It has been more than six months since the storied Bay Meadows race track was demolished in San Mateo to make room for new development including housing, retail, offices and parks. The developers of the project have until 2012 to pull a building permit with the city or face $300,000 in annual fees with the city.
In the meantime, a large pile of scrap rests where the former landmark once stood because the market for recycling the material tanked along with the global financial meltdown. The project itself is also on hold.
The city is in a precarious position since it did not foresee that the Bay Meadows Land Company would fall on such hard times that it would need to wait for the recycling market to return to a level to make removal of the debris cost-effective. The downturn took us all by surprise and many in government at every level should have had the foresight to ensure it would not affect us so greatly.
But that’s hindsight.
Regardless of how one felt about the Bay Meadows race track — the desire to save it as a community icon and resource or the desire to see it developed into much-needed housing and a base for new revenue — the site as it stands now is a black eye on the city.
Waiting for the recycling market to return to a higher level so more money can be made from the refuse is disrespectful to the residents of the city and the government that represents them. True, the development should prove to be a symbiotic one with new homes and revenue for both the city and the developer, but there should be increased effort to remove the debris as soon as possible. Imagine if an average homeowner left refuse in their front yard or another developer failed to clean up their demolition debris? Would the city and its residents allow it?
There may not be language in the development agreement to ensure the quick removal of the debris, but there should be a sense of civic responsibility on the part of the developer. There will be much money to be made with the project, should we be victims of the developer’s keen focus on the bottom line?
If the Bay Meadows Land Company is silent on its intentions for the debris and the city is less than strident in its need to remove it quickly, then what message does that send to us? How can we trust that the development will also proceed as planned and with the proper amenities and construction details that will make it a positive addition to the city? And how can we trust that the city has both our best interests in mind or the will and fortitude to force the developer to do the right thing? Right now, the only evidence we have is debris and the hollow sound of silence.