Kin Hui, lead eminency of the real estate investment firm Singpoli, is one of those big Arcadia developers you hear a lot about. He is also deeply involved in local politics, and is suspected by some of being the hand that guides the strings of Arcadia's new mayor, Sho Tay. So much so that he stepped out on April 24th to deliver an impassioned speech on Sho's behalf. Perhaps done out of fear that his guy would be passed over for the mayor gig due to some investigative entanglements with Sacramento's political ethics watchdogs, the FPPC. Who apparently are extremely concerned about Mr. Tay.
All of which means that you are going to want to keep up with Hui's business affairs. Below is a compendium of articles that details what he has been up to over the last couple of years in the horse racing business. It isn't all that Kin Hui is involved with, of course. But it does cover everything from the horses to landfills, which really is quite an activity arc.
“Horse racing and horse race wagering are extremely popular with the Chinese-American community in Southern California; yet this population has been largely underserved, mainly due to language barriers and cultural gaps,” Hui said. “I think this is a great opportunity for the horse racing business. I really hope that our Chinese community will like what we have to offer. The YUPRacing website features several Chinese language videos, which showcase the beauty of Santa Anita and explain some of the nuances of the sport.
Mod: This next three articles detail some of the problems local horse racing has encountered lately. It is background for much of what follows.
Santa Anita cancels Thursday races for lack of entries (Art Wilson, Daily News link): According to veteran trainer John Shirreffs, the closure of Hollywood Park four years ago is still adversely affecting Southern California thoroughbred racing.
For the first time since 2011, Thursday’s eight-race program at Santa Anita was canceled because of a lack of entries. Three times during Hollywood Park’s summer meet in 2010, racing was disrupted because there weren’t enough horses to fill the races.
Santa Anita faces a season of change that may make or break the 83-year-old track (John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times link): Even by his own admission, Santa Anita’s top executive realizes the six-month meet that starts Tuesday may be the most critical in the track’s more than eight-decade history.
“We have to see the business turn around,” said Tim Ritvo, who was sent to Arcadia from the East Coast to try to revitalize the underperforming track for its owner, the Stronach Group. “This is the time some of the implemented changes will kick in. There is no silver bullet. It’s a grind process. We hope to see the trajectory in the right direction.”
Tim Ritvo Lays Out Substantial Changes for Santa Anita (Jeremy Balan, Blood Horse link): Significant changes to the property at Santa Anita Park have been proposed in the past and many went by the wayside, but the tone from Tim Ritvo, The Stronach Group's chief operating officer, Jan. 7 was different.
What Ritvo stressed Sunday was that the drastic changes this time around—ideas to expand the barn area, build a second turf course, expand the main track, and build a brand-new training facility in nearby West Covina, Calif.—are not only desired, but essential. "For racing to continue on, this has to happen." the executive said. "If this doesn't happen, we're in trouble."
|Horse racing does have its critics - video link here.|
Kin Hui, who shipped five of his thoroughbreds to Gulfstream, said since the move, Diamond Oops, one of his horses, has won $133,035. Having larger purses certainly helps recoup the horse maintenance cost, Hui said. Saratoga [in New York] always has a higher rate and that does attract people. Purses in California are very low.
In this context, attracting enough horses is a real challenge for Santa Anita. Last year, the track cancelled some race dates because it lacked enough horses, prompting the track to launch “Ship and Stay.” Targeted at enticing out-of-state trainers and owners to race their horses at Santa Anita, the program provides a bonus for three race starts to each horse that qualifies. To be eligible, horses must not have raced in California within the past twelve months. So far, sixty-one horses have arrived and the track has paid $117, 212 in bonuses.
West Covina gives Singpoli more time on horse training facility, hotel at former BKK landfill (Stephanie K. Baer, Pasadena Star News link): West Covina officials Tuesday decided to continue discussions with the developer proposing to build horse stables, a training track and other facilities at the site of a former toxic landfill in the city.
The City Council voted 4-1 to enter into a new 180-day exclusive negotiating agreement with Singpoli Group LLC for the purchase and development of about 200 acres at the site of the shuttered BKK landfill. Councilman James Toma voted against the agreement.
This is the second agreement the city has forged with the company, which plans to invest at least $200 million into the project. The first was entered into last December and expired this fall.
Since then, Singpoli has presented their proposed project at a City Council meeting and two community meetings.
The Pasadena-based developer has proposed to build a 270-room luxury hotel with 20,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, a horse training track with an internal event space and amphitheater, 1,400 horse stalls, more than 200 employee dormitories with a cafeteria and recreation center. The plan also includes a zip line and aerial adventure park, a 5.2-acre virtual reality park, a K-9 training facility and solar greenhouse facilities.
Singpoli wants to house, train horses for Santa Anita Park at former BKK landfill in West Covina (Stephanie K. Baer, Pasadena Star News link): The developer behind a plan to build horse stables, a training track and other facilities at the site of a former toxic landfill in West Covina intends to partner with Santa Anita Park to house and train thoroughbreds that will compete at the historic race track in Arcadia, representatives told residents last week.
“This is going to be a very important partnership to make this track sustainable,” said William Chu, chief financial officer for Singpoli Group LLC, during a community meeting at Shadow Oak Park last Wednesday. “Their horses will be transferred here to the stables and be trained here and then be transferred on racing days back to Santa Anita.”
The Pasadena-based developer is proposing to build the track and 1,400 horse stalls, along with a employee dormitories, a hotel, a K-9 training facility, a zip line and aerial adventure park, greenhouses and other facilities, on about 200 acres of land at the site of the former BKK landfill off of Azusa Avenue.
An area known as the BKK landfill in West Covina is an island of open space between the 10 and 60 freeways, 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. From 1963 through 1996, more than 20 million tons of municipal trash and 3.4 million tons of toxic waste were disposed of there. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the toxic waste includes acids, arsenic, cyanide, lead, mercury, asbestos, chromium, degreasing agents, oil sludge, gasoline, pesticides, vinyl chloride, plating solutions, acetone, heavy metal solutions, pharmaceuticals, hazardous spills cleanups, paint waste, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The landfill has been closed for 22 years. Thousands of cars drive by it everyday on Azusa Avenue, one of West Covina’s most heavily traveled streets. Many are unaware it’s a former landfill; most are unaware of what’s buried there.
Nature, however, has been reclaiming the land. The 500-acre former landfill site is open space and habitat that directly connects to open space and habitat in the adjacent city of Walnut. That in turn connects to open space and habitat at Mt. San Antonio College, which in turn connects to the same at Cal Poly Pomona. There are even small connection points to Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas.
BKK is part of de facto wildlife preserve spanning thousand of acres in the heart of the eastern San Gabriel Valley, which is more commonly recognized for asphalt, concrete, steel and glass.
Today however, a vanishing point is looming on the horizon. The City of West Covina, desperate for revenue as its financial status deteriorates, is considering a massive commercial development on and adjacent to the landfill. The Singpoli Group LLC has proposed an international destination hotel and resort, 1,400 stalls for racehorses from Santa Anita Race Park, two horse-racing training tracks, employee dormitories and other structures on this land.
An Abandoned Landfill in West Covina Could Become a Virtual Reality Park (Chris Nichols, Los Angeles Magazine link): The site of the proposed park has been controversial for generations. BKK landfill opened in 1963 when the neighborhood was mostly dairy farms. For 16 years they accepted toxic materials including vinyl chloride, asbestos, and infectious hospital waste. Owner Ben K. Kazarian was a third generation garbage man, with a history in L.A. dumps dating back to the 1920s. The city of West Covina spent decades trying to shut him down and create a regional park and later a golf course. They finally purchased the land in 2007.
Singpoli, the Arcadia developers that transformed the Hotel Constance in Pasadena from a dreary old folks’ home into futuristic lodging, have an exclusive deal with the city and must submit plans within 90 days for the 200 hilly acres nestled between the 10 and 60 freeways.
“Our idea for this site goes well beyond recreation,” Singpoli president and CEO Kin Hui said in an email. “Our master plan will include a hotel and retail space as well as a performing arts center, a community art center and a K9 training facility.”
“There’s not going to be Disneyland-type rides,” says Singpoli spokesman Frank Girardot. “It’s more virtual reality. Amusement park is a bit overstated.” Singpoli president and CEO Kin Hui told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the park would “Attract tourists from all over the Americas and Asia and other parts of the world. This will give West Covina a prominent place on the world map.”
Mod: So what is the prognosis? Right now things aren't looking positive.
|Location of BKK landfill|
After Singpoli’s presentation at 11 p.m., residents expressed frustration at the developer for what they said has so far been a lack of information about the project.
“Residents have asked multiple times over the last months to have an inclusive process…but here we are having to react to a specific plan put together by a multinational corporation not residents,” said Heidi Freeman.
The presentation came nearly a year after the company started talks with the city to buy the land from the agency overseeing West Covina’s former redevelopment properties. At the time, Singpoli said it was developing an amusement park on about 200 acres at the site. Up until this week, all discussions between the city and Singpoli took place in closed session, leaving many residents concerned about the future of the former landfill.
Mod: However, Singpoli does seem determined. I hope the horse's are appreciative.
Potential BKK landfill developer attempting to buy more land, worrying some West Covina residents (Stephanie K. Baer, SGVT link): With some residents growing anxious about the future of the former BKK landfill, city officials this week took steps to sell a small parcel at the site to the company in talks with the city to purchase and develop another plot on the shuttered landfill.
The City Council Tuesday voted 5-0 to authorize the sale of the 2-acre parcel to Singpoli Group LLC. The small piece of empty land, known as the AAA pad, is located at the corner of Azusa Avenue and Giambi Lane next to Big League Dreams.
Singpoli offered $900,000 to buy the property from the agency overseeing the city’s former redevelopment agency. Under requirements for the dissolved redevelopment agencies in California, the proceeds would be split among the various taxing agencies; the city would get about $144,000.
The potential sale comes as Singpoli and the city negotiate the development of an outdoor recreational park on another part of the landfill. In December, Singpoli and the city entered an exclusive negotiating agreement for the sale of three parcels and the lease of a fourth totaling about 200 acres for the project.