Two Arcadia city council members met with Santa Anita racetrack owner Frank Stronach this past week and shared their concerns about his expansion plans. Although only some specifics about the plan were discussed, Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic and Councilman Mickey Segal said the meeting couldn't have gone any better.
"Our discussions focused on general issues, not on whether his plan was right or wrong," Segal said. "It was a great meeting and extremely positive."
Stronach envisions a multi-million dollar entertainment/retail complex surrounding Santa Anita. A plan released in September proposes a hotel, a 450-seat movie theater and shops. Stronach also wants to improve some of the track's facilities such as building jockey-stable hand dormitories, a satellite wagering center and an equestrian area.
Over the past several months, Stronach has received criticism from the city of Arcadia and residents about the plan. The city returned the plan back to Stronach, noting the proposal wasn't complete.
Conservationists also want Stronach to preserve the track's architecture and its facade. Residents also have voiced their concerns about possibly putting the stables on the north side of the track that sits next to a neighborhood. They are worried about noise and other problems.
"He was very receptive to our concerns," Kovacic said. "He's learning more about us and we are learning more about him."
Stronach will likely resubmit the plan sometime in the next couple of months, Segal said. Stronach said on Opening Day at Santa Anita, he would like to receive approval from the City Council within a couple of months after updating the plan. But given the state's stringent environmental guidelines and the usual lengthy approval process, the plan may not get fast-tracked like Stronach hopes.
"He's got to go through public hearings, the planning commission and the council," Segal said. "It's not likely he's going to break ground in six months."
Though any approval may be down the road, the council members like Stronach's ideas.
"We understand his need to upgrade the facility," Kovacic said. "The council wants to preserve live horse racing and the quality of life here. The track and the community have co-existed in the past and hope they can do so in the future."