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Santa Anita Asks City to Approve Evening Events

A public hearing on a request by the Los Angeles Turf Club, operators of Santa Anita Park, to hold nighttime events will be held in Arcadia's City Council Chambers at 7 p.m. Sept. 6.

The, operators of , has submitted a request to the City of Arcadia to approve an expansion of events at the track's parking lots and infield without the need to seek permits each time they book an entertainment as they must now. 

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. in .

In their May 26 letter to Jason Kruckeberg, Arcadia's Assistant City Manager, racetrack officials--citing a decline in attendance during its race meetings--said that they believe they are missing opportunities to bring in other functions other than racing to the property and that the city is losing out on tax revenue that might be generated as a result of increased attendance. 

City staff prepared an analysis of the L A Turf Club request for City Council's review, although they have not issued a decision whether to support the track's request.  The staff report, prepared by Senior Planner, Lisa Flores, of Arcadia's Development Services Department, takes a positive view of additional special events at Santa Anita.

In its report issued July 26, Flores writes that "changes in the horseracing industry have caused attendance to decline."  That declining attendance at the track plus stalled development of parking areas, such as Caruso Affiliates "Shops at Santa Anita" project has left a gaping and unproductive hole in the community's famous attraction.

The Track is asking to use the parking lots, and, to a lesser degree, the paddock and the infield for special presentations.  In his letter, Pete Siberell, Director of Community Services and Special Projects for the L A Turf Club, says, "While we are able to book numerous events inside the building during off-hours and the off-season, we are missing opportunities to bring in other functions which would have little to no impact on the local community.  In fact, many of the proposed uses would benefit Arcadia's citizens.  Expanded uses of the grounds will result in additional tax revenue for the City."

Among the uses being requested by the track are fixed-run circuses; materials storage during large building projects; Christmas tree and pumpkin sales; ride and drive-car testing and demonstrations; safety and defensive driving schools; specialty auto shows and sales; recreation vehicle shows and sales; farmers' markets; antique shows; cultural festivals; specialty food events; city police and fire exercises and drills; planned helicopter landings; cultural events; and seasonal concerts conducted by local orchestras or symphonies.

"With no developments planned in our lots in the immediate future, we would like to book these various events without going through individual special event permits each time," Siberell writes.  "And, as we have shown with similar events, we will continue to be responsible property holders and ensure little to no impact on the local community."    

Siberell assures the city in his letter that any special events held on track property would be placed to minimize impact on either the horse population or local Arcadia residents.  He says most events would take place on the Southwest Lot, accessible through Gates 1, 3 and 8.

The current municipal code requires a separate permit be applied-for and issued by the City to hold any temporary activity outside of racing.  The code also limits events by non-profit organizations.  Both code requirements would be removed under the staff proposal.  A review of the Staff Report shows changes to the zoning requirements of S-1 Special Use Zone would allow car testing demonstrations; broaden athletic events from baseball, football and track meets to allow any sport or athletic events during the daytime; allow Christmas tree and pumpkin sales, but disallow use of the northerly parking lot that enters off of Colorado Place; authorize food and beverage events, but, again, not at the northerly parking lot; and allow storage of construction offices and equipment, materials storage and vehicle parking for nearby large construction projects such as those being conducted at Methodist Hospital of Southern California or in conjunction with the building of Gold Line rail system which is now underway.

The Turf Club would still be required to apply for certain activities.  Events held after 10 p.m., or an event that might last five days or more, or is expected to attract more than 5,000 people would still require an issuance of a permit for the event and specifically approved by the City Council. 

Events outside these restrictions can be approved by the Development Services Director under the proposal taking into account issues such as buffer zones, outdoor lighting, traffic control, noise, vibration, and odors.  The city can also regulate the number, height and size of structures, equipment or signs, limit hours or days of  proposed uses, and limit (but not regulate) number and type of vendor and food sales.  Amendments to the code would call for the city to review activities before allowing special events to ascertain adverse impacts on adjacent properties.  Events calling for City Council approval would need notification to property owners within 1,000 feet of the exterior boundaries of the property and a public hearing to be approved.

According to an article appearing in the Los Angles Times in 1994, Santa Anita proposed presenting music festivals in a large domed facility to be built on track property.  The track was planning that year to offer a Latino music and cultural event on Labor Day weekend on the track's infield.  At that time, the article noted, track officials were contemplating a domed music center to present music festival attractions and make it a sort of Hollywood Bowl-East.  Those plans were abandoned.  The issue took on a rancorous debate as some residents living near the track were concerned about noise, traffic and crowds. Property owners concerns stopped the project and led to the current Special Use Zone code.

Once again the track is asking for an amendment to the city's municipal code to remove the prohibition of performance attractions between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. and the use of the northerly parking lot on a limited basis.

Probably the most controversial aspect of special events to nearby residential neighborhoods would be noise.  In its Environmental Analysis prepared for the Shops at Santa Anita development EIR, the city said that it had identified Santa Anita Park as the largest single source of commercial noise in the City. 

The report cites traffic noise, loudspeaker noise from the track announcer and maintenance equipment associated with the operation of the racetrack, as affecting the College tract north of the Santa Anita property.

In at least one current case it would seem necessary to change the city's code to allow the to perform five summer concerts in the infield as now proposed.  The code would need to be changed to accommodate amplified sound, parking, nighttime lighting and other items   

Cal Phil, as it is known, lost a bid to continue using the for its outdoor picnic concert series of popular and classical music. 

The orchestra announced earlier this year that it was "partnering" with Santa Anita to continue their series of approximately five Saturday night concerts.  was named by the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation, co-operators with the County to provide summer musical entertainment beginning next year at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

Copies of the racetrack's request and Staff Report is available from Arcadia's Planning Department, (626) 574-5445.

Anita September 07, 2011 at 06:35 AM
I would be against Latino music, as it is not conducive to the prestige and flavor of the community.
Patrick Lee September 08, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Anita: Sorry to hear that's your opinion, but I'm sure there are others who disagree. Personally, I think there's a rich tradition of Latino music that would add a lot of color, prestige and flavor to the community. What do others think?

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