Bay Meadows nears finish line

Bay Meadows may be starting down the homestretch.As the faithful gathered Wednesday at the first races at what might be the last meet at the historic Bay Meadows racetrack, some remained hopeful the track may be saved.

On Tuesday, an organization that had been trying to stop the track’s demolition and development of a condo complex announced it had given up fighting the issue in state court.

Linda Schinkel, coordinator of Friends of Bay Meadows, said that after an expensive two-year legal battle, the organization could not afford to appeal a state court’s decision that ended their campaign to put the racetrack’s future to a public vote. Though the legal battle was dropped, Schinkel said the organization has not given up fighting the development. She said they’d still like a new environmental impact report.

In 2005, the group gathered more than 5,500 signatures supporting a referendum on the proposed development by the Bay Meadows Land Co. That would have been enough petitioners to make the ballot, but the Court of Appeals panel upheld an earlier decision to invalidate nearly 100 signatures from the petition, saying they hadn’t been properly initialed.

The racing series that started Wednesday could last until May 11. The only remaining races will be scheduled for the San Mateo County Fair in August. After that, hundreds of condos and offices could take the place of the 74-year-old track where Sea Biscuit raced and the photo-finish was introduced.

Many at Wednesday’s races did not believe they were witnessing part of the track’s last season, noting that there’s been talk about closing the track for 20 years.

“It ain’t going nowhere,” said Daniel Franko, owner and trainer of General Dan, a winning horse at Wednesday’s races.

Bettor Paul Watroba, who’s been coming to Bay Meadows about once a week for years, hoped he was right.

“This track is what makes San Mateo special,” he said. “Do we really need more condos to look at?”

kworth@examiner.com

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