In an effort to fix a number of challenges downtown Burlingame is facing, the city is in the early stages of exploring adding workforce housing and a parking garage to the core area.
During a Monday study session, the City Council heard a presentation from the firm Pacific Western Community that proposed whether take two city parking lots and construct affordable housing for working people, or workforce housing, on one lot and construct a public parking structure on the other. The two proposed downtown lots are Lots F, located on Park Road and Howard Avenue, and Lot N, located just east of Lot F on Lorton and Howard avenues. The company comes up with novel ways of using tax credit financing, said Mayor Michael Brownrigg.
“If it can work to create that much public benefit without us making a cash investment, it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “It’s still the early days. It’s an exciting and creative idea if it can be made to work. It checks a lot of boxes for us: increasing downtown parking and attainable workforce housing, without encumbering the budget.”
The presentation, by Caleb Roope, who is CEO of The Pacific Companies that runs various firms, including the Pacific Western Community, noted that the housing development would include 100 units of market rate housing or below market rate housing with an option to buy, according to Vice Mayor Terry Nagel. The plan could potentially double the amount of parking between the two lots from 170 spots to 340 spots, which would occupy the current Lot N, Brownrigg said.
“The most appealing part of the proposal is we would get several hundred parking spots downtown — that would be huge,” Nagel said. “There are many, many questions. This is just the start of the process. It’s important to have all types of housing available. People who work for nonprofits, teachers and others are the backbone of our community — people who are not paid huge paychecks. We’re hearing from them loud and clear we need to do something about this problem.”
Other councilmembers were also excited about the idea, including Councilman Ricardo Ortiz, who noted it would be good to come up with something that tackles both affordable housing and parking downtown.
“Usually the city would have to kick something in for housing,” he said. “But it sounded intriguing.”
With the potential development of lots F and N by Pacific Western Community, the city had to terminate discussions between itself and Equity Residential regarding development of those lots. Back in 2011, the city sought qualified developers interested in partnering with the city to develop city-owned parking lots within downtown and Equity was one of the chosen parties. Because plans with Equity haven’t moved forward, the city, with no ill will, decided Monday night Equity was not the right partner to move forward with those lots, Brownrigg said.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to amend the land use chapter of the Burlingame Downtown Specific Plan by rezoning properties located within the odd numbered address range of 305-371 Primrose Road and 1401-1403 Chapin Ave. from Burlingame Avenue Commercial, BAC, to Donnelly Avenue Commercial, DAC. The council also voted to rezone properties located within the odd numbered address range of 401-411 Primrose Road, situated at the northwest corner of the intersection of Chapin Avenue and Primrose Road from Burlingame Avenue Commercial to Chapin Avenue Commercial, according to a staff report.
Further, property owners have indicated that the restrictions placed upon land use within this portion of the BAC district have created challenges. Buildings under the DAC are provided greater latitude with respect to placement of office uses on the ground floor and aren’t subject to restrictions on the number of food establishments that may be placed within these zones. In an effort to provide greater flexibility for re-tenanting of those properties within the BAC zone that front on Primrose Road north of Burlingame Avenue, on May 5, the council directed staff to proceed with analysis of land use options and crafting of amendments to the zoning regulations applicable to these properties that may facilitate re-tenanting of vacant tenant spaces, according to the report.
“These are small, but useful changes,” Brownrigg said. “It’s better use of those properties to get these places rented out.”
Meanwhile, the council has asked staff to work closely with The Pacific Companies.
The council next meets in late August.
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