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City seeking lively downtown
February 09, 2013, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

San Bruno’s vision for creating a lively transit corridor with more housing, new businesses and taller buildings will be one step closer next week when the City Council will give final approval on the plan which took many years to complete.

Work to create a plan to support about 150 acres including downtown started in the fall of 2008, was sidelined in 2010 and the effort resumed last year. Despite the interruption in planning, the goals remain to promote downtown as a destination while enhancing local character and economic vitality. The vision to be discussed includes embracing the eclectic architecture of San Mateo Avenue, creating large mixed-use buildings to drive traffic into the area and creating a cultural home to the many ethnic groups that call San Bruno home. On Tuesday, the council is expected to give a final vote on the plan. If approved, implementing the plan will require voters to OK new height limits.

Mayor Jim Ruane described next week’s vote as the culmination of much public input that shaped the plan which will work with the grade separation, currently under construction. Passing the plan will be the first step in making the vision a reality. However, Ruane is optimistic that the recent economic uptick will bring interested developers to the city.

During his State of the City address last month, Ruane mentioned there were people coming forward with ideas.

For example, proposals to renovate the Budget Motel at 850 El Camino Real and to create a mixed-use, residential project on San Mateo Avenue — home to a vacant run-down theater — are being discussed. Both will require a local subsidy. Even without redevelopment money, Ruane expressed hope that a possible agreement could be reached.

Approval by the City Council isn’t the last step in the process. Voters will need to weigh in on the proposed increases to height limits, which the city is seeking to promoted mixed-use development.

San Bruno currently has an overall height limit for buildings of 50 feet or three stories, whichever is more restrictive. Plans over that height limit, like The Crossing project on El Camino Real just north of Interstate 380, must get voter approval. Within the plan are ideas to raise height limits in downtown to four stories or 55 feet, up to five stories on El Camino Real and San Bruno Avenue, and up to seven stories at the old San Bruno Lumber site near the Caltrain station. Those height increases require setbacks so buildings don’t appear to tower over the area.

Once built out, the plan would allow for the development of up to 1,610 housing units, 147,700 square feet of retail use, 988,100 square feet of office uses and 190 hotel rooms over 20 years, according to a staff report. Compared to the current general plan, that’s an increase of 890 housing units, 19,100 square feet of retail, 666,600 square feet of office and 190 hotel rooms.

It will also require changes to the zoning ordinances, which will need to go before the Planning Commission and City Council later this year, said Community Development Director David Woltering.

The council meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the San Bruno Senior Center, 1555 Crystal Springs Road.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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