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Downtown specific plan goes to Burlingame City Council
July 28, 2010, 02:43 AM Daily Journal Staff Report

Plans to create open space, pedestrian-friendly events and new mixed-use buildings in downtown Burlingame outlined in the draft specific plan will go before the City Council after being approved by the Planning Commission Monday.

A draft Downtown Specific Plan for Burlingame was created after years of public input refined by a Citizens’ Advisory Committee. Debuted late last year, the plan was recently circulated to gather input on possible impacts. On Monday, the Planning Commission discussed changes to the plan, mostly in regards to parking. It will be discussed by the City Council at a future meeting.

Remarks focused on the triangular piece of land between Highland Avenue, California Drive and Howard Avenue. Originally, the plan called for the one-way traffic route and parking on Highland Avenue to be closed and converted to an outdoor plaza. Business owners were concerned about lost parking spaces. Instead, the road is recommended to remain open with decorative streetscape to allow the area to be closed for special events.

Land use, streetscapes, open space, traffic circulation, parking, design and character and historical resources — are examined in the proposal which creates a vision for the area generally including Peninsula Avenue on the south, Oak Grove Avenue on the north, El Camino Real to the west and Anita Road to the east. Paying for the $43.6 million vision — $33.76 million for streetscape and $9.8 million for open space — was a concern at previous community meetings.

The commission also approved a conditional use permit to allow the conversion of an existing automobile service building at 1070 Broadway, Mike Harvey Acura, into self storage units. Currently the building is vacant. The proposal would convert the building to self storage units and add new units in the area south of the building. The owner of a self storage unit on Rollins Road did submit a letter opposing the change.

Approval was also given to Mercy High School, allowing it to increase the maximum enrollment from 500 to 540 and add to the number of faculty from 80 to 83. Annually, students are accepted to the school but decline to attend. That has not always been the case, resulting in the school’s hope to increase the maximum number to allow some wiggle room in such instances.

The topic was heard previously, but declined without prejudice as neighbors complained about potential traffic impacts. Since then, the Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission made several suggestions to mitigate those issues. Mercy has resubmitted its request promising to extend shuttle services, require staff to use a certain gate, revise school schedules and encourage families to carpool.

The commission added a condition in which the city will randomly conduct traffic counts at the entrance during the peak morning hours to ensure limited impact.

Two items were heard by the council that will come back for future approval.

First, was a proposal to open ULove Yogurt at 1118 Burlingame Ave. across from Straits Restaurant. If opened, it would be the fifth frozen yogurt business downtown. The proposal is the first to take advantage of a recently-changed municipal code allowing five additional food establishments — which could be anything from a bar to a full-service restaurant — in portions of the Burlingame Avenue commercial area.

Second, was a proposal allowing facade changes to 1440 Burlingame Ave. across from Wells Fargo bank. An olive oil and specialty food store is suggested for the site.

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