I have been following the debate over the closing of the ice rink at Bridgepointe Shopping Center in San Mateo with special interest. The reconfiguration of Fashion Island into Bridgepointe happened on my watch on the City Council. The original Big Tent Fashion Island which included department stores was a failure and, when closed, became an eyesore similar to the empty lots in downtown once occupied by Levy Brothers (now Draeger’s) and an historic Catholic church (now Walgreens). The city was pleased when Peter Pau bought Fashion Island and turned it into the big box retail it is today with stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. He also changed the parking which at Fashion Island circled the stores. The new parking system and the new stores were most welcome.
The entire area was planned for retail and office. But Pau urged the council to change the designation to allow some housing instead of office space. This was a time when commercial real estate was not doing well, but it was not the best place for housing. Bridgepointe was far away from major public transportation and schools. However, the council made the change. Ironically, not long after, several major companies already located at Bridgepointe could not expand. Franklin Templeton moved to Bay Meadows and Electronic Arts moved south. Now another major mistake could be in the making.
The agreement with Pau also provided for the ice rink. This was never a favorite of the developer and the council had to lobby very hard to get it. Now it is sad to hear that the rink is closed because more retail would mean more money for the developer and the city. Ice skaters and their families and friends have been writing letters to the editor and attending meetings in the hopes of reopening the rink. And perhaps their efforts will not be in vain. According to the amended master plan, if the rink was closed there had to be an alternative recreational use of similar size and subject to review by the Planning Commission. But earlier attempts to close the rink and replace it with something else failed. When the rink’s lease expired last year, it was not renewed and the place shut down.
Several ideas have been floated for a compromise, but to date, the shopping center owners have held firm, insisting Bridgepointe would be in trouble and not competitive with Hillsdale Shopping Center if it did not expand. They forget to mention that their worst nightmare is over. The expected new Target at Hillsdale Shopping Center is not to be. That means Bridgepointe hosts the only Target store in San Mateo.
Thanks to the San Mateo Library Foundation’s successful gala and fundraising drive, the San Mateo library will remain open on Sundays and also open an hour earlier — 10 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. during the week. That will be a boon for those who have been lined up outside the library in late mornings. The new hours take place starting Monday, July 7. As for the branch libraries, Hillsdale is now open at 1 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. on Tuesday; the same for Marina on Monday. Both now open on Saturday at 10 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.
Coastal pride: No longer is Stanford University known as the Harvard of the West. It seems the private university located in Palo Alto has outdone its East Coast rivals by being the most sought after four-year institution of higher learning with many of the best and the brightest making it their first choice.
Stanford is also tops in offering the most up-to-date computer science and engineering courses, and in raising the most money from its alums. Now, poor Harvard, is being called the Stanford of the East. We always knew Stanford had a better football team than the academically-minded Ivies. But now it’s rivaling its eastern cohorts in academics as well. As for the old alums who complain the school has gotten too big for its britches, who cares when you’re Number One!
Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.