The Finished Line

Sunset over Hollywood Park.

A recent decision by the Inglewood City Council has paved the way for a real estate development to replace Hollywood Park, one of California’s few remaining thoroughbred racetracks. After the council approved a final environmental impact report and zoning change for the $2 billion, 238-acre project on June 3, preservationists and horsing racing fans have been chomping at the bit to stop it.

The proposed project in the densely populated South Bay region of Los Angeles would create a new neighborhood with 3,000 residential units ranging from market rate single-family residences to multi-level apartment complexes. Commercial, retail and entertainment components are also planned, as well as 25 acres of open space highlighted by an existing lake in the center of the racetrack.

An existing casino would be updated and joined with a new 300-room hotel. Affordable housing is not currently incorporated into the master plan, but according to council member Ralph Franklin, the city will consider using the four acres put aside for civic use to develop housing for low-income residents.

A proposed redevelopment plan for Hollywood Park would replace everything but the tower-topped casino in the background.
Courtesy Wilson Meany Sullivan

Wilson Meany Sullivan is the developer of both Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows, a San Mateo racetrack that was demolished in 2008 to make way for a real estate venture resembling the one proposed in Inglewood. But the 82-acre development has come to a halt as a result of the economic downturn and is on hold for the time being. Currently, all that remains of historic Bay Meadows is a mound of concrete rubble.

That’s what worries opponents of the Hollywood Park development. The housing market in Inglewood, like the rest of the nation, has dropped out in the past year and there are already more than 500 homes in foreclosure within the same zip code as the proposed development.

The proposed Arroyo Plaza.
Courtesy Wilson Meany Sullivan

Diane Becker, a vocal advocate of the park and founder of Save Hollywood Park, says she does not understand how the city could allow the destruction of the landmark racetrack in light of what’s happened at Bay Meadows. “I would think any city would love to have something like this [racetrack]. It just doesn’t make economic sense to tear it down. Hollywood Park is too important,” she said.

Becker and a group of Hollywood Park supporters have been lobbying city hall, insisting that the destruction of the 71-year-old track will be a significant economic and cultural loss for Inglewood. Becker said she did not rule out future lawsuits to try to stop the project from going forward. She and the other supporters of the track see the mixed-use development as contributing to urban sprawl, adding nothing of architectural significance to the region.

Cinema Plaza.
Courtesy Wilson Meany Sullivan

But Kevin Tyrrell, a principal at L.A.-based Quatro Design Group, believes his design team is running a different race. (In addition to Quatro, the designers include Cooper Robertson & Partners of New York and San Francisco-based Baldauf Catton Von Eckartsberg. Mia Lehrer + Associates developed the landscape design.)

Tyrrell sees the development as urban infill and a way to intimately stitch together neighborhoods that are currently separated by the expansive grounds and asphalt parking lots. He says the team chose to focus on a variety of typologies rather than a specific architectural style in an effort to create a diverse aesthetic that might appear to have grown more organically. They emphasized the relationships between buildings, streets, and greenways, placing less prominence on the car.  “The plan creates walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods with a lot of open space,” Tyrrell said.

A postcard of the racetrack from the 1940s, during its inaugural decade.
Courtesy Metro Library and Archive/Flickr

In regard to the opposition to the project, Tyrrell said the designers take their responsibility very seriously. “There is the potential to have a major impact on a city,” he said. “We see this project for the transformational potential that it has.”

A few zoning issues remain to be resolved by the Inglewood City Council, such as rezoning the site away from commercial recreation, and approving proposed general land use amendments. A final public hearing on July 8 is expected to resolve these matters. Once finalized, Hollywood Park will remain open at least one more year, or until construction on the development can actually begin.

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