Friends of Bay Meadows comes out in favor of track closure

Despite having fought for years to keep Bay Meadows open, one San Mateo citizens group has come out in favor of the decision that forces the track to close earlier than expected.

Linda Schinkel and the Friends of Bay Meadows released a statement on Sunday supporting the California Horse Racing Board and Chairman Richard Shapiro’s decision not to grant Bay Meadows a waiver to continue racing in 2008. The announcement comes as the board is set to discuss the track’s future at today’s board meeting in Sacramento.

Schinkel said that although her group wants to keep racing going at the track, the racing should meet safety standards. She added that blame for the closure falls solely with the Bay Meadows Land Co. and its refusal to install the required synthetic surface track.

“As hard as we are fighting to keep Bay Meadows in one piece, we are certainly fighting for the Bay Meadows legacy as a responsible commitment to the community and the horses,” Schinkel said.

Bay Meadows President Jack Liebau and Bay Meadows Land Co. spokesman Adam Alberti have said repeatedly that they have no intention of installing the synthetic surface for the track’s final season.

By the end of 2008, the land company hopes to begin construction on the first parts of what will become 1.25 million square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of retail space and 1,250 residential units on 83 acres.

Schinkel said her group hopes the owners of the track and the horse racing board will find a compromise, possibly connected to the suggestion made at the March 22 board meeting that if Bay Meadows would stay open for racing for two more seasons, a waiver would be granted.

Bay Meadows representatives have spoken only of the 2008 racing season, because anything beyond that could encroach on redevelopment plans.

“It’s not that I don’t want to commit for two years, it’s that I can’t,” Liebau said. “We’ve said that the property is going to ultimately be developed and there are people who have invested money on that.”

jgoldman@examiner.com

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