Inglewood Clears Way for Hollywood Demolition
by Tracy Gantz
Date Posted: 6/4/2009 11:36:10 AM
Last Updated: 6/5/2009 10:29:01 AM

Hollywood Park racetrack
Photo: Benoit

The Inglewood City Council approved a final environmental impact report and a significant land use revision June 3 that would allow the conversion of the 238-acre Hollywood Park racetrack site to a mixed use development.

As the lengthy series of public hearings pressed late into the evening, it appeared unlikely that the council would approve the entire package of zoning changes and specific plan amendments required to put the project proposed by property owners Hollywood Park Land Co. into motion. A second meeting is scheduled for July 8 to complete the approval process, which includes an operating agreement between the land owner and the city.

During the five-hour meeting, many residents and racetrack supporters spoke against the project, which would mean the destruction of Hollywood Park, an Inglewood institution since 1938. The redevelopment project calls for nearly 3,000 dwelling units, 620,000 square feet of retail development, 75,000 square feet of office and commercial space, a 300-room hotel and 25 acres of open or recreational space.

By separate 4-0-1 votes, with councilwoman Judy Dunlap abstaining in each case, the city council certified a final EIR and approved a general plan amendment to re-designate the Hollywood Park site from "commercial/recreational" and "commercial/residential" to "major mixed use."

Besides testimony both opposing and supporting the project, the standing-room only meeting included an analysis of the EIR as well as questions by council members about specific items to be included in the project.

"Hollywood Park can't race five days a week," said councilman Ralph L. Franklin, in reference to the track's decision to reduce its schedule at the current meet due to a lack of horse inventory. "There is a need for us to make a change."

"The racetrack is dying," agreed Mayor Roosevelt F. Dorn, "because it can't get the slots."

Most Inglewood residents spoke in favor of the project, dubbed "Hollywood Park Tomorrow" by developers Wilson Meany Sullivan, an affiliate of Stockbridge Capital Partners, which owns the Hollywood Park Land Co. A couple of residents who spoke against the development cited the jobs that would be lost.

Trainers John Shirreffs, Jack Van Berg and Kathy Walsh encouraged the council to preserve the racetrack. Shirreffs noted the jobs that would be lost by Inglewood residents who work at the track.

"California is the greatest place to race," Van Berg said. "There's nothing to compare with it. Inglewood lost the Lakers and the Kings. The track is something that draws people to the city."

Walsh said that because of the economic slow-down, a Bay Meadows Land Co. development project approved in San Mateo, Calif., turned historic Bay Meadows Racecourse into a pile of rubble with plans stalled indefinitely.

"I think it would be a shame to drive down Century or Manchester, (two  roads that border Hollywood Park) ands see four or five piles of rubble," she said.

Chris Meany, representing the real estate developer, took issue with comments made by racing proponents.

"Let me acknowledge our friends and associates, in the horse racing business,""Meany said. "I understand they have no where to direct their anger. Let me remind you that horse racing is in decline in California for reasons that have little to do with what we do here tonight. Horse racing is in decline in California because of the rise of Native American gaming facilities in this state."

Meany said Hollywood's owners tried for three years to get legislation that would have allowed slot machines at the track.

"We can no longer run five days a week at Hollywood Park because there are not enough horses," he added.

Jack Shinar contributed to this article.



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