Different game, same rules

Gerry Kamilos knew what was coming. Sure, officially, the Cal Expo Development Plan Alternative Analysis Report (a.k.a. the Plescia report) was confidential until last week. But developer Kamilos knew weeks ago what it was going to say—that the state is better off ditching him and his complicated Convergence arena plan, in favor of selling off part of the Cal Expo state fair land and using the proceeds to make some much-needed upgrades.

That’s why Kamilos and company were ready with Convergence 2.0, a tweaked alternative that includes the three-way land swap along with the Disneyfied makeover of the state fair.

(For a more detailed look at Convergence, see “Keep your eye on the ball,” SN&R Feature, September 9.)

On September 24, the Cal Expo board must decide whether to keep Convergence alive with more studies—on Kamilos’ dime—or to go it alone with their own development plan. At least, those seem to be the only two choices on the table right now.

“Looks like old wine in new bottles to me,” said Red Slider, leader of a small group called Cal Expo—an Alternate Vision. Slider has been urging the board not to go along with a plan that, in his words, “begins and ends with a real-estate deal.” And he said Convergence 2.0 is still just that. “It’s a deal to capture land and make a lot of money at state expense.

Slider is one of a few voices desperately trying to call attention to the fact that the Cal Expo board seems to be preoccupied with selling off Cal Expo for private development.

Another is Doug Tatara, who’s been getting nowhere—with the Cal Expo board, the NBA or Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Sacramento First arena task force—trying to promote a proposal to build a new arena and state fair at the current fairgrounds.

Tatara’s plan is outlined at www.sacramento2015.com. If you check it out, one of the things you’ll notice is that he doesn’t want to sell off public land to developers.

“The NBA started with a faulty premise. They believed the land value could be used to pay for an arena,” he explains on the site. “In truth, the real asset possessed by Cal Expo is its potential as a marketing engine powerhouse.”

Bites doesn’t know if Tatara’s plan would pencil out. It seems to rely a lot on corporate sponsorships that Bites assumes would have been tapped a long time ago to build an arena. Then again, if Bites knew anything about making money, you probably wouldn’t be reading this column right now.

It does appear that the Cal Expo board—dominated by farmers and real-estate agents—have written off Tatara and Slider and, so far, at least, any other alternative that doesn’t involve selling off big chunks of public property to private developers.

“It’s all just about money and hype,” Slider complained. “It has nothing to do with the state fair, the region or the public commons land the current fair sits on.”

Bites asked Cal Expo assistant general manager Brian May about the money and the hype. He noted the Plescia report was paid for by Kamilos, and had a specific and limited purpose. And he said the board wasn’t foreclosing any options for the future of the state fair. Yet.

But Slider and Tatara’s critique seems important. Are we already locked in to selling off Cal Expo? Are there ideas—more creative than building North Natomas all over again at Point West—that are being ignored? If a real-estate deal is the object of the game, do we have to play?