03/30/2016 3:36PM

Part of Los Alamitos property to be developed into retail space, senior housing

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Los Alamitos track owner Ed Allred said Tuesday that plans are under way to develop property adjacent to the racetrack for retail and senior housing, but that a long-term commitment to live racing remains in place at the Orange County, Calif., racetrack.

Allred said in a phone interview that as much as 70 acres can be developed without disrupting racing. He said property values make operating a racetrack in Southern California economically unfeasible, but that he plans to do so for the sake of the game.

“There’s no practical justification for their being any racetrack in Southern California,” he said. “The people that own the property have to love what they’re doing and love the sport.”

On Tuesday evening, a Los Alamitos track executive spoke with residents of the city of Cypress, where the track is located, at a public hearing to discuss long-term use of the racetrack property and adjacent property once used as a golf course, should racing cease. In advance of that meeting, a letter was sent to residents stating that the meeting was the first of several to discuss the development of the property for retail, office, and housing projects.

The letter, signed by Los Alamitos executive Frank Sherren, said the track was not on the verge of closing.

“This is not an announcement that the Los Alamitos Race Course is closing its doors anytime in the near future,” the one-page letter read. “There are no immediate plans to close the track; however, we must be ready for that eventuality, and when the time comes, a comprehensive succession plan for these facilities is needed.”

Allred said he has postponed launching the discussion with the city. Residents must vote on potential development plans and could do so as early as November’s election. Allred said that any potential development would take several years to implement.

“I delayed doing this because I knew there would be some reaction,” he said.

Allred, who turns 80 in May, is the nation’s leading Quarter Horse breeder and has a small number of Thoroughbreds racing in Southern California.

“I want to physically be able to use the racetrack as long as I’m able,” Allred said.

Los Alamitos has taken an expanded role in Southern California racing in the last two years, following the closure of Hollywood Park in Inglewood for development at the end of 2013.

Since early 2014, Los Alamitos has been the base of year-round training for as many as 800 Thoroughbreds competing on the Southern California circuit. In addition, Los Alamitos has hosted three brief Thoroughbred meetings each year. The first meeting of 2016 runs April 14 to May 1.

Los Alamitos has a year-round program of night races for lower-level Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Allred said he does not plan any changes to that program.

“I raise 130 colts a year, and I need a place to race them and sell them,” he said.

The forthcoming development for retail and senior housing follows a trend of developing sections of the property not used for racing. Allred said further development could occur.

“There’s actually at least 70 acres that is expendable as such and can be sold from the golf course or racetrack without having anything to do with the [racing] operation,” he said. “We’ll be a racetrack. I know there will be some controversy. We don’t need as much land as we have.”