Thursday, May 23, 2013

OP-ED: Questions and answers about city’s role with Ice Chalet

Over the past two weeks, I have received a great deal of correspondence from neighbors about the pending closure of the Ice Chalet at the Bridgepointe Shopping Center.  Today, the following Op-Ed article was published in the San Mateo Daily Journal:


Over the past seven months I’ve met with members of the ice skating community associated with the Ice Chalet at Bridgepointe Shopping Center.

I’ve met in coffee shops, restaurants, over the phone, even in my own home.

I’ve spent long hours researching what role the city of San Mateo could legally play in this issue.

As the date for the closure of the Ice Chalet approaches, I’ve been contacted by many members of the community asking me to intervene.

In meeting with people, questions are raised about the ability of the San Mateo City Council to respond to this issue.  Below are answers to some recurring questions based on my understanding of the issues.

These conclusions are based on my analysis of the situation, and do not represent the City Council or the city of San Mateo.

1). Can the City Council force Bridgepointe to keep the Ice Chalet open?

No. The Ice Chalet sits on private land, and is not owned or operated by the city of San Mateo. Under a 1998 master plan amendment with Bridgepointe, the owners are required to have an ice rink or an “alternative recreational facility” on site.

The “alternative recreational facility” is subject to approval by the San Mateo Planning Commission, a decision-making body independent of the City Council.  The language of the 1998 amendment means Bridgepointe cannot be forced to keep an ice rink at their site. Bridgepointe has not applied to the city for an “alternative recreational facility” on their site, and it would be premature for the Planning Commission to rule on this issue without a formal application from Bridgepointe.

2). Can the City Council amend the master plan to remove the term “alternative recreational use” and force Bridgepointe to keep an ice rink?

No. This would be illegal “spot zoning.” Courts would most likely see such a move as an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable use of city power against a private property owner.

If the city tried to force a unilateral change in the use of Bridgepointe, we would most likely be sued and needlessly waste taxpayer money on a losing cause. As a public servant entrusted with safeguarding taxpayer dollars, I will not commit to this course of action.

3). Since the City Council voted to close the 7-Eleven, can’t it vote to keep the Ice Chalet open?

No. The closure of 7-Eleven on San Mateo Drive earlier this year was a different land use issue entirely.  The property at 7-Eleven was zoned “residential.” A permit for the 7-Eleven business was issued by city staff in error.

The council did not revoke the permit because we “disliked” 7-Eleven, we revoked their permit because no business could lawfully operate on that land since it was zoned for houses.  The Ice Chalet sits on property already zoned for business. As stated previously, the city can not unilaterally force Bridgepointe to operate an ice rink. 

4). Can the mayor use his powers to force the ice rink to stay open?

No and Yes. As mayor, I’ve no authority to tell a private property owner what to do with his property outside of zoning laws.

However, as a community leader concerned over the loss of a recreational facility for children and families in our city, I’ve informally acted as a mediator between private investors from the ice hockey community and Bridgepointe.

For more than seven months, I’ve worked with these ice hockey investors to mediate discussions to try to secure new land for an ice rink on the Peninsula and extend the Ice Chalet lease currently set to expire on June 1.

Although my efforts have not yet been successful, I continue to be in contact with both sides seeking an equitable solution to preserve vital recreation services for our community.

5). The City Council and Planning Commission have already accepted an off-site use for alternative recreational facilities.

There has been no decision on this issue by the city of San Mateo. Without a formal application, there are no grounds to rule on any issue. It is also illegal for a member of the City Council or Planning Commission to pre-judge how they would decide a land use issue ahead of time.


I continue to monitor other concerns raised by the community. I’ve confirmed that no demolition of the ice rink building or interior will be allowed without permits.

I’ve also asked city staff to research whether Bridgepointe is required to have an “alternative recreational use” in place if the Ice Chalet closes its doors on June 1.

I do not pretend to have all the answers or to be 100 percent correct in my analysis. The best I can promise the community is to do my homework, listen to people and make the best decisions governed by the laws I am sworn to uphold. 

I will continue to seek input and suggestions from all parties, and welcome comments from anyone who would like to discuss this issue in more detail.

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