High-speed rail and the future infrastructure of the city were among concerns shared by candidates running for the Burlingame City Council during a forum last night sponsored and moderated by the League of Women Voters.
Nine are running for the council, including two incumbents and a former councilman. Councilman Michael Brownrigg and Mayor Ann Keighran are joined by Nirmala Bandrapalli, former councilman Russ Cohen, Steve Duncan, Alexander England Kent, Ricardo Ortiz, Andrew Peceimer and Robert Schinagl in seeking three seats. Incumbent Cathy Baylock opted not to run again. Other key topics discussed included increasing sustainability, future Broadway development and the Burlingame Avenue Streetscape project.
In terms of bringing high-density housing into downtown, Cohen and Schinagl agree that there hasn’t been an outcry from the public for this type of housing. Public input would be important, Duncan said.
The city has to balance housing with the charm of Burlingame, Keighran said. A town square and park integrated with housing and parking would be key, she said. Considering historic preservation is key too, Kent said. “High density is inevitable,” Bandrapalli said, adding senior housing would be beneficial too.
Bandrapalli and Ortiz agreed parking is important to consider when bringing in this type of housing. Peceimer expressed concerns about the Burlingame Avenue Streetscape project, which he said lacked community involvement and shouldn’t be prioritized over projects like redoing City Hall or the Washington Park Recreation Center.
Burlingame Avenue needed to be torn up because the pipes underneath the road were aging and the money came from creative financing, Brownrigg said. The area had not been touched since the early 1970s, Keighran added. “Had the City Council done preventative maintenance like they did in Hillsborough we would not be in this situation,” Schinagl said.
Leaving Broadway as is was the opinion of Duncan, Peceimer and Cohen. “Why is Broadway so dirty?” Schinagl said. “No one cleans.”
Keeping the Broadway and Bayshore areas neat and up to date are priorities for Ortiz, while Brownrigg would also like to keep Broadway up to date. Power washing the streets would be one such option.
“We need to bring more businesses to Broadway,” Bandrapalli said. Planting flowers and putting in benches, while attracting more entrepreneurs were some of her suggestions.
On the topic of a new community center at Washington Park, Keighran said the infrastructure at the current center is not up to standards.
Having citizen engagement for a vibrant recreation center was Bandrapalli’s thought on the issue.
“The important thing to know about this community center is that it’s not a vanity project,” Cohen said. He noted the building is seismically unsafe. Peceimer and Brownrigg agreed that it’s important to fix the building because of the seismic issues.
“I think we can come up with some great ideas,” Ortiz said. “I’ll tell you, we need a new rec center eventually.”
Most of the candidates spoke out against high-speed rail coming through Burlingame. The council has done a lot over the last four years concerning the issue, Brownrigg and Keighran said.
“We have to try to balance needs,” Keighran said, adding that the council fought against a four-track railway. “We do not want a wall dividing our communities.”
Kent, who opposes high-speed rail, said he likes to call the project “the high-speed fail.”
“It’s not going to happen,” Schinagl said. “It’s just not feasible. We’re wasting time discussing something that’s never going to go through. And if it does pass, it’s not going to go through here, it’s going to stop in San Jose.”
Costs for high-speed rail are astronomical, Duncan said.
Bandrapalli said it would destroy the community, but supports fixing up Caltrain with the grade separation project.
“There are several reasons I’m running and one of them is to oppose high-speed,” Peceimer said, adding he is in favor of gathering votes for a ballot initiative to oppose it.
A sustainability development coordinator would be beneficial to the city, Bandrapalli said, while Schinagl said he’d like to see the city step back from sustainability involvement.
“Sustainability is also having a parking garage away from the downtown so people are walking,” Keighran said.
Kent was not happy with the city’s current environmental standards. “The Sierra Club told me they give Burlingame a thumbs down for sustainability,” Kent said.
There needs to be a push for transit-oriented development to reduce traffic and congestion, Ortiz said.
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