Imagine – With respects to John Lennon

Kindergarten for the Imaginatively-impaired.

“…where we invite your participation in everything we do.”

We get numerous responses every day, like the one in the exchange we had below at kingsarenaupdates .  Some are more vitriolic  and personal in their attacks some less. But they all have one thing in common: they are written by people who have a very myopic view of economics and city planning; who  are rigid and narrow in their frame of reference and have not troubled themselves to become educated about matters such as public land use and public interest.

Most of all, while they are quick to wave flags at anything that comes down road pretending to be “world-class”  they have no idea of what ‘world-class’ really means or how something becomes ‘world-class’.  In short, all of them exhibit a decided lack of imagination and a constricted sense of what is possible in the 21st century.

We haven’t the time to run a kindergarten for those who lack such skill-sets.  We are already running one kindergarten class for the members of the Cal Expo Board.  Instead, we elected to select “Great Idea Guy”  responses as typical of these types comments and respond one time, and at length, to all of them. It is the last we will do at this level of basic education.  We have more important matters to attend to such as The CEAV Project and actually protecting the public lands in question before they are lost forever to the People of California and to our future generations.  The remainder of this may also have useful information for those who understand and support The CEAVE Project – we certainly don’t intend  to demean your foresight and imagination.  –  Red Slider, steward; The CEAV Project

[The original post of “Great Idea Guy”  no longer seems to be available at kingsarenaupdates, but it was the usual arena/land swap boosting – ‘What a Great Idea!’, ‘At last we are getting somewhere’,  ‘how transparent it is’, and similar sentiments heard from arena flag-wavers.

[in response,  The CEAV Project Wrote on march 29th:]

“What needs to be made transparent is that this whole deal is a swindle from beginning to end. It isn’t even about the arena. It’s about putting 360 acres of urban public commons (state land) into the hands of private developers in a complicated land-swap. They’ve been angling for that land for years. That’s why everything seems so illogical, downright dumb. We’ve all got our eyes on the wrong ball. Some of the gory details are at where we’ve been fighting these guys for over a year. And yes, we can use some  help if any of you folks have it to offer.”  – red, The CEAV Project.

[“Great Idea Guy” – the responders name wasn’t given, but presumably it is the owner of   – wrote:]

You make a good point Red. I mean, why let a GREAT idea move forward when someone who has connected all the dots in a situation that has stymied local politicians for years would profit? The Cal Expo land swap will KEEP THE KINGS in Sacramento, provide a focal point for downtown revitalization and bring bigger and better concerts and events to our community without the use of taxpayer dollars  This plan will also replace a dying and ill-maintained State Fair with a new and vibrant State Fair in Natomas that more reflects Californians today and into the future

Wow, you really get it. Damn the developers, we must preserve our precious Cal Expo property. Yes, developers will profit, but in America innovative ideas are rewarded. Go crawl back inside your cave, buddy or else join the 21st century. We all know the State Fair is on life support and your selfish proposal is so grandiose that it will take a generation to figure out and another generation to implement; by that time our State Legislature and Governor will likely pull the plug on the State Fair and the property would be sold anyway to balance the State budget. You, Red, are the one putting the Cal Expo property and our beloved State Fair at a huge risk!

This entry was posted on March 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm and


“Great Idea Guy” (we had to make up the name, his blog didn’t post his handle),

you seem to have read/not read or http://www.stopcalexpo. Read, in that you appear to have read just enough to find things you could negatively react to in your fixation to have an arena in whatever way your ‘official father-figures’  tell you is good for you. Not-read in that you obviously don’t understand how really large-scale projects work or how world-destinations and hubs (the Kennedy Center’s, the Museums of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, The Huntington Gardens, The Taj Mahal….) are created, what they do for their surrounding communities and how they endure, not for a few decades, but for centuries.  Let’s take the arena thing first:

  1. The CEAV Project says nothing, is entirely neutral on the matter of sports-arenas (though we did propose an amendment – a National Sports Education Center (NSEC) – that could be added to any of the seven arena proposal to help finance it privately and without the need to swap land at Cal Expo (see the ‘National Sports Education Center’ link in the sidebar of ).  In any case, CEAV says nothing about the arena and does not stand in the way of having one. It only says the 360 acres of state-owned public commons land that Cal Expo sits on must not be traded away to finance a private arena;
  2. The actual plan forwarded as ‘best’ is not the Kamilos proposal at all.  It is a hybrid of the Kamilos-Thomas Enterprise proposal. The only reason the land-swap deal is in the package is that it proposed a financing scheme that seemed interesting – though no one yet really understands it and many, including notable urban economists, have indicated it is a dangerous and likely disastrous  undertaking, for the city and for the people of Sacramento (see the O’Connell and Rhee reports in the Sunday March 14th Sac Bee).
  3. The ‘Kamilos First’ plan itself, is a three-legged stool with two very weak legs.  Its land-swap leg, which would sell the state land to private investors for  50 million who would then, in turn sell it  to private developers for 500 million, is a state ‘gift’ of the property for 10-cents on the dollar.  Even the part of the deal, which would “return”  25% of the net profits from the sale to Cal Expo will magically disappear  when the developers declare their ‘losses’, which they invariably do (developers always manage to show “losses”  on their balance sheets at tax time.)  The other leg, moving Cal Expo to Natomas,  is equally week.  Kamilos’ dismissed the matter at city council by saying, “we can handle the Natomas community”  or words to that effect. In truth, the swap is opposed by the Natomas Chamber of Commerce and they have their own proposal in the pot. In addition, Kamilos’ idea for turning Cal Expo into some kind of ‘theme park’ using ex-Disney employees (a team he claims to have in place already) is more than doubtful – it may be downright insulting to the people of the State who may have other ideas about their State Fair.
  4. The site of the arena is irrelevant  (other than the one plan that would put it on the Cal Expo site, and destroy the land for any other public use.  Downtown “revitalization” by an arena located there is also very doubtful. One only need go to to see how many arena projects not only failed and revealed hidden taxes and costs in their demise; but also, in the long-term (15 to 20 years) helped ruin the cities that hosted them.  This is not about sports or arenas or cities, it’s just big business. And, as we learned from our trusted  financial institutions,  nobody’s interests but their own really matter.  They will loot those who supported their risky projects (usually so complicated no one understand what they are really doing – sound familiar?) and leave it to the taxpayers to pick up the bill when things collapse.

As we have said in several public documents (see, CEAV does not oppose an arena. But we do advise that if it is done, it be entirely privately financed – no land-swaps, no public assets used, no tax-increment deals, no other hidden ways to soak the citizens and leave us holding the bag.  That’s the way capitalism is supposed to work.  If it’s a good product, has a real market value and a real return on investment, then private capital is supposed to use its own money to build it and take its own profits from it.  If it is also good for the surrounding communities, cities, etc.  then that is to the good as well – but the taxpayers should not be shoring up or enabling such private ventures with their public capital or public assets (such as land). That is not how capitalism works.  Econ 1A.

As for Cal Expo’s “dying” and “being on life-support” , as you so dramatically like to put it, Cal Expo’s problems aren’t  remedied at all by simply throwing cash at it (or selling off public land to “save” it).  Their demise been in the making for decades and are the result of incompetence, mismanagement and the greedy ambitions of some of its own Board members who have a decided conflict of interest in their promotion of privately developing the Cal Expo site. In addition, its present state is much more attributable  to the declining interest and relevance to the people of 21st century who seem to have better things to do than bet on horses and go to car shows or put their kids on water slides (which can be done almost anywhere and are also, entirely private interests.)  Cal Expo’s idea of “remedy” is simply to do more of the same – to hype its ‘theme-park’ stuff, to sell it with media packaging and to do the much of the same 20th century stuff it has done in the past along with selling off a public asset which really doesn’t belong to them.  If there is a remedy for the traditional Fair,  the first step is for Cal Expo to get rid of the incompetent mangers and Board members that have already ruined the State Fair and replace them with people who have real vision, imagination and a commitment to the public interest

Now let’s move on to The CEAV Project.  It has two missions (as you must have read). The first is to preserve/protect the land until a thorough, statewide (it is state land, after all) and comprehensive review can be done – by the state, by experts and by the general public – to determine the ‘best use’ best interests of all the people of California.  While there have been a few rumbles about selling off the property to help the State’s budget crises, no one believes such a sale would do anything about the State’s cash crises – the money (last estimates put it at 80 million) would be used up before you could get your Kleenex out of the box – gone (and probably for someone else’s pet political project), and the State would lose an asset that it could never get back, could never be replaced – the largest remaining piece of urban public commons in the state.  CEAV proposes the land be put into ‘protected custody’, perhaps under the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation,  to insure that it isn’t ‘cashed-in’ in some momentary crises or developer’s ingenuity at manipulating  politicians.  Cal Expo might stay on the site or, it might move elsewhere. That is entirely a separate matter and, in any case, Cal Expo should not be held hostage to the local passions and desires of Sacramento.

The Second Mission of The CEAV Project, is the concept of a world-hub and destination for all things green:  green technology, products, methods, services, demonstration environments, green university and community college campuses, green exhibits, Knowledge Transfer Centers, Culture Centers and a host of activities that would make it the center of global economic and environmental investment for the rest of this century and more. We’re not talking just “green buildings” and energy saving light-bulbs here. We are speaking about the world’s activity and investment in restoring this planet to a healthy, balanced and sustainable condition – the one that will be required if our grand- and great-grandchildren are going to be able to live on it.

You’re quite right,  The CEAV Project is a “grandiose idea” – certainly much larger than your imagination appears able to encompass.  But let’s take a moment to consider ‘concepts’ themselves. Cal Expo spent six years and several hundred-thousand dollars   (the NBA spent 2 to 3 million more) on a project that didn’t even have a conceptual plan – that, from Cal Expo’s own statements and documents on the matter. No Conceptual Plan. At the time of the collapse of that arena “plan”, last fall,  they were still talking about parking spaces and football-field sized white elephant exhibit  warehouses; all without even knowing what they wanted Cal Expo to be and how their non-existent concept might fulfill its state-chartered  mission (by the way, do you even know what the mission of Cal Expo is? You really ought to go read it, they haven’t fulfilled it in decades, and their new ideas, what there are of them, don’t fulfill it either.)  Indeed, the last real concept they had was in 1968 – to turn the place into a golf course-with-racetrack (oh, and ‘Fiesta Island’ in the middle of the American River, don’t forget that.). Yes,  there was that 2004 “plan” that also fell apart.  But, that fiasco was little more than yet-another-face-lift  – a cosmetic job of  300 pages or so with no real concept anywhere in it.  Correction, we did find one new concept:  to host  “Community events (graduations, ceremonies, political events….”  (“California Exposition & State Fair, Conceptual Strategic Development Plan, February 2004”).  Whose “political events”  they might host isn’t stated in the document, but we can guess.  In fact, for the past year, what kept the old NBA-arena scheme from moving forward (thankfully) was the fact that it didn’t have a “conceptual plan” which is a legal requirement for the State of California which Cal Expo never seemed to be able to fulfill. No plan, nada.

But this is about CEAV’s concept, so let’s not belabor the point of Cal Expo’s conceptual incompetence.  Keep in mind that The CEAV Project has two missions:  1) to save the land until the ‘best-use’ idea, statewide,  is decided; fairly, thoroughly and openly; 2) a real idea that proposes a whole new direction for the concept of a “California State Exposition & Fair”, one that not only fulfills Cal Expo’s original mission, but updates it for the 21st century, is economically better and more sustainable by several orders of magnitude, and will also do more for the future of Sacramento (though that is not Cal Expo’s lookout or mission) than a dozen arenas.  The CEAV concept also allows for the traditional state fair venues and activities to continue, either on-site (though least desirable) or off-site (for which CEAV will be revealing another option in the next few months which has not yet been considered by anyone that we know about).

The first mission, to protect the land, is a stand-alone, and separate from the second. It needs to be done no matter what ‘best-idea’ ultimately prevails.  We think the CEAV concept is a good contender and, so far, apparently the only good contender.  But that may not be the case after the suggested review period is completed. CEAV not only allows for that possibility, but encourages any and all good ideas to come forward from all over the state (which is a huge difference between Cal Expo’s approach which is to treat it as a closed club for invitees only).  The first mission, protecting the land from private development,  does not require the second, a CEAV-like project to be done.  The second mission, the building of a CEAV-like project, or any other idea, does depend on protecting the land until such ideas are given due consideration.

On the CEAV Concept, itself yes, it is big.  Bigger than anything that has been done in some time, anywhere in this nation, perhaps in the world.  Creating an entire Olympic facility every four or six years are probably the only large-scale projects that are comparable, and they may fall short of the scale of a  ‘Cal Expo Green’, by a factor of two or three by the time it is fully implemented.  Does that make its scale “impossible”?  Hardly.  There are considerably larger projects that have been accomplished throughout history, and with a fraction of the knowledge, technology or resources of the global economy of today.  There is no particular engineering obstacle that we know of that would prevent CEAV from being undertaken; though we predict,  owing to the deliberately lengthy build-out we suggested, even new and more interesting technologies may be discovered and applied to future elements of the project.  Impossible?  Not at all, and let us see why;

  1. The review process, to get the truly best idea for the land could take five years or more.  It should, like any other part of the project be done correctly in every aspect. It should be treated as if we are really betting on the future and the future generations that will inherit  it as a legacy. It must be right, it must be the absolute best that we can do for them. The time permits continuance of the fair and opportunity to locate it elsewhere or plan its on-site update if necessary.
  2. If, in preliminary analysis, CEAV appears to be a good and likely contender, there are many things that could be done immediately on the site, before any final decisions are made;  before a final concept is chosen, and which would not interfere with the final choice.  The traditional Fair would continue at its present location, perhaps for several more years.  Some repair would need to be financed, but that is a separate issue; and, if it were understood that the current site was not to be the permanent location of the traditional Fair (a potential which Cal Expo has conceded is not essential to its future) then even the repair and maintenance that needs to be done could be cut to a fraction of its current estimates – it would not be refurbishing with permanence in mind.
  3. As soon as Cal Expo could be moved, elements of ‘Cal Expo Green’ could be implemented, at little cost and with little commitment to future plans and decisions.  Some of these elements could, indeed, generate modest revenues and help pay for other maintenance and upkeep tasks;  indeed, there might be something left over to help ‘traditional Cal Expo’  operations.

    Older, existing exhibit facilities could be adapted to green product, show and educational presentations.  Offices for environmental organizations around the region could be opened (and, in addition to their own specific focus, they might be enlisted to consider aspects of the environmental planning for Cal Expo Green.  Some revenues could be generated from these and other activities, events and green festivals.  A Statewide ‘Earth Day’ celebration might also generate interest and revenue.  These are not the ultimate ways that Cal Expo Green will be underwritten, but they could contribute significantly to its initiation and general sustainability.

    (for some general approaches to how this might happen, see the ‘When’ and the ‘How – The Realization’ sections of our faq at Cal Expo Green )

  4. The concept of ‘Cal Expo Green’ has built into it the necessity that it be an evolving project; both in design and in realization.  That is, it simply would do violence to the concept to impose on future generations some fixed idea of what planet stewardship in the 21st or 22nd or, beyond  century might require.  The tools, the tasks, the needs will change as people change; as the earth changes.  We have provided two ways of doing this (there may be more). First, though some initial facilities will be needed, some exhibits and other venues established to create  a spectacular aspect  for the synergy of the hub,  all are to be designed with the latest techniques in modularity, morphilic design  and deconstructability such that costs and impacts are minimized for the functional and physical redesign of facilities or even their relocation or removal.  Technologies to do this, without sacrificing aesthetics or size, are developing rapidly and more are anticipated.  Cal Expo Green is conceived to take full advantage of this prospect of ‘fluid design’.  (more on this idea in the ‘Imagine Preface‘,  and Imagine #11 )
  5. Second,  the concept itself is designed to be an evolving part of the project, continuously receiving new ideas from the public as well as commercial, environmental, academic and other sectors.  This is also a built-in part of the conceptual design as noted in Imagine #14, ‘The Cal Expo Game

  6. Finally, the conceptual financing component . This is the one upon those who have the hardest time grasping a project like Cal Expo Green generally fixate to the point of obsession.  “Where’s the money?” they demand, “How do you pay for something like this?”.   We have a number of documents on the CEAV site and elsewhere suggesting how this can be done. But before we mention those, we wish to correct some myths which those who think they know how things work, seem to most stubbornly cling.  The first is that, in the planning of a large-scale project, financing should not be the first consideration; it should be the last (though not least important for that). Before anything else is done,  fundamental questions about the purpose and definition of what is being considered need to be answered.  What is a State Fair?  Do we even need a State Fair? What is the difference between an ‘Exposition’ and a ‘Fair’? and similar basic understandings need to be gained and shared.  Interestingly, Cal Expo has never undertaken that step in planning any of its concepts.  It assumes it knows “all that”  and simply moves on. <strong></strong> Second,  the early planning phase should take those answers of ‘purpose’ and ‘basic definition’ and then look at any and all possibilities for objects (concepts/projects/facilities) that might fulfill those basic intents.  It might move forward as Sacramento First did with its task of concept selection and gather and rank candidate solutions by order of best fit, best solution-set.
  7. However, one of Sacramento First’s mistakes (largely due to artificial schedules and pressures imposed upon it from outside)  was that it included ‘financing’ as one of its initial ranking criteria. It should have waited a bit.  Once having ranked all of the concepts (in terms of design, location, purposes met and served, environment, external impacts, etc. it might then have asked, as a separate process, “Ok, this is what we want, how do we finance it? Who’s going to pay for it?”

    It is at that time, when you know what you want, that you invite the proposal candidates to tell you how to get it, what it will cost, who will pay for it.  If the top choice cannot come up with satisfactory answers, you have two choices:  you can go to the second choice or, you can ask of all the candidates (and other potential finance brokers) can anybody pay for this (come up with an acceptable finance package, for a commission of course)?  Indeed, several of the candidates might want to combine resources and ideas and provide the answer (for commissions, of course). Somebody from outside might come forward with the dough. But the main thing to understand is that it prevents hammering your concept (the thing you most want) into the shape of some financial package you have been handed.  That way is the tail wagging the dog.  And ‘dog’ is about what one gets with that approach. You can always cut back on the features of your ideal concept; or, you can go to your 2nd or 3rd or fourth choices, if that seems best. But you are not stuck with somebody’s pre-packaged, profit calculations to decide what it is you should want to do.  What you want is what you imagine; not what some developer says you can afford.

  8. Major cities and regions (over a million or two people), even if they are selfish enough to think only of themselves, and willing to trash state assets to benefit their own area and no one else’s, will not any longer be able survive if they only think locally.  Like it or not, the 21st century will have a global economy. Those cities that participate in it fully will thrive. Those that do not will limp along and eventually die, after moving from crises to crises.  The Kings Arena, good as that may be; the traditional State Fair, though it may also be good; and, a new mixed-use neighborhood of houses and shopping malls, have nothing  whatsoever to do with global economies.  Privately developing the Cal Expo site, regardless of the short term cash it might bring, has about as much to do with global investments as a New Kings arena has to do with Los Angeles or Eureka (also members of the ‘California Community’   which Cal Expo and its land was supposed to serve).  We can appreciate building an arena. We can support a traditional Fair. What we cannot accept is destroying the one unique site in Sacramento, at a unique moment in history,  that does have significant global reach and potential under a CEAV-like concept.  That is what using that land for ‘Kamilos First’ third stool-leg would mean. Exactly what it would mean.

This last lesson is perhaps the hardest for those in the ‘cheering-section’ to understand. They’ve not only been sold a bill of goods by those with vested interests, but they’ve had their ‘impatience quotient’ driven to a fever pitch.  They’ve been so stoked with talking points from those who keep telling them, “But it Now! The Sale Ends Tommorow”  till they have no resistance left.  They can only respond with some knee-jerk slogan such as  “Lets get this show on the road already!”  (which, incidentally, happens to be the slogan of ).  That may be ok for buying toothpaste or a pair of shoes or, if you’re inclined to be a little foolish, a car.  But it is definitely not appropriate when you are contemplating buying into something that will change the shape of your region forever and cost a bundle to boot.  It is especially not appropriate if someone happens to come along and say wait, “you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater,”  that you may be making a mistake that could impact generations to come.  It’s ok to be a little selfish on little things.  But taking the food off the tables of our great-great grandchildren, might be time to stop and say, let’s think about this. Sure, it may delay something you think you need right away.  But maybe its something that doesn’t belong to you anyway, and maybe there are times when you do need to think about your children’s needs, down through the generations.  Maybe we have to accept that once in awhile  we must do things for their sake that we won’t even live to see. We’ve already made certain that we’ve created a mess of a planet that future generations will have to spend a lot of time and money cleaning up.  Perhaps its time we thought about leaving them something that might actually help undo that damage?

So, we say to those flag-wavers and  ‘Arena First’  cheer-leaders, “Maybe it’s time you thought things through a little?”  You can get an arena. You might even get a revitalized Cal Expo.  But if you drive your basketball court over the potentials of the Cal Expo site,  you may just lose something you will never replace and drive the town you claim to support into some backwater status – a real cow town – for the rest of the future.

For those of you who ‘get it’ or at least have opened your minds enough to give the matter more serious consideration:  CONGRATULATIONS! You have graduated from CEAV kindergarten.

So what can you do, provided you’ve graduated from this class?  To begin, perhaps you and your cheer-leading friends can call or write the governor and the Legislature and insist that the entire Cal Expo Board (save a couple of exceptions) resign or be fired.  None of them have graduated, and they’ve been in kindergarten for a whole year.  That would be a good first step. Then get in touch with us, we need all the help we can get.  You may also wish to offer improvements to this or  any of our posts/pages on our blog or on our website. It is one of the outstanding differences between Cal Expo and our project  that CEAV is a place where we invite  your participation, in everything we do.

red slider, steward


One response to “Imagine – With respects to John Lennon

  1. Pingback: ‘Kamilos First’ fans – Cal Expo arena land-swap cheerleaders: « Stopcalexpo Blog

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