Finish line in sight for Bay Meadows

As horse racing at Bay Meadows nears the homestretch, City Council members Monday night approved the plans for what the land will be used for after the storied track is demolished.

The 74-year-old racetrack, where Seabiscuit raced and the photo finish was first used, is slated for demolition in September, after the racing season and the San Mateo County Fair in August.

On the land, the Bay Meadow’s Land Co. will build 750,000 square feet of office space, 93,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space and 392 condos and apartments. Later phases of the development will bring the total number of residential units to 1,250.

The site plan and the environmental impact report for the development was approved 5-0 by the City Council during its meeting Monday night.

“We’re going to have world-class development here that we can all be proud of, even those who are doubters at this time,” Councilmember Jan Epstein said.

The Friends of Bay Meadows, which is opposed to the development, said it will still fight the project.

“I think we will be considering litigation,” said Dana Dean, an attorney for the group.

The road from historical racetrack to new development, however, has not been a smooth one.

Residents have fought the development since it was first proposed years ago. Friends of Bay Meadows collected enough signatures to put the development on the local ballot. However, Bay Meadows Land Co. won a court battle about the validity of some of those signatures, killing the initiative.

Even the planning of the future development has hit some snags.

Bay Meadows Land Co. was asked to start the planning anew for 14 of the development’s building plans after meetings in 2007 with the Planning Commission. Commissioners derided the original plans for looking all the same.

Last month, however, the developer unveiled new plans for the buildings, including five that are intended to create an office campus that could be used to lure a Silicon Valley heavyweight — a company on par with Google, Yahoo or Gap, Senior Planner Darcy Forsell previously said.

At one point in 2007, it even looked as though the demolition of the track could happen early this year because the owner did not want to install a new synthetic track. In July, the California Horse Racing Board gave the track a waiver, allowing it to stay open for one more year without the new track.

kworth@examiner.com

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