City Planners Balk at Bay Meadows Study

The San Mateo Planning Commission this week refused to endorse a major study on the impact of development plans for Bay Meadows.

The 3-2 vote, which came at about 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 24 following a six-and-a-half hour hearing, does not appear to have any practical effect on the future of the 83.5-acre parcel that is owned by the Bay Meadows Land Company. The environmental impact report goes to the City Council in any event, but without the planning commission's certification.

"It was very clear where this was headed from the beginning," Donna Bischoff of Save Bay Meadows told the San Mateo Daily Journal. "We've always been gearing up for the City Council."

If the EIR is approved, Bay Meadows Land can begin the laborious public planning process.

Three commissioners felt the study failed to address the traffic, energy and water issues associated with the overall project, which includes major additions to the city's transit system – the Rail Corridor Plan – as well as the Bay Meadows Specific Plan. That part encompasses 1,250 residential units, 1.25 million square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail.

"We had hoped that the Planning Commission would move it forward given the time, effort and completeness of the study," said Bay Meadows Land spokesman Adam Alberti. "This delay probably won't be significant, considering the time already spent on the project."

During three hours of sometimes emotional testimony during the public hearing that preceded the planning commission's debate, speakers focused on the historical importance of the 71-year-old Bay Meadows on the community.

"It's really heartbreaking to think that the city would want to tear down Bay Meadows for more concrete, steel, traffic, pollution, and the elimination of open space," said horse owner Harry Aleo, who said he's been going to Bay Meadows for 40 years.

"Why you'd want to do that is beyond comprehension. ... Please save Bay Meadows for future generations."