During the meeting, a proposal to consolidate the track’s simulcast wagering area into one area of the grandstand was withdrawn in the interest of moving the project forward.
In 2004, Magna Entertainment Corporation, which owns Santa Anita, and Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso announced an agreement that would allow Caruso Affiliated to build "The Shops at Santa Anita," an entertainment and shopping complex in the track’s southern parking lot in front of the grandstand. The company had already built "The Grove," a popular open-air mall in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles.
“We’re 100% in support of the Caruso project,” said George Haines, vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Turf Club. “It’s a world-class project that will be spectacular and very positive for the city of Arcadia and Santa Anita.”
Haines explained that the simulcast center consolidation appeared to cause some confusion at the meeting, which is why it was withdrawn. However, he added that the council’s approval of "The Shops at Santa Anita" does not preclude the track from pursuing those plans in the future.
"The Shops at Santa Anita" project has met with resistance from some Arcadia residents as well as Westfield Santa Anita, a more traditional mall adjacent to the racetrack. Opponents formed “Arcadia First!” and took out ads in newspapers, posted fliers in local businesses, and urged people to attend the city council meeting.
Last November in a local election, Measure P, which narrowly passed (51.03% to 48.97%) appeared targeted at Caruso’s plan. It amends the municipal code to require “large retail developments” to provide free parking. The Westfield mall provides free parking, while The Grove’s large parking structure requires a fee but has validation available.
A spokesman for Arcadia First! told the Associated Press after the city council meeting that the group’s executive committee would be meeting soon to discuss options. That could include gathering 4,000 signatures for a referendum that could go on the Arcadia ballot this fall.
Caruso met similar opposition when he proposed a shopping facility adjacent to an existing mall in Glendale, a city about 15 miles west of Santa Anita. However, that project is currently under construction after city voters approved it in a referendum and is scheduled to open in 2008. Caruso Affiliated announced after the Arcadia city council meeting that construction on "The Shops at Santa Anita" could begin as soon as construction permits are issued. The mall could open in 2009.