The Altamont Speedway, located in the Altamont Hills almost adjacent to the Alameda/San Joaquin County line, will enter a whole new world as a test track for electric cars guided by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The East County Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) unanimously approved the new use at its meeting April 25 in Pleasanton. Applicants for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) included Lakeside Motor Sports, Altamont Raceway and Zoox, a Foster City robotics firm that has been working on AI systems for vehicle operation.
The Speedway opened in 1966 as a track for high-powered race cars. It hosted big, cheering crowds, but now it will do an about face.
Instead of thousands watching, only a few representatives of auto manufacturers who are exploring how to harness AI computers to their electric vehicles will be observing them at the Speedway.
Racing last occurred in the Altamont in 2008. At times, complaining neighbors voiced their need to the county for noise-blocking and view-shed screening,
In contrast, when the new use came before the BZA last week, no one was there to object. County planning staff mailed notices to property owners within 500 feet of the track, and also posted signs in the vicinity, according to county staff planner Damien Curry.
“The (vehicles) are electric. There won’t be screeching of tires, and other motorsports noises. Neighbors who were complaining about noise (during the racing era) are not complaining now,” said Curry.
The CUP needs renewal after three years. However, the three-member BZA decided to require a check-in review 1½ years after the business opens.
Jana Wismer, an Oakland-based attorney for Lakeside Motor Sports, said the firm hopes to operate the facility in June or July.