Burlingame officials pushed forward an apartment building proposed to replace a prominent Italian eatery, despite some concerns the residential development was too large to fit in the area abutting Highway 101.

The Burlingame Planning Commission voted 4-2, with commissioners Richard Sargent and Michael Gaul dissenting, to advance a proposal to redevelop Fattoria e Mare restaurant into a 150-unit apartment building.

Though commissioners shared divergent opinions on the plans crafted by the Hanover Company, ultimately the fate of the project lies in the hands of the Burlingame City Council, which will soon consider the recommendation.

Recognizing fears raised by his colleagues that the development would worsen traffic in an area already badly congested, Commissioner Richard Terrones shared his support for the proposal.

“I see this as a very creative project to provide housing in a desperately needed environment and in a location that I think is going to help provide some life to this neighborhood,” he said, according to video of the meeting.

Gaul said he respectfully disagreed, suggesting he felt the project attempted to pack too many units into its address at 1095 Rollins Road.

“I think it is a good site for housing but I don’t think this many units at that site is going to work,” he said. To that end, Gaul said he felt the project would fit better in Oakland or San Francisco than its surroundings on the Peninsula.

The Hanover Company is proposing a six-story building replacing the restaurant and adjacent parking garage and tennis court. The development would include 35 studio apartments, 74 one-bedroom apartments, 38 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units. Of the 150 units, 15 would be set aside at a moderate rate.

The project would also provide 195 parking spaces, 175 of which would be accommodated through a stacking system while six would be provided in tandem spaces and 14 would be standard spots. Most of the parking would be in an underground garage.

Commissioners raised fears the allotted parking would be inadequate, especially once guests start visiting tenants. Representatives from The Hanover Company said the only guest parking to be provided on site would be the available standard spaces, and that the stacker system would likely be designated for residents.

Neighbors concerned the development would compound existing parking issues questioned whether a permit program could be established to assure overflow parking doesn’t spill into surrounding streets. City Attorney Katherine Kane said protocol exists for establishment of such programs, and that neighbors could request permit parking if preferred.

Echoing reservations over impacts on the neighborhood, Sargent said he felt the project design was inconsiderate of its surroundings.

“It feels like to me the density of this project doesn’t work,” said Sargent. He also shared frustrations raised by Gaul regarding the traffic study for the project, which projected only a few more trips would be generated by the development than the existing restaurant.

Terrones countered that perspective though by claiming the area abutting Highway 101 is the appropriate place to build high-density housing.

“If not here, then where? Again, this project is fronting on a freeway, it is not fronting on another neighborhood,” he said.

Commissioner Will Loftis agreed.

“I think it is the right project in the right place,” he said.

Casting a deciding vote in favor of the development, Commission Chair Sandy Comaroto acknowledged some shortcomings in the design but said ultimately the benefits offered are too great to turn away from.

“I could see this project moving forward and I’m in agreement I could approve this project,” she said.

In other business, the Burlingame Planning Commission is seeking a new member. Former commissioner Brenden Kelly was removed from the board due to too many absences from meetings last year.

At a recent City Council meeting, officials thanked Kelly for his service and said the decision to remove him was not an indictment on his performance as a commissioner. They also agreed more information should be available to new commissioners regarding the importance of regular attendance.

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