Caltrain delays could hinder Bay Meadows development

Officials say new delays associated with the relocation of the Hillsdale Caltrain station and the creation of two rail overpasses for the Bay Meadows Phase II project won’t harm racetrack redevelopment plans — but any further train-related delays could cause significant problems.

In a Planning Commission meeting devoted to Phase II design guidelines Tuesday, Public Works Director Larry Patterson said the San Mateo County Transit District is now predicting that relocation and rail overpass — or “grade separation” — work may not get under way until 2011 or 2012, four years later than previously thought.

Relocating the train station will tie it to a planned shopping district, while the grade separations will connect the newly extended 28th and 31st avenues to streets on the west side of the rail line, according to developer Chris Meany.

Transit District officials say the Bay Meadows-related projects — and the 2011 date — are not set in stone.

“There is a long-term goal [to do the work], but there is no date for that work to begin,” Transit District spokesman Jonah Weinberg said. “Right now, completing the San Bruno grade separation is more vital, and all the other projects, at this point, are niceties.”

But the separations are more than niceties for Bay Meadows, according to Meany. If they are never built, developerswould not be allowed to complete more than 75 percent of the Bay Meadows redevelopment due to traffic-related limitations imposed by the city.

The San Mateo City Council voted unanimously last November to redevelop the 83.5-acre racetrack site, adding streets, 1,250 new homes, 1.2 million square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of retail and 15 acres of park space.

Delaying the grade separations until 2011 will not hamper the redevelopment, but could influence what developers build first.

“The part of the project most tied to the grade separations is the retail,” Meany said. “I’d love to create that first, but if they don’t happen until 2011, then I might say, ‘Let’s have the first phase be all about the parks.’”

While he’d love to bring the Hillsdale station farther north, as planned, it is already on Bay Meadows land, which is good enough for Meany.

“Right now … you get on or off in the empty parking lot of the racetrack,” he said. “That’s not ‘maybe’ or ‘if’; that’s the reality of what you get today.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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