SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) - A new California senate bill would put an end to gun shows at the Cow Palace, an issue that has been the subject of debate for years. Known as SB281, the measure would also transfer ownership of the event space to a new board made up of local representatives.
The Cow Palace has been a fixture in the Bay Area since it opened almost 80 years ago, and one group says if the bill passes, it would effectively lead to the arena being torn down.
A local cheerleading competition occupied the main amphitheater at the Cow Palace on Saturday, as cheers and pop music echoed through the concrete hallways. It's one of hundreds of small community events held her every year.
"It promotes shows here that can't afford Oracle arena. This cheerleading event can't afford the Chase Arena because it's a cheerleading event, not the Warriors," says Kevin Patterson. He is the Executive Director of the Coalition to Save the Cow Palace. He also organizes the Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace every year.
Patterson is concerned for the future of the Cow Palace because of SB 281.
The measure was introduced by state Senator Scott Wiener, last month. It would transfer ownership of the Cow Palace from the State Department of Agriculture to a joint-powers authority, made up of representatives from San Francisco, Daly City and San Mateo County.
Wiener says the Cow Palace has outlived its usefulness. He says the site needs millions of dollars of maintenance and repairs to be a viable events space moving forward, adding there are plenty of alternative locations for these types of community events.
"This is about making sure that the local community can actually have a say in what happens at the Cow Palace and what the future holds," said Sen. Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco.
One of the main reasons there is so much interest in the property is its size. Almost 70 acres, the Cow Palace has 250,000 square feet of events space and a 14,000-seat amphitheater.
"It's right now being very under-utilized. The community has wanted something to happen with that property for a long time. Housing, mixed use development," said Wiener.
Patterson worries if a local board takes control, they will only look at the value of the real estate. He thinks the board may not consider the importance of the Cow Palace as an affordable community events space. Each year it hosts everything from the Grand National Rodeo, to dog shows, to the Christmas Fair.
He also points out the history of the Cow Palace. There are dozens of signatures on the box office wall from some of the greatest artists of our time, like Elvis Presley, who performed at the Cow Palace in 1970.
"It's not the place to solve the housing crisis, that's for sure. There are lots of other places to build houses. You don't need to bulldoze history and an important community asset," said Patterson.
Senator Wiener says the bill does not dictate what happens with the property. That will be up to you he newly created joint powers authority board. He said there could be a compromise.
"You can have the Cow Palace there, and also take a portion of this mega-massive parking lot and turn it into housing and retail," said Wiener.
If the SB281 passes, it would pass ownership of the Cow Palace to the local board on January 1, 2021.
There is a sub-committee hearing scheduled next Wednesday to discuss the bill.
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