Burlingame city officials are still trying to nail down plans for a new community center to replace its current aged facility in Washington Park, but funding is still up in the air for the project.
A two-story 35,500-square-foot building located at the same location is the front-runner. At this time, there is no funding allocated for the project, so securing money for construction would also be part of the process. The Citizens Advisory Committee, or CAC, met Feb. 12 and helped identify both the preferred project and site option based on community input gathered at the Fresh Market, from the Recreation Center display and from the online survey. The current structure is 25,000 square feet.
“Our goal was to get as much input as possible,” said Parks and Recreation Director Margaret Glomstad. “This is a conceptual design and there’s no funding.”
Some believe that a retrofit should be considered before going for a full-blown demolition and rebuild, noting a retrofit would be cheaper.
“I know we’re not here to talk about funding,” said Planning Commissioner Jeff DeMartini at a Monday night meeting. “Often we (the Planning Commission) see projects we don’t necessarily love. I was hoping to see retrofitting as an option. At some point we’re going to come up with an option. It’s a nice building; I use it fairly often with my family.”
The city has said the current building is not seismically sound. It is looking at a variety of options, including three possible locations for a new building, all of which would still be east of the Burlingame Avenue Caltrain Station on the residential stretch of Burlingame Avenue. Renovation was considered as an option, said Burlingame Parks and Recreation Commissioner Donna Colson.
“I’ve been working with our amazing consultants on the committee and there was a renovation discussion,” Colson said. “There were a number of reasons we decided not to waste a lot of money of the consulting fees. … We felt it was very costly to make a lot of these modifications in the building. The sentiment from public was if we’re going to do it, let’s do this really well and let’s not try to cut corners.”
Resident and former recreation center employee of 25 years Karen Allen agreed with Colson.
“This is like my second home,” she told the Planning Commission. “I was there during the earthquake and it took $30,000 to fix the front wall. Those days are gone — it’s going to be more. This [project] is great. Please pass it.”
Plans for a new center are being carefully thought out and not rushed, architect Dawn Merkes, the principal for Group 4, said. Back in January 2013, the Parks and Recreation Department began work with Group 4 Architects on a master design plan for the community center. A project management team formed out of city staff and the architectural team, as well as a community advisory committee composed of leaders and community stakeholders. There were focus group meetings with seniors; the Lions Club; teens; neighbors; families with preschool-aged children; and school-aged parents, parent teacher associations and teachers. Pictorial kiosks with information and surveys were provided at events throughout the summer and at the Fresh Market. The city has looked at adding small group meeting rooms, improved storage, two additional classrooms, a catering kitchen, multi-generational activity rooms, a 500-square-foot larger multi-purpose room with a raised platform and other features.
The Planning Commission also looked at the layout of a new community center in terms of the type and location of parking, along with whether to include underground parking, the placement of the building, play areas and other facilities. The city would have to provide 143 parking spaces for both Washington Park and the new community center per the Institute of Transportation Engineers parking rate of 3.2 cars per 1,000 square feet of building area. The city is looking into providing a combination of surface and underground parking to meet minimum parking requirements and, if funding is available, create parking under the tennis courts to minimize surface parking within the park and utilize off-site parking strategies for large events and peak use.
“I’m excited because to have a community center that’s a landmark building is going to be a benefit to the community,” said Planning Commissioner Jeanne Davis. “Parking should be secondary.”
Concern about the potential for a new landmark building was expressed by Jennifer Pfaff, president of the Burlingame Historical Society.
“I want it to be subtle,” she said. “I always have agreed I want it to be along the street. I think the options all have redeeming qualities.”
In response, Davis clarified saying she doesn’t want a huge building, just something of significance that looks iconic.
Other needs for the building include functional improvements and getting the structure up to American with Disabilities Act standards. Merkes said some site goals include a better building and site relationship, connecting the center to the park; safe and convenient access by car, pedestrian or bike; visibility from downtown and the Caltrain station; complementing the residential neighborhood, especially when it comes to existing and proposed community uses; minimizing the traffic and parking impact to the surrounding neighborhood; easy access to and from outdoor activity areas; and providing improved safety for the playground.
Meanwhile, Lions Club treasurer Glen Mendelson agreed with the Planning Commission, stating that the basketball and tennis courts shouldn’t be next to each other.
Still, commissioners like Nirmala Bandrapalli were excited about the project.
“We don’t want to limit ourselves and say ‘we don’t have the money,’” she said. “I think of 20 years in the future.”
For updates on the project go to burlingame.org/index.aspx?page=3294.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105