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The owners of the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo have requested that the city make its property varying degrees of mixed-use land zoning designations in the upcoming General Plan, allowing future use flexibility.

David Bohannon II

David Bohannon II

David Bohannon, president of Bohannon Companies, the mall ownership group, proposed in a letter to the city a mixed-use high designation for the parcels closest to the Hillsdale Caltrain Station and along El Camino Real, with a mixed-use medium for the parcel’s interior, with a transitional buffer zone to the adjacent neighborhood. Hillsdale Shopping Center, at 60 31st Ave., is a large parcel close to transit centers like Hillsdale Train Station and El Camino Real and potential redevelopment use for housing, retail and commercial options. The mixed-use medium allows for 40-99 units an acre for residential. Mixed-use high allows for 100 to 200 units an area.

Bohannon also requested the city consider splitting land-use types on the parcel to allow more density along El Camino Real and lessened intensity near the surrounding single-family residential neighborhood along Edison Street. Bohannon said the difference would help meet the city’s needs and protect San Mateo’s neighborhoods. The Hillsdale Shopping Center is one parcel. Bohannon said the letter also intended to show the sites near single-family residences would not have tall and dense buildings.

“We are trying to signal to the city our intentions about the site in regards to how it might be redeveloped over time. There’s no specific time horizon, but clearly, we can see that the mall, as currently organized, there’s a good chance we may need to change that,” Bohannon said.

Bohannon made the requests in two letters to the city on Feb. 16 and 25.

Deputy Community Development Director Zach Dahl said by email the Planning Commission recommended land use designations consistent with the property owner’s request for the Hillsdale Shopping Center sites. The Planning Commission made the recommendations at its March 22 meeting as parts of its circulation and land use recommendations to the City Council. The council will consider the suggestions at its April 18 meeting. Dahl said the existing land use designations for Hillsdale Shopping Center would remain for at least a few more years. Even if the council follows the recommendations, the updated land use designation won’t start until the council adopts the General Plan at the end of 2023. The voter-approved Measure Y will also limit building heights to 55 feet.

Malls have been struggling for years due to the pandemic and the widespread change in consumer buying patterns to online shopping. Developer Alexandria Real Estate purchased the Shops at Tanforan and will transform the site into housing and a sprawling campus for biotech and tech firms. Bohannon noted that any redevelopment would occur over a long time, with mixed-use providing flexibility to a large property changing.

“If we go through an approval process for a project, and this would probably be multiple projects over some period of years, each of those would be subject to a public process,” Bohannon said.

Councilmember Joe Goethals said the Hillsdale train station’s future is one of the large transit hubs on the Peninsula. He considers the mall’s footprint essential to reduced car traffic and more Caltrain use. Goethals provided an example of the nearby Bay Meadows urban village site as a success story in reducing car trips. He wanted to maximize housing stock within the train station while balancing it with concerns from the surrounding neighborhoods.

“I think housing will have to be one of the components within the footprint of the current Hillsdale Shopping Center, and I think because of its location next to the train station, the housing at that location should be as dense as possible,” Goethals said.

Goethals said many constituents had reached out to say they would live in new housing in the area. He acknowledged that some single-family residents feel threatened by state laws and are concerned about increasing density in the San Mateo hills. He supported finding a solution that keeps density at the mall site to prevent it from spilling into surrounding neighborhoods. He wants to avoid infighting around mixed-use properties like at the Vallco Mall site in Cupertino.

Bohannon said his company would engage in a community outreach process on the mall’s future that began in 2019 called Reimagine Hillsdale. Bohannon Companies representatives will speak in May at the Beresford Hillsdale Neighborhood Association meeting.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

Note to readers: This story has been changed. It had previously incorrectly stated Zach Dahl was Community Development Director. He is the Deputy Community Development Director. 

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102


Curtis Driscoll covers transportation and the cities of San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont and Half Moon Bay. See my other articles:

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(3) comments


I have a hard time believing all this will get done up to an occupancy permit within the next 8 year RHNA cycle. 2000 units is a lot that San Mateo has scheduled there. They better hit it or find it elsewhere.


I hate to say it, but a few of us have been saying "I told you so..."


"Expansive projections of California’s population growth have been proven wrong and if anything, the state is now losing population with serious social and economic impacts.'


That is what we need, more traffic on El Camino

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