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Church tries again to add on
February 16, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb, Daily Journal Staff

San Mateo

St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Mateo is asking the city for permission to build a gymnasium on its property after a similar proposal was unanimously shot down by the city’s Planning Commission in 2009.

This time, St. Matthew proposes to build a smaller structure and add significantly more parking to the church and school site after nearby residents staunchly opposed the construction of a new community center based on the added traffic and strain for parking on the surrounding neighborhood.

The city renoticed the project Monday and the public now has until March 14 to comment on it.

The church first proposed adding to its property back in 2006 and submitted plans for the project with the city in 2009. That proposal never made it to the City Council for approval, however, and the church has since submitted a new proposal to build a school gymnasium and add an additional 108 parking spaces on the site as it changes its Master Plan to limit uses at the new structure that also addresses the need for parking.

The site, bounded by Notre Dame Avenue and Aragon Boulevard on El Camino Real, currently has parking for only 198 vehicles. The new parking management plan will increase the number of parking spaces on the site to 308 and up to 356, said Brian Swartz, manager of the project.

The Master Plan will cap the number of students and employees at current levels in addition to adding significantly more parking, Swartz said.

The move should help mitigate some opposition to the project, he said.

Many residents in the Parrot Park Homeowners Association and along Aragon Boulevard have stood against the church’s expansion plans for years, contending streets near the church already get clogged with traffic and parking as parents drop off and pick their children up from the private Catholic school.

"Neighbors opposed to the project may cast it as the same project the church previously submitted but there are differences that clearly make it a new project,” said San Mateo Principal Planner Stephen Scott.

The city is accepting 30 more days of public comment on the project since it was changed slightly to add some facts from the state Department of Fish and Game related to nesting raptors on the site, Scott said.

The church is actually zoned for single-family residential uses like the neighborhood that surrounds it but St. Matthew is now asking the city for a Q zone status which will allow for historic uses on the property prior to the city’s adoption of its current zoning codes, Swartz said.

"We are not asking for any variances,” he said.

After building the gymnasium, Swartz said, the church plans no major construction on the property as indicated by its Master Plan.

The newly proposed gym will be approximately 11,683 square feet and be located next to the auditorium on the north side near Notre Dame Avenue.

New parking will be along Notre Dame and the two lots on church grounds will be reconfigured and expanded to accommodate more cars, Swartz said.

Up to 26 trees, however, will have to be taken down to accommodate the gym.

St. Matthew’s new application for the site includes stipulations for the gym including: limiting the use of the gymnasium to athletic events related solely to St. Matthew School; restrictions to prohibit the simultaneous use of the gymnasium and existing auditorium; limitations on the number of special events held annually on the site; and a requirement for police officer patrol in the neighborhood during special events to enforce traffic and parking violations, according to a staff report.

For details on the project, go to: www.cityofsanmateo.org/index.aspx?NID=1878

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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