Daily Journal file photo
The downtown Burlingame post office is protected under its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the downtown Burlingame post office for sale and development plans in the works, city officials are considering making a request to act as the agency that helps preserve its historical integrity.
The 220 Park Road property, which officially went up for sale in August, is protected under its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The City Council will vote Monday on whether to authorize Mayor Ann Keighran to send a letter to the U.S. Postal Service advising the independent federal agency to give the city consent to serve as the responsible agency for monitoring and enforcing the preservation covenant.
The council originally voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Cathy Baylock voting against, to send a letter to the U.S. Postal Service requesting that preservation covenants not be added as a requirement of sale for the parcel. Doing so, the majority said, would tie local control while the historical considerations would be covered under the California Environmental Quality Act. Baylock, on the other hand, said the practice is customary and could act as an extra form of protection for a historical aspect of Burlingame’s downtown.
But the California Office of Historic Preservation wrote that if the U.S. Postal Service were to “transfer, lease or sell property out of federal ownership or control without adequate and legally enforceable restrictions or conditions to ensure long-term preservation of the property’s historical significance” it will result in adverse effects. This letter by Carol Roland-Nawi, state historical preservation officer, to the USPS is dated April 3, 2013.
Since the covenants are now a requirement, Bill Meeker, community development director, said the city wants to be the authority responsible for monitoring them.
Normally, the California Office of Historic Preservation wants to put a certified local government agency that has an official preservation ordinance to oversee preservation in charge of such a feat, said Baylock. Burlingame does not have such an agency.
“With no one else to take that on, we want to make sure requirements in the covenant are honored,” Baylock said. “We’re the alternative since there isn’t anybody to play that role and I think it’s as good an option as any because we all know the history of city better than an outsider. I’m happy there are going to be preservation covenants.”
There is one publicly-known party interested in purchasing the post office. Grosvenor, an international property development, investment and fund management group, put forward a mixed-use project using lot E — located between Lorton Avenue, Park Road, Burlingame Avenue and Howard Avenue — and the adjacent post office. The concept for the lot space includes 100 residential units, 35,000 square feet of retail and/or restaurant space and 125 residential parking spaces, according to a city staff report.
Under the preservation covenants, the new owners must preserve the original hanging light fixtures, marble wainscoting — including marble on the vestibule walls, metal trim used throughout the interior, original tall tables, original service windows, original bronze bulletin board, federal star motifs, terrazzo flooring, original windows and doors to and within the lobby, cantilevered service desks and original post office boxes.
The historic exteriors include overall mass and plan of the main facade, poured concrete exterior siding and smooth stucco wall cladding, original metal frame windows, original bronze doors, the red clay tile roof, cast stone art deco relief sculptures over the main entrance and under the windows and a bronze relief of a woman over the entrance doors.
In other city business, staff will recommend holding a public hearing to introduce an ordinance for a two-hour parking restriction on the 1600 block of Howard Avenue, west of El Camino Real. This comes as a result of a petition from residents on the block concerned about increased long-term on-street parking by non-residents on the street, a staff report stated. The residents also felt the need for their block to be consistent with the current parking restrictions on the adjacent 1500 block of Howard Avenue.
The council will meet 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16 in Council Chambers, 501 Primrose Road.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105