Iconic Cow Palace may be saved from wrecking ball

The historic Cow Palace, which seemed destined for demolition just a few weeks ago, will remain standing.

The aging arena will be left untouched after state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, decided against putting the entire facility up for sale and introduced a compromise measure that would only sell an adjacent 13-acre parking lot to Daly City.

The venue, which has hosted events from Rolling Stones concerts to San Francisco Warriors games, is owned by the state and is in deep financial trouble. Located on Geneva Avenue between San Francisco and Daly City, the arena has lost more than $1 million in the last five years.

Until last year, Daly City officials and the Cow Palace board had been in talks about a plan to convert the entire 67-acre site into a mixed retail and housing center. Negotiations came to a halt, however, after city officials could not agree on a price for the site and enlisted Yee’s help.

On Tuesday, the state Senate’s Agricultural Committee approved, with a 4-1 vote, the new version of Yee’s controversial bill that would open state negotiations for the sale of the parking lot to the city. Yee’s original legislation threatened to declare the entire facility as surplus property and would have paved the way for the land to be sold and the 67-year-old venue to be demolished.

“It was clear that the board was not capable of negotiating an agreement — Sen. Yee provided us with a viable option,” City Manager Patricia Martel said.

Under the new bill, the Department of Food and Agriculture would replace the board as the negotiating party for the sale of the lot.

Not everyone, however, was happy with the decision. Board member Leonard Stefanelli said he was afraid the venue, which is in need of renovations, will not see any of the money from the sale transaction. Money from the sale of the parking lot would go to the state Division of Fairs and Expositions.

Committee Chairman Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who voted against the bill, was also concerned that selling the lot to one bidder is not beneficialto the state.

“Daly City [does not] have to come up with too much because they know they are the only ones who can buy it,” Maldonado said. “What’s best for the state is to sell it to the highest bidder.”

In the next two weeks, the bill will go to the state’s Senate Governmental Organization Committee, of which Yee is a member. It will then proceed to the state Senate floor and the state Assembly before reaching the governor’s office sometime in the summer, according to Yee’s office.


Locals, promoters agree on revision

Bayshore residents and event organizers both said the revised version of state Sen. Leland Yee’s Cow Palace legislation is a step in the right direction for the historic venue.

The arena, which has played host to John F. Kennedy and the Beatles in its 67-year history, was destined to be razed when Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced legislation to sell the property to Daly City. Now, the city will be able to build a supermarket for residents on an adjacent 13-acre parking lot, while event organizers are spared having to look for other venues.

Bayshore resident Phyllis Rizzi said the compromise would solve her problem of driving to San Francisco for groceries.

“I’m very pleased and I speak for most of my neighbors — they just want enough land to have amenities that most neighborhoods have,” she said.

While event organizers always agreed that the neighborhood should be revitalized, they objected to razing the Cow Palace to accomplish that goal.

“A politician putting forth an argument that a place where I run an event served no community function is rude,” said Howard Mauskopf, producer of the Exotic Erotic Ball.

Kevin Patterson, organizer of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, said the revised version of the bill should lease the 13-acre parking lot in an open bid instead of selling it to Daly City.

“When you sell an asset, it’s gone forever,” he said. “When you lease, you can use the income stream to finance repairs and you still have the asset at the end of the process.”

Sasha Vasilyuk

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