SAN MATEO -- The owner of Bridgepointe Shopping Center will be forced to reconsider its plan to redevelop a popular ice rink in the face of unanimous opposition from the San Mateo Planning Commission.
The commission delivered a sharp rebuke Tuesday night to the owner, SPI Holdings, and a major victory to hundreds of hockey moms and other mid-Peninsula residents who have fought to reopen the rink, which SPI Holdings shut down last June. Overjoyed rink supporters spilled out of council chambers and exchanged hugs.
"It's just real exciting to feel like the city is on our side and they see our plight," said Dina Artzt, co-chair of a citizens committee to save the rink. "It feels great."
All five commissioners criticized the owner's plan to replace the rink with more profitable retail stores in exchange for paying San Mateo a fee to support recreational facilities or programs elsewhere in the city. Three commissioners chastised SPI Holdings for closing the rink before it had submitted a plan to replace it, and two called for the venue to be reopened until any plan is approved.
"To put it mildly, we do not appreciate the closure of the rink," said Chris Massey, chairman of the commission, addressing two lawyers representing SPI Holdings. "I think what you're hearing from this commission is that writing a check, just handing the city a check, and walking away is not going to be good enough."
SPI Holdings needs the city's permission to replace the rink because the facility is required under the master plan for the shopping center, which the city approved in 1996. SPI Holdings purchased the cluster of big-box stores off state Highway 92 in 2005.
City planners and attorneys have asserted that, while the existence of the rink is mandated by the master plan, which SPI Holdings seeks to amend, the city cannot force the owner to keep the rink open. Commissioner Rick Bonilla questioned that reasoning and asked the city attorney to do more research.
"It was absolutely understood that the required rink under the land use would be operated," said Bonilla. "It would be stating the obvious to say, 'Oh, by the way, you have to operate it.'"
Attorneys for SPI Holdings declined to comment following the meeting. Peter Meier, the investment fund's principal of development and leasing, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The company has argued it must replace the rink to remain competitive, and adding retail at the site would generate about $300,000 in additional sales tax revenue for the city.
SPI Holdings now has several options: submit a planning application containing its existing proposal, which the Planning Commission would almost certainly reject; make significant changes to the proposal; or abandon the plan altogether.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.