Burlingame officials are set to examine a redevelopment proposal for land where a historic house was formerly located until it suffered severe damage in a fire and demolished.
The Burlingame Planning Commission will consider Tuesday, Oct. 9, a plan to rebuild the former Gates House site at 1214 Donnelly Ave., into a new mixed-use development.
The land near downtown where the Gates House was formerly located is slated to be rebuilt into a new three-story project with commercial space on the ground floor and 14 units spread across the top two stories.
Previously, the site was occupied by the home constructed in 1900 by the city’s first stationmaster G.W. Gates until it was demolished earlier this year, following a 2013 four-alarm fire.
The damaged building sat vacant after the blaze that was started by the floor heater in a neighboring building. The fire’s toll was clear from the charred exterior, visible behind a fence downtown prior to the demolition permit’s issuance in March. Estimates suggested the property sustained nearly $250,000 worth of damage in the fire. A city report claims the demolition was necessary as the vacant structure was becoming a public safety threat and a harbor of illicit and illegal activity by trespassers.
Gates, also the city’s third postmaster, commissioned to construct the building on Burlingame Avenue around 1900. He then had the house moved to its current location on Donnelly Avenue in 1917. It was deemed to be a historical building, eligible for listing on the local and national registers, around 2008.
Some residents wished more had been done to protect the house prior to its demolition, but city officials said the historical significance was tied to former residents and not the structure. As a result, once the building was compromised, demolition was considered suitable. Alternatively, if the house itself was deemed historic, there could have been a higher threshold required for clearing the site.
Members of the Burlingame Historical Society have said they repeatedly tried to work with the property owners to discuss the vision for the site, with limited success. As a compromise, members have suggested putting a plaque at the site recognizing its former significance would be justified and city officials agreed memorialization would likely be required, but the fashion by which that will be represented is yet to be determined.
According to the new vision for the site, the ground floor will likely be designed to accommodate a restaurant or retail space. Twelve two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units are slated to occupy the top floors, and 23 parking spaces will be provided on site for patrons, workers and residents in a stacking mechanism. The units will range in site from 525 square feet to 1,040 square feet, according to a city report.
To make way for the residential project, officials need to approve rezoning the property and areas surrounding the proposed site. Ultimately, the City Council will need to grant final approval for the request.
In making a case for why the project should be approved, reports filed by the developer suggest the new construction will rejuvenate a site previously dormant following the fire.
“This type of use allows people to live and work in downtown Burlingame. Residents of this building will patronize the downtown Burlingame businesses both during the day and evening hours,” said the report. “This creates a more efficient living environment for a population living, working and patronizing businesses in the central business district.”
The Burlingame Planning Commission meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in City Hall, 501 Primrose Road.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105