The Shops at Tanforan

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The Shops at Tanforan
The Shops at Tanforan sign.jpg
LocationSan Bruno, California, USA
Coordinates37°38′11″N 122°25′04″W / 37.636367°N 122.41779°W / 37.636367; -122.41779Coordinates: 37°38′11″N 122°25′04″W / 37.636367°N 122.41779°W / 37.636367; -122.41779
Address1150 El Camino Real
Opening date1971
DeveloperWattson Breevast LLC (2003)
ManagementQueensland Investment Corporation
OwnerQueensland Investment Corporation
ArchitectAltoon + Porter Architects LLC (2003)
No. of stores and services105[1]
No. of anchor tenants4
Total retail floor area973,500 sq ft (90,440 m2)[2]
No. of floors2
Public transit accessBay Area Rapid Transit San Bruno Station

The Shops at Tanforan is a redeveloped, regional shopping mall in San Bruno, California. It is located in the Peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area, 10 miles south of San Francisco, it is served by the adjacent San Bruno Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, as well as several local SamTrans bus lines and the Brisbane Shuttle. The complex is located minutes away from San Francisco International Airport.

The mall underwent a 3-year reconstruction, and reopened in 2005, it continues to be anchored by two of its original major retailers Sears, and JCPenney, as well as a Century Theatres that opened in 2008.[3] However, one of the anchoring retailers: Target actually purchased the space from The Emporium in 1996.[4]

















The site that The Shops at Tanforan mall is built on has served as a racetrack, at various times as an airfield, a military training center, a Japanese American internment camp, as well as a golf course.


The Tanforan Racetrack was built in 1899, it was named after Toribio Tanforan, the grandson-in-law of Jose Antonio Sanchez, the grantee of Rancho Buri Buri.[citation needed] Horse, dog, motorcycle, and auto races were held year round at the track. One of Tanforan's most famous residents while it was used as a racetrack was Seabiscuit, who was stabled there for a time.[6] Today, a statue of Seabiscuit may be found on the grounds of the Tanforan mall.

The site found other uses after 1909, when the state of California banned all gambling at racetracks.[7]


Tanforan Racetrack was occasionally used as an airfield, with the center of the racetrack used as a runway. On January 25-26, 1910, the Tanforan Racetrack served as the site for the Second International Air Meet in America, organized by the Pacific Aero Club and attended by aviation notables Louis Paulhan and John J. Montgomery.

On January 18, 1911, aviator Eugene Ely made naval aviation history when he took off from Tanforan and made a successful landing on the USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay.[8] This marked the first successful shipboard aircraft landing (and the second successful take-off).[9] A plaque on the grounds commemorates this event.

Tanforan was temporarily converted into a military training center during World War I.

Tanforan Assembly Center[edit]

Line outside of a mess hall, Tanforan Assembly Center.

During World War II, Tanforan was used as a Japanese American internment camp. Tanforan was the second most populous of the 17 "civilian assembly centers" where internees were sent before being relocated to more permanent (and remote) "relocation centers." Twenty-six of the 180 "apartment" barracks were converted from horse stalls. 8,003 people were held at Tanforan from April 28 to October 13, 1942, with a peak population of 7,816 in July. A plaque outside the mall notes this history.[10][11]

A number of soldiers who were once interned at Tanforan are buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, which is located on a nearby hill that overlooks the Tanforan site.

After the war, Tanforan returned to its former role as a race track, with a golf course in the center of the track; the track went into decline in the 1950s due to competition from Bay Meadows, then burned down on July 31, 1964.[10]

Shopping mall[edit]

In 1971, a new shopping mall was built on the Tanforan site. At the time of opening, it was named the Tanforan Shopping Center.

In 1999, the mall was purchased by real estate developer Wattson Breevast LLC, who planned to redevelop it. There were many issues the new owners had to overcome: lawsuit involving BART, getting consent from existing anchors, moving out long-term tenants, existing building materials, and other city issues, it would be four years before the project's operations were ready to begin.

After resolving a string of legal, construction, and administrative issues, renovations finally began in 2003. Most of the existing structure - with the exception of the anchor buildings - was razed and underwent a major reconstruction. Altoon + Porter Architects was hired for the mall's new design, and the $140 million project was completed after 20 months. In 2005, the new mall opened as The Shops at Tanforan.[12]

On April 18, 2008, Century Theatres had its grand opening at this location, with a skybridge between the mall and theater connecting the two structures.

The bottom floor of the garage also serves as a walkway to both the San Bruno Police Department and the BART station. A two-level Barnes & Noble bookstore is located at the center of the El Camino Real entrance.

In 2015, Sears Holdings spun off 235 of its properties, including the Sears at The Shops at Tanforan, into Seritage Growth Properties.[13]

On July 2, 2019, a shooting took place at Tanforan Mall which injured 4 people.[14]

Old Navy[edit]

Tanforan is home to a concept store for Old Navy, which formerly had corporate headquarters about 0.5 mile (800 m) away on Cherry Avenue and 15 minutes downtown to Folsom Street in San Francisco.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Directory". The Shops at Tanforan. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
  2. ^ "The Shops at Tanforan". Jones Lang Lasalle. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-02-10. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ Dan Levy (July 10, 2005). "Tanforan to open with..." San Francisco Chronicle.
  4. ^ "Target Buys Tanforan Emporium / San Bruno mall says new store will fit in well". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hillenbrand, Laura (2001). Seabiscuit: An American Legend. Random House. pp. 113–115. ISBN 978-0-375-50291-0.
  7. ^ Darold Fredricks (May 31, 2010). "The original race track at Tanforan". The Daily Journal (San Mateo County).
  8. ^ "Eugene Ely's Flight to USS Pennsylvania". Naval History & Heritage Command. Archived from the original on January 4, 2003. Retrieved February 8, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ "Eugene B. Ely, Aviator". Naval History & Heritage Command. Archived from the original on January 22, 2003. Retrieved February 8, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ a b Lewis Kawahara. "Tanforan" Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  11. ^ Dinitia Smith (November 6, 2006). "Photographs of an Episode That Lives in Infamy". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Koch, David (1 September 2005), "TANFORAN TURNAROUND", Retail Traffic Magazine
  13. ^
  14. ^ "2 injured, suspects at large in shooting at Tanforan Mall in San Bruno". San Francisco Chronicle. July 2, 2019.

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