank loans to carry out improvements such as installing solar panels and fixing aging barns. Supporters argue that keeping the fair at its current location is an important part of maintaining Petaluma’s ag roots.

An email message sent to Fair Board President Jim Burleson was not immediately returned.

Others say there may be a way to keep the fair at the fairgrounds while rewriting the lease to give the city access to revenues. 

“Many area hotels don’t have room for large conferences, so with upgrades to the halls (at the fairgrounds) we could be drawing people year-round,” said Councilman Gabe Kearney.

Wednesday’s meeting starts at 10am and will be held at the Fairgrounds office at 175 Fairgrounds Drive. Public comment is welcome.

How would you like the fairgrounds property to be utilized?

Gail Rorick January 15, 2013 at 07:21 PM
mikeg55 January 15, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I went to the Petaluma Fair as a kid and now I take my kids there every year. It really is a Petaluma tradition and should not be lost.
knittingfool January 16, 2013 at 05:20 PM
This city planning is just terrible. LOOK at our city. It is a mess and is getting to be a real eyesore. What was once Petaluma-a farming community is now trying to look like a marin county city, but worse. What will be our draw when you put low-income housing at the fairgrounds? You (city council) suck at this job. Think before you sign on the dotted line. Target? Really? Is there really enough people in this town to support a target? You should have been smart and not given free reign to the developer and insisted that we put at least an Ikea in. That way we could have had people from a 100 mile radius coming to see our town and spend money and eat in our restuarants. This town is getting too marin-like for our tastes.
Goggles Paisano January 16, 2013 at 06:08 PM
when the mall and fair traffic merge, its a mess.. traffic flow will be a stand still.. the Ranier over pass is essential to allow traffic to flow from one side of town to the other
John M January 18, 2013 at 04:06 PM
How dare you post a picture with our flag flying upside down!


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