Magna Planning 'Integrated Complex' Next to Golden Gate

Magna Entertainment Corporation is proposing a major integrated commercial and entertainment complex to be built adjacent to Golden Gate Fields, its Albany, Calif., racing and simulcast operation.

MEC has submitted plans -- more of a "generalized concept" than a formal proposal -- to the cities of Albany and Berkeley under zoning measures governing each city's waterfront development, Golden Gate vice president Peter Tunney said. Located on the east side of San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate property falls under dual municipal jurisdiction. The grandstand and parking areas are within Albany, but the stable area is in Berkeley.

Any formal planning application for the Fleming Point development, dubbed "Rancho San Antonio," would be at least three years away, Tunney said.

The proposal is for a 300,000-square-foot commercial development and 300,000-square-foot event center, along with a 100,000-square-foot expansion of the Golden Gate simulcast facility to be built in Albany. In Berkeley, a hotel and restaurant are sought.

Tunney said Measure Q in Berkeley zones the area of the track under its jurisdiction for small hotel and retail development. In Albany, Measure C allows business and recreational development that would be compatible with racing operations.

"So now we have plans on file with both cities that conform with their zoning laws," Tunney said. "It's the first step in the process. There's no time limit on this, no clock ticking."

A referendum before Berkeley voters would make that city's zoning ordinances more restrictive.

"The next thing for us to do is to find out what the community wants, to see if we can build a consensus," he said.

Tunney said there would be community meetings scheduled, as well as meetings with planning officials from the two cities, a regional development board and the state's coastal commission, before a formal plan could be presented.

He said that in spite of the many varied interests, he was optimistic a Magna plan would gain approval from both cities

The initial plans do not make accommodation for a new stabling area in the event the current location is developed.

"Obviously, we'll need to address that when the time comes," Tunney said.

Albany, which received the initial plan on May 13, is the lead agency on environmental review and conformance with both cities' zoning laws.