Burlingame officials are exploring a market and economic study for downtown Burlingame and Broadway to see what is working and what isn’t — but only once the city has recovered from the pandemic.
Mayor Ann O’Brien said the economic study is important to figure out what needs to be improved, what is going well, and how they can keep their downtown pedestrian-friendly and support small businesses. And at the same time, she added it is important to balance it with bigger businesses as well as entertainment venues, restaurants and coffee shops to get people to come to downtown.
“In the Peninsula, there are a lot of businesses that have suffered, a lot of downtowns that have suffered, and cities have lost revenue so it’s time for us to reevaluate what changes can improve our areas,” said O’Brien. “I think we all want our communities to succeed.”
She also mentioned the information will be more accurate after the recovery process, and that they should find out the number of vacancies in the Broadway District and in Burlingame Avenue beforehand.
“I’m a little concerned about timing due to the fact we are just kind of transitioning out of COVID pandemic,” O’Brien said. “There’s still a little bit of uncertainty futuristically and we are in a recovery phase.”
Vice Mayor Ricardo Ortiz agreed, and said it would be best to wait and to first tackle the expenses they already have, give enough time toward recovery for more accurate numbers, and give staff more time to find grants and funding.
“I don’t think we need to rush into it,” Ortiz said.
Councilmember Emily Beach also brought up revisiting a comprehensive downtown parking study as it is related with land use and development.
The estimated cost for a market overview and economic impact study, depending on the level of economic analysis and the evaluation of impacts, is in the range of $50,000 to $75,000.
The last economic study was prepared in 2006 by the Economic Research Associates as part of the Downtown Specific Plan. The proposal for a more current evaluation of market conditions was initially discussed during a June 9 economic development subcommittee meeting
An economic study has already been arranged for the Broadway commercial district as part of a Broadway Specific Plan which is funded through a MTC/ABAG priority development area grant.
At its Monday night meeting, the City Council also adopted a water shortage contingency plan which ensures the city has legal authority to execute water use practices in the plan and adopted standards for prohibiting wasteful water practices permanently. The motion, previously discussed at a June 21 meeting, passed 4-1 with councilmember Michael Brownrigg voting no.
“I just don’t like this approach of telling homeowners that they’re basically breaking our rules if they don’t have a trigger on their hose among other things,’’ he said.
He said he continues to think that the best way to get people to save water is to price water more expensively if more water gets used.
“I am assured by staff that they are not here to be punitive, they are here to educate. And that people will have warnings,” said O’Brien in response. “So I look at it as an educational process.”
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