Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Time to Place your Last Bets

The San Mateo council has approved the redevelopment of the Bay Meadows site into a mixed-used, transit oriented, somewhat-dense urban area.

This is generally a good thing. And I am pretty darn certain that the groups in opposition to this project have nearly zero interest in horse-racing, and consist of the usual assortment of selfish NIMBY's cranks.

As for me, I have actually been to the races once. It was fun (I won $100 on a $5 bet, by total luck, I can assure you), and I'm going to make sure to get out there with my family one more time before it closes. And it looks like we're going to have to do it pretty soon, because apparently things are shutting down for good in just a couple of weeks.

What's sad is that this doesn't really have to be an either-or situation. If you look at a Google maps satellite view of the Bay Meadows site,

you see that half of the property is actually taken up by parking. Suppose we just start assuming that everyone who wants to bet on horses gets there by train--we could keep the racetrack, and still open up several acres for development. Suppose also we threw in the San Mateo County "fairgrounds", the parcel to the NW of Bay Meadows--currently just a couple of big convention-hall buildings with their own sea of parking. The convention hall function could remain, but the halls could be built with housing or businesses above, or like the Mascone Center, there could be a park on top.

When we talk about the cars, the main evils we think of are pollution and traffic, but there are other downsides to car-dependence--the perceived need for parking is a kind of tax--it at least doubles the amount of land that a business or institution requires, and squeezes some of them out of our region entirely, including ones--like horse racing--that it might be fun to keep around.


Winston said...

A facility like Bay Meadows needs to draw people from a large area which it just can't do using only Caltrain and SamTrans. From where I live (near the Fremont BART station), it's a 30 min drive to Bay Meadows or it's a 2 hour trip using public transit. If there were no parking at Bay Meadows the folks in the East Bay would find it easier and quicker to drive to Cal Expo than to take transit to Bay Meadows. It is also a quicker transit trip from most of the bay area to Golden Gate Field. Because of this, I don't think the Bay Meadows would be viable without its parking, so it really is an either/or choice.

295bus said...

I agree that CalTrain as it exists wouldn't really cut it except for people living on the peninsula.

First of all, it just takes a lot of work to plan a trip around CalTrain's schedule, and that doesn't really appeal to (most) people when they're going out for fun.

Being able to count on a train coming along every 15 mins or so, like you can with BART, would be more like it.

Second, yeah, we need better connections--like the downtown extension and Dumbarton rail.

Put all these ideas together, and imagine a world where you could go to Centerville Depot, count on a train coming along any time of day, and be at Hillsdale/Bay Meadows in probably a bit more than 30 mins, but maybe 45.

We certainly won't have all this any time soon enough to save the racetrack, but it's something to shoot for. And maybe transit will start seem like a more reasonable way to get to a lot of things that you wouldn't dream of going to without a car today.

Peter said...

i'm glad the horse track is going away - they all need to. it's a brutal sport.

outside of that, i used to lose cruising by there b/c you'd get a shot of the lush greenery. i hope the NIMBYs manage to get a nice, big park in there.

i also used to see the workers of the track doing the pickup-soccer thing just on the inside of the track. very cool scene.

Susan said...

Maybe for mother's day! We should head up there this weekend.