Skyline Stables closure creates unstable future for horses 

At age 69, Carole Bottarini still goes to Skyline Stables four or five times per week to ride her rescued thoroughbred, Boo.

Bottarini has ridden horses since she was 12 years old, but for the last three decades, she has called Skyline her equestrian home.

That’s why seeing the stables evicted from their hillside location in Millbrae to make way for what officials say is a vital water system project “is going to be a very tearful sight for me,” said Bottarini, treasurer for the stables.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is preparing to start construction on a major upgrade project of a crucial water treatment plant that includes building on the 13-acre property the utility currently leases to Skyline, which supporters say is the Peninsula’s only nonprofit, low-cost stable.

With the commission expected to consider approving the four-year, $250 million project in October, supporters are scrambling to find another place for the 52-stall stable that has been on the Millbrae hillside for more than 60 years.

Board members for the stable have been in talks with utility and city officials in recent weeks about leasing another plot of utility-owned land elsewhere in Millbrae, though nothing has been finalized, and constructing a new stable would take months.

“We are going to have to take a big leap of faith,” stable board President Christine Hanson said.

Commission officials say the Harry Tracy plant is the only treatment operation for water from Crystal Springs Reservoir and San Andreas Lake, which make up the emergency water supply for thousands of residents in San Mateo County and San Francisco.

Officials need the land to build a replacement for the facility’s treated-water reservoir, which currently sits on a fault line.

The project will also include a new backup generator and other upgrades to ensure residents have access to fresh water if the main Hetch Hetchy supply in the Sierras is cut off due to maintenance or a major earthquake.

“The stables have been good neighbors all along and we tried very hard to see if we could keep them on the site,” utility spokeswoman Alison Kastama said. “Unfortunately, the water system’s demands are such that we’re not able to.”

While there are other stables on the Peninsula, Bottarini said Skyline is comparatively cheap at $220 per month because horse owners do most of their own grunt work, such as cleaning and maintenance. 

San Mateo County supervisors this week declared the project complies with the county’s general plan, though they urged the utility to work hard to find a new place for the stables.

“I think it behooves us to do everything possible to ensure they continue to serve this community,” said Supervisor Mark Church.

Improving the system

The upgrades planned at the Harry Tracy treatment plant in Millbrae, scheduled to be completed between 2011 and 2015, include:

- Decommissioning two existing treated-water reservoirs
- Demolishing two former sedimentation basins and existing buildings
- Removing and replacing segments of pipeline and storm-drain facilities
- Constructing a new water reservoir, connection pipelines, water junction structure or filter effluent chamber, sampling building and ancillary facilities, emergency chlorination building, chemical storage area and electrical substation
- Installing backup generator, new filters, pumps, pipelines and electrical equipment
- Retrofitting and installing sludge holding tanks
- Realigning a portion of main plant access road   
- Other minor site improvements (utilities, lighting, resurfacing and paving)
- Slope stabilization and erosion control, re-grading, constructing retaining walls

Source: San Mateo County

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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Shaun Bishop

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