Despite the concerns of some neighbors, Burlingame planning commissioners blessed a proposal to rebuild an office tower near the Millbrae border into a mixed-use development featuring homes, offices and retail space.
The Burlingame Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan to construct at 1766 El Camino Real a development featuring 60 residential units atop 148,000 of office space during a meeting Monday, Aug. 24. The plans will advance onto the Burlingame City Council, which will ultimately determine the fate of the development.
Officials admired the seven-story tower which will also feature a ground-floor lobby and retail center plus underground parking — differing from those who feared the development was incompatible with its surroundings.
“I think this thing would stick out extremely obnoxiously on this corner,” said concerned community member Mark Cate, who claimed it is too large and dense for the neighborhood. He furthered his concerns with fears the project would add traffic congestion.
Jadene Wong, who lives in a nearby townhome, said she too believed the project would forever alter the character of the neighborhood.
“This is a quite large building that really changes the whole atmosphere,” she said.
Commissioner Will Loftis agreed that the proposal is a departure from the existing neighborhood character — which he considered to be a benefit to the community.
“Will it change the neighborhood here? Yes. That’s the point,” said Loftis, who noted the stretch of north Burlingame has been identified by officials as an area to build additional housing and allow greater density.
He added officials recently approved a general plan update making way for the new uses, making clear the character of the area would change.
“I guess I’m a little surprised folks see this as a spot that this shouldn’t be happening,” he said.
To advance the synergy of the emerging area, plans have been filed to build a seven-story tower nearby with 169 units at the corner of El Camino Real and Murchison Drive, and about 1 mile away a proposal was made to build 120 units in a six-story development which includes cultural art space.
Regarding the development’s design, Loftis said he appreciated the proposed look of the building.
“I think the building team has done a good job of taking care of the things that it needs to take care of,” he said.
The site is the former home of the Peninsula Museum of Art, which was displaced after the property owner terminated the lease with plans to move forward redevelopment plans. The creative collective has since relocated to the Industrial Art District of San Carlos, in Art Bias, a studio at 1700 Industrial Road.
Beyond the residential, commercial and office space, the project is slated to offer 385 parking spaces in an underground parking lot plus about 18,000 square feet of open space.
Other commissioners also supported the plans, noting they have thoroughly reviewed them in previous meetings and were largely comfortable and familiar with the vision.
For his part, Loftis said he was not entirely enamored with all the design elements — specifically a canopy proposed to tie the development together. But he found no details so objectionable that he would vote against the proposal.
“It is good urban design with a few frivolous piece I can live with,” he said.
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