Burlingame officials reimagined a stretch of Chapin Avenue near downtown to be more environmentally resilient and accommodating to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Burlingame City Council unanimously supported a redesign plan for Chapin Avenue, connecting Primrose Rose to El Camino Real, which removes parking spaces to make room for new bike lanes, improved pedestrian crossings and more green space.
The proposed reconfiguration is brought by a state mandate requiring cities to soften their streets and introduce more landscaping, trees and other natural surfaces which will do a better job of capturing stormwater runoff.
Members of the City Council considered two proposed alternatives for the street, and ultimately selected a design they felt would be safer for pedestrians and motorists plus do a better job of reaching the goal of establishing more green infrastructure.
For her part, Councilmember Donna Colson said she is happy the plans were proposed because she frequently visits the area and sees plenty of room for enhancements.
“I’m really happy we are doing something,” she said “Anything is an improvement.”
Ultimately though, Colson said she favored the design cutting out more parking spaces because the alternative composition she feared would create a potentially dangerous environment for those walking and driving in the area.
“I’m just a little bit nervous about that whole interaction between traffic and pedestrians,” she said.
What’s more, Colson said she felt it is reasonable to sacrifice parking spaces along the street to make way for the new features, because there are an abundance of nearby lots downtown.
Councilmember Emily Beach concurred with Colson’s position, and also said that if the point of the venture is to soften the hardscape, then officials should look to make the most of their opportunity.
“If that is what we are prioritizing, let’s do as much as we can,” she said.
Under the proposal, a new planted median is planned through the middle of the street. Beyond the beautification, the soft surface is intended to do a better job of capturing water than the existing concrete.
Additionally, there will new street trees, bulbouts, pedestrian sanctuaries, bike sharrows plus benches, trash cans and news racks. In all, almost 50 new trees will be planted, about 3,000 square feet of planting will occur and an equal amount of new bioretention space will be provided.
To make way for the new features, the 101 existing street parking spaces will be cut down to 78, according to a city report.
Though the project is intended to align with new state standards, there is no additional money allocated by Sacramento to help cities afford the cost of reconstruction. But Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said officials selecting a design and moving the planning ahead will put Burlingame in a better position to receive grant funding for financing the transformation.
Additionally, he said private developers planning new projects will be expected to offset some of the associated costs.
Beach acknowledged the opportunities for Burlingame to get assistance funding the projects, but anticipated there could be significant capital outlays required as well.
“This is going to be major work going into the future,” she said.
As officials move planning for the projects forward, Beach expressed her enthusiasm over the future of a new Chapin Avenue.
“I think it’s going to be a great improvement,” she said.
Vice Mayor Ricardo Ortiz concurred, and looked forward to beginning the reconstruction.
“The sooner we can get started building it, the happier we will be,” he said.