Michaels Arts and Crafts, left, will be allowed to relocate from its Delaware Street location to the former Borders bookstore on El Camino Real in San Mateo.
Michaels Arts and Crafts will be allowed to relocate from its Delaware Street location to the former Borders bookstore on El Camino Real, as the San Mateo City Council voted unanimously with certain conditions to uphold its appeal of a previous Planning Commission denial last night.
Michaels and 1998 Books Holdings LLC, approached the council with adjustments to its proposal that would include 23,818 square feet of retail space, a 1,450-square-foot café and 864 square feet of art studios and classrooms.
“I think it’s exciting. We’ve been so honored to serve the community for so many years and see the children who come to the store grow up to the adults we serve today,” said Judy Quye, vice president of Michaels’ stores in California.
This was the second appeals process Michaels has gone through this year to relocate to the old Borders site at 2925 S. El Camino Real from its current location at 1750 S. Delaware St. near Kmart and the Hayward Park train station. That area is slated to be transformed in the next decade into a mixed-used transit-oriented-development called Station Park Green. Michaels’ lease is up in 2014. Its application to move was denied by the Zoning Administrator in April. That decision was appealed to the Planning Commission, which rejected its proposal in September.
The move has become controversial as the site was rezoned in 2007 as transit-oriented development to align with the city’s Rail Corridor Plan. At the time, Borders was allowed to remain with a non- conforming use permit. However, between Nov. 22, 2011, and June 4, 2012, the site was not maintained as a retail space and lost its exception.
Councilmembers agreed it’s critical to find a balance between maintaining the city’s intentions of the TOD while supporting transitions that property owners may face when they lose a tenant.
“I have no doubt that we’re a city that’s in transition, we’ve got zoning changes ... and we’re struggling in that transition with some of the non-conforming uses,” said Mayor Robert Ross.
The TOD was adopted to encourage and provide guidance for transit-oriented development within a half-mile radius of the Hillsdale Caltrain station. Multi-family residential facilities and high-density office space are rightfully zoned under the TOD and certain convenience-oriented retail, such as cafes and stores that sell small items, are also allowed. Another guideline to qualify under the TOD would be a mixed-use development.
More than 6,000 Michaels customers signed cards in support of it remaining in San Mateo and there is a lot of community backing, said Linda Bernhardt, senior advisor to DLA Piper LLP, which represents the property owners and supported the store’s relocation to El Camino Real.
The new proposal qualifies as mixed-use because there will be a separate lease for the cafe that isn’t accessible through Michaels, and because it has carved out space for studio and art class space that would be accessible to the community, Bernhardt said.
“It broadly fits within the guidelines for the TOD. I would have preferred a little more square footage to be dedicated to other uses ... but I’m satisfied with where we are with it,” said Councilman Jack Matthews.
Matthews spent years working on the city’s Rail Corridor Plan and although he’s supported having a Michaels in San Mateo since it first came to the city, he wants to ensure the city doesn’t stray too far.
“We’re still in the early phases of making [the Rail Corridor Plan] happen, and I think that’s where the future of our city lies ... so we don’t want to open the door to broader interpretations of the specific plans and lose the essence of what we mean to do,” Matthews said.
Rich Hedges served on the Citizens Advisory Committee during the formation of the Rail Corridor Plan and is concerned about what effect the council’s interpretation of Michaels’ proposal last night could have on other pending cases like the 7-Eleven lawsuit.
“Once you set a precedent that changes the intent of the corridor plan then you’re going to end up not having transit-oriented development that really works,” Hedges said.
Councilmembers all expressed their dedication to the Rail Corridor Plan with hopes to reduce traffic and mitigate the city’s carbon footprint. As the city is still in the process of defining and navigating the practical aspects of the TOD, it’s important to keep the community, the city and local merchants engaged, Ross said.
The council did not give Michaels a straight go-ahead last night, but instead directed city staff to work with DLAP to draft specifications to bring back at the Jan. 6 council meeting.