The community depends on Martin De La Torre and staff at the Petaluma Fairgrounds – the way they handle emergencies is superior to any other evacuation location and gives fire victims their dignity back. This staff is the most competent and efficient I’ve seen in working with burned animals and displaced fire victims. We have worked closely with their team to rescue thousands of animals. Their experienced volunteers care for them until they have a safe place to go back to. They have a network of over 70 fairs from whom they can pull resources. City management cannot offer this level of support.
President – NorCal Livestock Evacuation
Farmer & Creator – Moreda Family Farms
Professional Roadracer – She’z Racing
The Petaluma Fairgrounds Belong to You
How was the fairgrounds property acquired by the city of Petaluma?
1850s The Sonoma-Marin Fair planted its roots in Petaluma.
1910 Petaluma residents passed a $20,000 park bond to buy the land that
encompassed Kenilworth Park. The proposition before the voters read: “…shall the City of Petaluma incur a bonding indebtedness of $20,000 to pay the cost of acquiring certain lands for public purposes for a public park…”
1936 The City of Petaluma leased the property known as Kenilworth Park
to the 4th District Agricultural Association.
1947, 1972, & 1998 The lease was renewed in each of these years.
What use limitations apply to land purchased with a park bond?
Three different city attorneys, several attorneys representing the DAA, and current Councilmember Mike Healy have indicated that since the property was purchased through defined bond issuance, the City may only use the property consistent with the purpose of a public park. The California Supreme Court has broadly construed the meaning of “park purposes”, but at the core, the standard to determine whether a use is consistent with park purposes is whether the use is designed for recreation, pleasure, and enjoyment of the community in general.
Can the use of the property be changed?
For over 70 years, city and state attorneys opined on potential uses of the fairgrounds property and if specific uses meet the intent of the park bond. Listed below are snippets of their legal opinions:
October 30, 1945
Petaluma City Attorney
In a letter sent to Mr. A. E. Snider, Chief of the Division of Fairs and Expositions, Mr. Brooks asks for Mr. Snider’s presence at a meeting to discuss “the possibility of the city transferring the property known as Kenilworth Park to the State of California.” Mr. Brooks reminds Mr. Snider of the “circumstances under which the city acquired…the property”, which included and may need to include a “ballot approved for the election.”
March 13, 1978
P. Lawrence Klose
Petaluma City Attorney
In 1977, the 4th DAA fair board and manager were looking to lease a section of the front parking lot. The City Council was against this use, and the city attorney, Mr. Klose, opined that “The real property in question was acquired exclusively for park purposes under a bond issue approved by the voters of Petaluma on December 14, 1910. To allow commercial usage of the property, as proposed by the Association would violate Government Code Section 38450, requiring a vote of the people prior to abandonment for park purposes.”
In a letter to the editor, longtime city councilperson and attorney, Mike Healy recognizes the December 1910 vote taken by the Petaluma voters to preserve the land, known as Kenilworth Park, to be used as a public park. In his letter, Councilman Healy suggests his proposed hybrid governance model “would keep the promise made 112 years ago to use the property as a public park” while allowing the Fair to continue.
If the 4th District Agricultural Association was granted a 40-year lease, the priorities would be as follows:
- A 20-million dollar large multi-use building with a primary focus of being the North Bay resiliency center.
- Public access to a park-like setting that allows for emergency vehicle parking, concerts, cultural events and the fair.
- Remodeling and upgrades with grants and fundraising through the 4th DAA.
- A facility that benefits our community and its rich agricultural history.
- Amenities that stimulate farm-to-table activities and promote agriculture.