Environmental impact of Bay Meadows Project This paper provides views and opinions on the environmental impact of the Bay Meadows Project, which has been much debated over the last few years. The Bay Meadows Land Co. has offered to run down the racetrack and replace it with over two million square feet of offices, fifteen hundred housing units, and one hundred thousand square feet of retail space. It would be the biggest single development in recent San Mateo history, but it would be constructed over 10 to 20 years. The Bay Meadows project is division of a larger city proposal for rebuilding a six hundred and seven-acre transportation corridor that runs along the Caltrain line and is bordered by Highway 101, El Camino Real, 16th Avenue as well as the Belmont border. It could bring more than four thousand homes, almost four million square feet of offices and more than seven hundred thousand square feet of new retail space, even though experts state that those numbers are likely to be changed in the future. The Bay Meadows project proposes to rebuild the old race track on Delaware Street situated close to Hillsdale Boulevard into twelve hundred residential units, more than a million square feet of office space and one hundred and fifty thousand square feet of retail space. The plan also makes proposals of fifteen acres of open space, covering a twelve-acre park and two smaller-sized parks. Although the report composed and presented by EDAW Inc. of San Francisco, turned down architectural and historical concerns, it did state that the project will aggravate traffic problems at key intersections near the racetrack, hence it will worsen the environmental effect on the quality of air and noise in the region.

To begin with, the early signs of the discussion were offered when on July 12, The Washington Times presented an article by Thomas Sowell, an economist teaching at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, titled, "'Saving crusade' with a track record." In this article Mr. Sowell accused the "Save Bay Meadows" team and its representative located in San Mateo of exerting an insignificant effort to save the Bay Meadows racetrack. The people of California and of the whole America were given various sides of the story, which remains unresolved (due to large number of opinions and arguments for and against the project) to this day. Just to illustrate how perplexed and debatable the Meadows Project is, one should consider the following facts that come up in the research of the project. Mr. Sowell is strongly persuaded that if a small group of people get the money, they have a right to build or destroy whatever they think appropriate, over any the objections of citizens or elected officials. This person thinks that it doesn't matter what a community might need or desire, the rights of the builders are not to be interfered with. However, other may argue that this is capitalism lacking social responsibility. As a person belonging to a certain community, the spokesperson for Save Bay Meadows should have the right to state concerns about traffic problems and strained city resources that gigantic developments inevitably bring, the historical significance of Bay Meadows, and its ongoing financial value without being a horseracing fan.

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Mr. Sowell states that re-building Bay Meadows into offices and apartments will aid in bringing down housing costs. However, other experts argue that it should be kept in mind that "comfortable apartments" make up a small portion of the finished practice track and the proposed main track project, most of which is devoted to office and retail space. Still other Experts argue that running down Bay Meadows after 70 years of pure-bred racing isn't a significant cultural loss -- at least according to an environmental report prepared for a plan to substitute the track with offices, buildings and shops. The environmental impact research, presented for public hearing March 23 2004, stated the vivid peach art-deco style grandstand and buildings around the famous racing loop can’t be titled as architectural landmarks or historical resources. Nevertheless those wishing to preserve the history argue that the real point lies in a different matter. These people present a debate that presents a view that Bay Meadows is a part of the California’s history. Many individuals classify Bay Meadows as an unalienable part of San Mateo. They argue that by replacing it with just another boring housing development, they won't have any history left standing. The environmental report offered preservationists a chance to take pictures of the Bay Meadows Race Course -- the oldest repeatedly operating racetrack in California -- before it's run down, take away key fixtures and place them in the San Mateo County History Museum.

Even though many people believe that Bay Meadows should be preserved, the environmental research found that the track can’ go on the listing of the national register, in part because ‘so few of the unique 1930s facilities remain that the overall property can no longer be seen eligible. For instance, the initial art-deco grandstand, for example, was redeveloped several times. At the same time, questions over water and energy supplies as well as uncertainties over small businesses present serious environmental problems that have to be resolved in the nearest future. The Environment Impact report (EIR), among other various reports, sustained the traffic decrease theory. A traffic advisor at a January 2005 meeting concluded that both rebuilding projects had little traffic impact on neighborhood streets. However, many Hayward Park residents found that almost impossible to believe, even though they agreed with the transit corridor's goals. An extensive environmental impact report was commissioned by the city of San Mateo to deal with the proposal’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood. In a traffic research presented as part of the report, advisors found the new development would considerably impact the intersection of El Camino Real at Ralston Avenue. Previously rated as “D” by the San Mateo County Congestion Management Program, the junction will be downgraded to an “F” when Bay Meadows is constructed.

Traffic is projected to be delayed about ninety five seconds during morning and evening travel hours by the time year 2020 comes. The addendum of the Bay Meadows rebuilding would increase the delay to 101 seconds, well beyond the benchmark delay of 45 seconds, according to the environmental report. The Bay Meadows project would have a significant contribution to this “unacceptable condition,” the report states. The report doesn’t research the smaller streets. With the junction at El Camino Real and Ralston Avenue previously at capacity, cars will begin using swap routes like Old County Road and smaller streets in the Sterling Down area. No official research has been done to determine exactly how many more cars will be driving on the smaller streets. To avoid its own projected traffic problems, San Mateo is reorganizing streets, building new ones and adding features to promote mass transit. However, it is still not clear whether all of the potential problems that the project brings are justified.

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