By Tim Hunt
Fairgrounds families are collateral damageUploaded: Jun 1, 2017
The other shoe dropped Tuesday for horseracing families living in the RV South trailer park on the Alameda County Fairgrounds when their homes became collateral damage by decisions by the state racing board.
Fair CEO Jerome Hoban announced that the RV South campground would run under the same rules as the RV North campground starting Sept. 1. That means there will be blackout dates when the fair management will open both parks for use by vendors and exhibitors at large fairgrounds events.
For horseracing families, who had made their home here year-round, it means huge changes.
The blackout dates include the four GoodGuys car shows, the Scottish Games in August, the dog show in October and the Alameda County fair. That means about a month in June or a total of 59 days annually.
The change was driven by the state horseracing board’s decision to eliminate the fair’s status as an auxiliary training track, ending the year-round stabling of horses at the fair. The decision to consolidate all stabling at Golden Gate Fields in Emeryville has resulted in a huge drop in the number of horses at the fairgrounds.
The training track, which closed at the end of the year, re-opened May 1 and has about 120 horses compared to more than 300 last year. It is expected that trainers with horses stabled in Emeryville will ship them in daily for the fair meet in June and July.
For those horseracing families (about 40), the change means the end of life at the fairgrounds as they have known it for the last decade.
• Given the blackout dates and rent doubling from $18/day to $35 or $40, living at RV South year-round will be difficult if not impossible.
• Their children, many of whom attended the highly regarded dual-immersion language program at Valley View School, likely will not be able to attend Pleasanton schools.
• Alternative locations for the trailers that they live in are limited to non-existent in the Tri-Valley and much of the Bay Area.
“You are making these families refugees,” long-time resident and unofficial Abuelo (grandfather) to the children Jack Hammonds told Hoban at the Tuesday meeting. Hammonds, 78, has lived in the trailer park since 2008 and routinely takes children to Valley View School. He said 40 students will be affected by the changes.
The fair management has lived up to the commitment it made in January to allow families with school-age children to remain in RV South through the end of the fair in July. The current schedule calls for the RV South park to be empty by Aug. 14 so the fair team can prepare it for the GoodGuys show that month.
The uniform rules likely will price many families out even if they could find a way to cope with the blackout schedule and the requirement that they vacate the grounds every 21 days. The current requirement is to shift to a new space every 60 days.
The meeting Tuesday was attended by representatives of Supervisor Nate Miley’s office, as well as a Pleasanton school district representative and Gloria Gregory of CityServe and Jill Lorentz from Valley Community Church. Jill and Gloria have been working with families for more than a year. The meeting was translated into Spanish throughout as were the new rules.
When we chatted after the meeting, Gloria pointed out that the families were living in sub-standard conditions—including some in the stables—before the state board decision changed the situation. The faith-based organizations have helped families repair trailer and secure new trailers and offered to meet individually with all families to develop a plan for dealing with the changes.
For the upcoming fair, the people who must relocate to open spaces for fair vendors has been notified, Hoban said. When a divorced dad with shared custody of his two children complained, Jerome told him they would deal with situations like his on a case-by-case basis because the RV camp management—based on privacy concerns—did not know every renter’s status.
The status for the fall meet also is unknown. Currently, the state board will allow horses to train in Pleasanton for only 10 days before the two three-day racing weekends. Jerome said they are working on extending that time—a move that the trainers in the room said was necessary to ensure they had enough horses to run in the fall.