Representatives from Michaels Arts and Crafts store have appealed a San Mateo Planning Commission September denial of its request to move to the former Borders bookstore site on El Camino Real.
The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the City Council Nov. 18, according to Linda Bernhardt, senior advisor to DLA Piper LLP, the firm representing Micahels in their appeal.
Michaels’ lease at its current building on Delaware Street near Kmart doesn’t expire for another 16 months, but it applied to the commission to take over the 2925 S. El Camino Real earlier this year.
Michaels’ application included repainting the exterior of the building, installing a new sign and other interior improvements, according to staff reports. The Zoning Administrator denied Michaels’ request in April, prompting it to appeal to the Planning Commission. It was denied during a Sept. 10 hearing.
The denial was based on the city’s Rail Corridor Transit Oriented Development Plan that was enacted in 2005. It was adopted to allow, encourage and provide guidance for the creation of transit-oriented development within a half-mile radius of the Hillsdale and Hayward Park Caltrain station, said Art Henriques, contract project planner for the city. The TOD is also supportive of pedestrians and bicyclists, Henrique said.
“You’re encouraging higher density of mixed uses and ability for people to more easily utilize transit,” Henriques said.
The zoning classification is meant to encourage more residential or office buildings in the area so people will have easy access to public transit; consequentially cutting down on car trips and reducing vehicle emissions, Henrique said.
Based on the TOD, retail businesses in the area are limited to 15,000 square feet; however, grocery and drug stores are exempt. The El Camino Real site is approximately 25,000 square feet and Michaels’ current location is about 30,000 square feet.
The city changed the zoning rules in the east area around the Hillsdale Caltrain station, including the 2925 El Camino building, in May 2011. After Borders left, the property owner needed to maintain it as a retail space without a six-month gap for a new store to grandfather in under the non-conforming allowance.
The seasonal business Spirit Halloween Superstores and Gator Bob were denied applications for tax certificates and are also appealing to operate at the El Camino Real site. But any large-scale retail store would not be consistent with the TOD ordinance, Henrique said.
Spirit Halloween Superstore had occupied the building until Nov. 22, 2011, and returned around June 4, 2012, according to staff reports. Part of the petitioners’ appeal requested the Planning Commission find the property continued to be used as retail store after Borders left. The city granted Spirit Halloween Superstore a temporary tax certificate for it to stay in business at the location while the petition is still under appeal, Henrique said.
San Mateo wants Michaels to maintain a retail store in San Mateo, but the site it applied for is not consistent with the intentions of the TOD, Henrique said. With state regulations requiring cities to cut down on pollution by 2020, the city is thinking about the necessity of long-term eco-friendly policies, Henriques said.
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