Yee calls for the resignation of Richard Shapiro 

In response to the "killing of Bay Meadows," San Mateo’s state representative called for the resignation of California Horse Racing Board Chairman Richard Shapiro, accusing him of "orchestrating" the vote that is causing the legendary racetrack to shut its doors in November.

On Thursday, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, introduced a resolution calling for Shapiro to step down.

Yee planned to publicly announce the resolution this morning.

"We hope this political pressure will make Shapiro resign, and if it does, we’ll have the power to confirm the appointment," Yee’s spokesman Adam Keigwin said. "And if he doesn’t resign, hopefully it will make him rethink how he voted."

If the spot is vacated, Yee will have a direct influence on Shapiro’s replacement. Board members are nominated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and confirmed by the Senate.

On March 22, Shapiro and three other board members voted to deny Bay Meadows’ request for a waiver to prevent a multimillion-dollar replacement of the dirt track course with a synthetic by Jan. 1, 2008. Without the waiver, Bay Meadows does not have a license to host races, forcing owners to close the track at the end of this season.

Bay Meadows Land Co. does not want to invest the $10 million in the new track because they are planning to close Bay Meadows at the end of 2008 to redevelop the 83 acres into housing, retail and office space.

"I take no pleasure in doing this, but the fact that Mr. Shapiro, in his role as chairman, orchestrated the passage of a motion to deny the racetrack’s request to delay the placing of a synthetic racing surface on their track basically killed Bay Meadows," Yee said Thursday.

Upon learning of the resolution Thursday evening, Shapiro said he would be glad to meet with Yee to discuss the matter. Shapiro was in San Mateo on Thursday meeting with trainers at Bay Meadows and discussing ways to keep the track alive.

"I certainly don’t want to see Bay Meadows close anymore than anyone else," he said. "I didn’t take the action alone at our meeting. I was one of six who voted."

Shapiro said he has not closed the book on the track, and wants to work with the owners to find a way to install the new track and see racing beyond 2007.

Shapiro’s Vice Chair John Harris — one of the two members who voted in favor of the appeal — said a resignation is not the answer.

"I think it’s always a mistake to call for someone’s resignation. I disagree with Richard’s approach on Bay Meadows, but he’s done a good job," Harris said. "I just don’t think he fully understood the facts at hand and all the complexity."

Although the track’s 73-year run was already coming to an end, San Mateo Mayor Jack Matthews said the sudden closure will deny the city $600,000 in revenue from the track and put more than 500 employees out of work a year earlier than planned.

Matthews — who asked Yee to intervene on the city’s behalf a week ago — said the city is hoping to appeal the decision andget a second vote.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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