Burlingame officials offered largely positive reviews to plans for a large office building proposed adjacent to the downtown train station, despite concerns the project may worsen the city’s transportation struggles.
The Burlingame Planning Commission unanimously agreed to push forward the proposed redevelopment of a car lot at 250 California Drive into a four-story office building.
The decision puts the Dewey Land Company project in line for a recommendation to the City Council for approval, in the face of lingering fears shared by commission Chair Peter Gum that the building will compound existing congestion problems.
Before voting in favor of the proposal and making it clear he supported the developer’s interest, Gum shared development criticism he commonly receives from residents.
“What I hear on the street is please stop building and please stop the traffic congestion,” said Gum, according to video of the Monday, Feb. 12, meeting.
Gum acknowledged though the commission is required to consider projects according to the city’s zoning code, which allows for redevelopment of the property, so he voted in favor. He also made his preference for the site clear.
“I would suggest building nothing there, or keep it significantly smaller,” said Gum.
Most other commissioners were much less critical and collectively shared their admiration of the brick building designed to accommodate offices with retail space at the ground floor.
“I think it’s a project we want to support in the downtown area,” said Commissioner Richard Terrones.
Dewey Land Company, which is developing another office building across the street, is seeking to rebuild a lot used by Ocean Honda into a building offering 28,000 square feet of office space and 5,387 square feet of retail space at the ground floor. The 55-foot-tall project is also slated to house its parking in an underground lot, using an automated car stacking system.
The property is adjacent to the Severn Lodge Dairy mural at 220 California Drive, featuring an advertisement wallscape painted in 1917. For 75 years, the mural was hidden by an adjacent building, which was demolished in 2000, leading to the painting’s restoration by the Burlingame Historical Society.
As part of an effort to ameliorate concerns by historical society members regarding the painting’s visibility, the developer has offered the organization an opportunity to lease space in the building’s ground floor, where the painting can be publicly observed.
Commissioners lauded the developer’s willingness to work alongside the society and avoid blocking the art.
Amidst the positive reviews offered by commissioners, some suggested design components could be further refined in the interim of the project returning for approval.
“I don’t think it sings yet,” said Commissioner Will Loftis.
Some believed the project would benefit from paying greater reverence to the train station, while others believed more detailing to the building’s brick exterior would be an improvement. Meanwhile, the project’s most staunch critic suggested the building was too large for its surroundings.
“It overpowers the most important building we have, which is the downtown train station,” said Gum.
Alternatively, Commissioner Richard Sargent, who suggested the issue be brought back for approval at a later meeting, said he was much more comfortable with the plans.
“I think the project is going in the right direction,” he said.
Commissioner Michael Gaul agreed and said regardless of the traffic and congestion fears, the style of building proposed will become increasingly common as development interests continue visiting Burlingame.
“This is the direction the city is going and this is the direction downtown is going,” he said.
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