Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Attendees at Thursday night’s community meeting spoke in support of preserving the old ice rink at Bridgepointe Shopping Center in San Mateo.
Supporters of San Mateo’s former Ice Center gathered at a community meeting Thursday night in vehement anger because they claim that Bridgepointe Shopping Center owners failed to maintain their promise to preserve recreational use on the property.
Bridgepointe’s owner SPI Holdings submitted a pre-application to the city’s Planning Department last month requesting an amendment to the site’s master plan to allow it to build over the rink and construct retail space in its place.
San Mateo resident Dina Artzt said she’s passionately fought to keep the rink she took her son to for nearly 20 years before it closed last year. At least 500 people came to the meeting in uniform support of preserving what SPI had promised it would maintain when it purchased the property, Artzt said.
“Many lives have been negatively impacted as a result of the rink’s closure. We’re going to continue to demand the City Council represent the people and honor the intentions of the original master plan which clearly specified the rink was the recreational benefit that allowed Bridgepointe to be built,” Artzt said.
Peter Meier represented SPI at the meeting to discuss the pre-application and answer questions.
SPI had withdrawn its first pre-application to modify the zoning code in April 2013 because it thought things had become complicated and decided it wasn’t in a position to suggest what an alternate recreational amenity would be, Meier said.
This second pre-application is different in that it gives the city more authority to decide what would be a suitable substitute, Tricia Schimpp, planner for the city said previously.
But attendees questioned if SPI had just assumed supporters would have dispersed a year later and don’t think anything other than an ice rink would be a fair trade.
With the closure of Redwood City’s Malibu Grand Prix Family Entertainment Center last year, parents and kids clung tight to the possibility of the rink’s return.
“You don’t take recreational facilities from the children in our community. We don’t have enough; we have enough development already,” resident Christine Stiles said.
Yet the city cannot force SPI to reopen the rink, it can only prohibit it from building over it without first providing an alternative recreational use the City Council approves. If SPI isn’t granted a zoning amendment, it could opt to just keep the lot vacant.
In order to evolve and compete with the neighboring Stanford and Hillsdale shopping centers, SPI determined the space would be better served as retail, Meier said.
Some teens cited the ease with which they could shop online while parents reminded SPI there is no better attraction for out-of-towners as there’s a shortage of places to skate, not a shortage of malls.
Susan DeLance lives in San Jose and said the only reason she ever shopped at Bridgepointe was because she took her son there to skate.
“If you want to limit your sales to the local area, that’s fine. There’s nothing else in the area to draw people to Bridgepointe,” DeLance said.
Meier reminded the public the city would be receiving annual tax revenue and a monetary amount to be contributed toward a recreational use that would be determined at a later date. Regardless, it’s private, not public, property and SPI doesn’t plan on reopening the ice rink, Meier said. It will, however, work with the city and try to find a solution, Meier said.
Nearly all of Thursday night’s attendees argued for the preservation of the ice rink and for Richard Beames, it was about SPI following through with its commitment.
“You see all the kids in the room here? I’m trying to think [of] what I have to tell my kids, because the buyers of this property made a promise to the city, to the people of this city,” Beames said. “But I think the lesson I’m having to tell my kids is ‘if you make enough money son, you can break your promises.’ And I don’t think that’s a lesson you should have to tell your kids.”
The San Mateo Planning Commission will hold a study session to discuss the Bridgpointe pre-application to amend the Master Plan 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 27 at City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., San Mateo. For more information visit www.cityofsanmateo.org.
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