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Bay Meadows

By Aaron Kinney
Thursday, February 7th, 2008 at 2:09 pm in Aaron Kinney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bay Meadows, San Mateo.

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So Bay Meadows began what is probably, almost certainly, most definitely going to be it’s last full season of racing on Wednesday. (In the photo above, shot by Times photographer Mathew Sumner, Oakland resident Bill Jones, 86, makes his picks Wednesday afternoon.)

Track officials have declined to completely rule out the possibility of racing continuining into 2009, but demolition of the track is presently scheduled to begin sometime this fall.

So, anyway, we thought this would be a good time to post the rather lengthy item from Saturday’s print Insider column on Bay Meadows’ involvement in the fight over Props 94-97 and the Indian gaming compacts for those who didn’t see Saturday’s paper.

Here it is, with just a couple small edits to update the chronology:

The battle over four Indian gaming compacts got a bit nastier last week, when a union supporting the agreements filed a complaint with the state attorney general against the owner of Bay Meadows race track.

In a letter dated Jan. 29, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association urged the attorney general to investigate whether Terry Fancher, whose real estate fund owns both Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park in Inglewood, made false statements to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which has invested $177 million in the fund.

The letter claims that Fancher may have made false statements to CalPERS officials when he persuaded the state employees’ pension fund to invest $100 million in the redevelopment of Hollywood Park.

Through Bay Meadows Land Co., a subsidiary of Stockbridge Real Estate Fund, Fancher spent more than $7 million to defeat the tribal compacts, which appear on Tuesday’s ballot as Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97.

Adam Alberti, a spokesman for Bay Meadows Land Co., questioned the timing of the letter. He called it a dirty trick designed to influence the outcome of the vote on the tightly contested tribal compacts.

“These claims are unfounded and completely false,” said Alberti, who went on to call the association’s request of the attorney general a transparent act of “bullying” by the four Southern California tribes.

The compacts, which were negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and ratified by the Legislature, would grant the tribes 17,000 new slot machines. Fancher opposes the compacts because they would further damage the state’s thoroughbred horseracing industry, which already is suffering economically.

The law enforcement association has 7,000 members who pay into the state employees’ pension fund. The Insider was provided with a copy of the letter by the Coalition to Protect California’s Budget and Economy, the four tribes’ campaign committee.

The basic thrust of the association’s claim is that CalPERS invested more than a $100 million with Fancher for the project to redevelop Hollywood Park. So why, the association asks, is Fancher spending millions to overturn the tribal compacts in an apparent bid to save Hollywood Park for racing?

CalPers spokesman Clark McKinley declined to comment on the letter, other than to say, “We’re looking into this matter.”

McKinley confirmed that CalPERS’ investment was for “the redevelopment to transition the property from a race track to mixed use.”

A spokesman for the attorney general did not respond to the Insider’s request for comment in time for this article.

Alan Wayne Barcelona, president of the law enforcement association, denied that his letter has anything to do with the election.

Barcelona said the association’s attorneys looked into CalPERS’ investment in Hollywood Park and raised some concerns. He said he felt obligated to pass them along to the attorney general on behalf of the association, which includes criminal investigators, food and drug investigators and other state workers.

“I’ve got a duty to at least ask some questions to make sure their pensions are safe,” Barcelona said.

According to a Field Poll released Jan. 24, California voters favored the compacts by a slight margin. Under the agreements, the tribes would increase their annual payments to the state to anywhere from $150 to $400 million, depending upon whom you ask.

The tribes spent roughly $80 million in support of the compacts, while their opposition spent about $30 million. Bay Meadows Land Co. spent nearly $3.3 million in recent weeks on a final campaign push.

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