A new Bayfront park in Burlingame will be redeveloped into a recreation destination under the blessing of the State Lands Commission to transform a blighted and unkempt slice of shoreline property.
The State Lands Commission approved during a meeting Thursday, Oct. 24, the proposal from local nonprofit Sphere Institute to rebuild the 9 acres at 410 Airport Blvd. into a park.
The decision culminates a yearslong process through which plans have started, stopped and changed direction, eventually giving way to the green light for an expected community asset dubbed Burlingame Shoreline Park.
Greg Boro, project director with Sphere Institute, expressed his enthusiasm over the decision after more than two years of planning, deliberation and application.
“To have this lease in our hands to go out and really start this project is tremendously exciting,” he said.
Burlingame Mayor Donna Colson also lauded the opportunity to redevelop the large swath of land which currently sits uncared for behind a link fence in the area east of Highway 101.
“The city of Burlingame has been advocating to turn the State Lands parcel into a 100% public space for over seven years. We are gratified that State Lands has finally heard the call,” she said in a text message.
Vice Mayor Emily Beach, who helped champion an effort to establish the park, shared a similar sentiment.
“Burlingame Shoreline Park will provide valuable open space in an urban area, where people can interact with and learn from nature,” she said. “I believe it’s a great use of public land. Our entire region will benefit from improved access to our Bayfront.”
The commission selected the park proposal ahead of competing offers to build a hotel or athletic club, which officials rejected because the proposals did not align with the selection criteria.
Sphere Institute, which is headquartered nearby, has designed a park which will have space for families to gather, as well as those seeking outdoor recreation such as kayaking, windsurfing and fishing, according to a press release.
Beyond the public space amenities, the park will be built to help Burlingame fend off sea level rise by incorporating marshlands that can offer relief should waters breach the nearby sea wall.
“Burlingame Shoreline Park marks a new approach to building sustainable communities and preparing for climate change,” Veronika Vostinak, a project manager with Sphere Institute, said in a prepared statement.
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and a variety of advocacy agencies such as the Committee for Green Foothills and the Sierra Club endorsed the park partially due to its environmental benefits, along with nearly 2,000 locals who signed a petition calling for its selection ahead of the competing proposals.
Sphere Institute entered an initial three-year lease with the state agency, and will immediately begin planning and permitting work which will require collaboration with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
While the institute will get another opportunity for a longer lease at a later date, Boro said a primary focus will be raising the roughly $2.5 million needed to get the project off the ground. Connecting the stretch of the Bay Trail through the site will be a priority in the early stages of work too, said Boro.
Sphere Institute specializes in grant management with a focus on health policy and partnerships with government agencies. Boro said while open space development is not an area of expertise, the skills required to launch the project are well within the realm of familiarity and the benefits offered by public open space align with the institute’s focus on health.
Following the first phase, Boro said the institute expects to work with the San Mateo Resource Conservation District to raise the estimated nearly $16 million needed to construct the part with contributions from private and public partners, as well as 22 grants identified to contribute to the project. Once the park is constructed, Sphere Institute has also committed to paying the estimated $150,000 annual maintenance fee.
Noting the considerable amount of work ahead, Boro said Sphere Institute is committed to get the project started as soon as possible.
“We will do everything we can to get everything moving as quickly as we can,” he said.
For her part, Colson said officials are pleased by the opportunity to revitalize a stretch of Bayfront land left blighted for years.
“After years of advocacy for more open space, it is exciting to think about a new park coming to Burlingame and creating public access to a community asset that has sat fenced for way too long,” she said.
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