Castaways to be torn down, future of park site unknown

Plans to renovate the long-vacant Castaways Restaurant at Coyote Point have been jettisoned by the restaurant's owner, after the county refused to extend the lease beyond 2014, officials said Monday.

As early as January, Castaways owner Specialty Restaurant Corp. had submitted plans to renovate the facility at a cost of more than $2 million. But in order to recover its costs, Specialty wanted at least a 20-year lease extension on the land, something the county was not interested in, Vince Kikugawa, CEO of Specialty Restaurant Corp., said.

“Without an extension, it wouldn't be a very smart business investment,” Kikugawa said. Now, instead of negotiating over how much parking would be needed and how to meet state disabled access requirements, Specialty is working out a way to get out of its lease and return the property to the county in the upcoming weeks, Kikugawa said.

Supervisor Jerry Hill, who represents San Mateo, said a private restaurant is no longer the best use for public parkland. “A restaurant doesn't fit in the plan for Coyote Point in the long-term,” Hill said.

Instead, the 30-year lease will end and the restaurant will be bulldozed. Exactly what will be built on the site of the 11,500-square-foot restaurant with a 330-seat capacity isn't known. County officials have remained tight-lipped about potential new developments, as the Parks and Recreation department hammers out an updated master plan for the 150-acre Coyote Point Recreation Area, to be presented to the public at the end of August. A new 50,000-square-foot performing arts center or a reincarnated Coyote Point Museum — which recently reported financial troubles and plans to close — are two possibilities, Parks and Recreation Director Dave Holland said.

After initially closing to add a second story in 1997, Castaways was vandalized and set on fire. Since then, the owner, the county and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission have gone back and forth over how to ensure public access to the bayside trail that runs adjacent to the eatery, to bring disabled access up to current requirements and to create sufficient parking, Castaways architect Phil Bennett said.

A performing arts center or expanded use for the Coyote Point Museum would be more in keeping with a park's purpose, Hill said. He would also like to see the county shooting range, owned by the Sheriff's Office, moved out of Coyote Point, opening the land for wider public use.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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