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Placeholder Image Michael Flores, CDFA Deputy Secretary speaks to the town hall attendees
photo credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB

The City of Petaluma is planning to take back direct control of the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds at the start of next year.

The 4th District Agricultural Association, or DAA, is the fairgrounds governing body.

The association hopes to secure another long-term lease between 30 and 50 years to continue running the fair and upgrade the aging 55 acre grounds.

Aiming to explain the situation and drum up community support for a new lease. The 4th DAA hosted a town hall at the fairground's Hertzog Hall Wednesday, April 5th.

"You look at any other reason why you would want to keep the fair here under the management of the 4th DAA," Brian Sobel said. "It just makes perfect sense. You know why? Because it's worked perfectly for 80 years, right? Why do we want to change that?"

Sobel, is both a former Petaluma City Council member and fair board member. He spoke as a panelist and said, the city's decision to regain control of the grounds is not surprising.

"From the beginning of my time on the city council, there were some elected officials whose only interest was in having this facility brought back under the city aegis so that the city could run it," Sobel said.

Another panelist: Michael Flores, deputy Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Flores said, the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds serve an extremely important function for the state's disaster planning.

"Fairgrounds throughout the state are our insurance policy," Flores said. "They must be ready at a moment's notice. So when you think of your fairgrounds, it's much more than just an annual event."

"And what we've gone through in the last couple years, the governor has charged our office with the responsibility of allocating $94 million to provide new and rehabilitated construction for resiliency centers throughout our network," Flores said. "In phase one, we chose six fairs. Petaluma would've been the seventh had there been more certainty about the future of this fairgrounds."

The 4th DAA is a state entity with members appointed by the governor, and Flores said that it would need at least a 30 year lease to be in consideration for resiliency funds.

Calls to protect the Petaluma Motor Speedway, which is on the fairgrounds, were met with widespread support from attendees.

City council member Brian Barnacle said the city has no plans to scrap the fair, but is looking to gain time to reevaluate the site.

"We need to give all the tenants security, and we need to make sure that the expectations of the community are on stable ground," Barnacle said. "That's why we're doing three year agreements with all of the existing tenants and why we've wanted to prioritize that with the 4th District."

The 4th DAA's current lease expires at the end of this year.

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