In preparing for social and economic changes along the Peninsula, San Mateo officials are inviting the public to get involved in planning for the future of its bustling downtown.
On Wednesday night, the Downtown Engagement Process will kick off with the city’s first Future Forum, a talk and discussion series that will assist in updating the city’s Downtown Area Plan — a comprehensive planning document addressing a variety of components such as zoning and land use policies.
“This is really a long-term vision of what we want to do, where do we want to be as a downtown, so we can allocate resources and make plans for future generations of San Mateans,” Councilman David Lim said. “But this, by no means, means sweeping changes for our downtown area. It’s just long-term planning which our city is very good at and why I think we’ve been successful over the years.”
National economist Stephen Levy with serve as the series’ first keynote speaker by providing an overview of emerging socio-demographic trends impacting downtowns before the community is encouraged to discuss what changes they’d like to see.
City officials also plan to coordinate with the Urban Land Institute in late April for a workshop on how to best use several prime downtown properties — including lots at Fifth Avenue and Claremont Street and Railroad Avenue — purchased with former redevelopment agency fund.
Deputy Mayor Jack Matthews said he also hopes to engage local architects in hosting design charrettes as the city updates the 1992 Downtown Area Plan. As times have changed, Matthews encourages the public to get involved and wants to see out-of-the-box thinking.
“There’s a lot of different options out there about what’s important in terms of types of uses and whether we should have more residences in the downtown and greater heights and that sort of thing. I think people are really thinking about it from a fresh point of view,” Matthews said. “I’m hoping that the community gets involved and feels free to throw out some ideas about what it could be that maybe we hadn’t seen before.”
Matthews said he wants to have a more in-depth analysis of downtown that includes the area east of the Caltrain tracks, which is primarily used as service commercial more so than retail.
Matthews added he’s long sought the City Council to consider relocating City Hall downtown and creating a centralized plaza that could host events.
Lim agreed he’d like to use the engagement process to consider forming gathering places.
“I’m really interested in making our downtown much more community oriented and by that, for me, community oriented means making it more pedestrian friendly, making it more family friendly, having maybe a central plaza where we can host events, and tying [downtown] to our Central Park in a more meaningful way,” Lim said.
Along with this ongoing summer series, the update of the Downtown Area Plan will incorporate other ongoing initiatives such as the Downtown Parking Plan, the Central Park Master Plan update, the Sustainable Streets Plan and more.
“Every plan builds upon the other plans. None of them exist in a vacuum. … All of them should complement one another to help build the best community that we can envision,” Lim said. “I’m excited. It’ll be a great process and a lot of fun.”
San Mateo’s first Downtown Future Forum entitled Downtown 2050: How social and economic trends are re-shaping the future of downtowns, will be held 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday April 1 at the San Mateo Main Library, 55 W. Third Ave., San Mateo. For more information visit www.engagedowntownsanmateo.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106