Culminating years of effort, Millbrae officials essentially put their final stamp of approval on the proposed designs of a sweeping mixed-use development set for construction at the train station on BART land.
The Millbrae City Council unanimously signed off on most of the lingering detailed project design elements for the residential, commercial and hotel project proposed by Republic Urban developments.
Though some public art features and other specific portions may return for further examination later, officials recognized the Tuesday, June 11, decision allows the project to advance.
Following countless hours spent over the past few years deliberating and discussing the project, Vice Mayor Reuben Holober said the most recent decision signals progress.
“Enough has been approved at this point that we are not holding the development back,” he said, according to video of the meeting.
The design decision follows councilmembers last year approving the project proposal. Since then, officials and developers have collaborated on identifying preferred materials and other specifics which have been gradually approved for the past few months.
The design approvals are the last threshold to clear in advance of consent for breaking ground on the project comprised of four buildings that are four to seven stories tall. One residential building features 300 market rate units and 20 units affordable to moderate-income people, plus 13,749 square feet of ground floor retail. The other residential building consists of 80 affordable units reserved for veterans. Another building has 151,583 square feet of offices and 22,534 square feet of ground floor retail and the hotel offers 164 rooms.
The development, which is slated to replace parking on BART property, is adjacent to the Serra Station project, which entails 444 residential units, approximately 290,000 square feet of office space and about 35,000 square feet of retail space. The Serra Station development designs were also approved earlier this year.
Looking toward the opportunity to start building, Councilwoman Ann Schneider expressed her support for the project.
“I’d like to get this moving,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Wayne Lee suggested he would have preferred officials were granted another opportunity to view some of the lingering design specifics before voting for approval.
“If the council would like to do this and approve this project sight unseen, that’s fine,” said Lee, noting his discomfort while also acknowledging his minority opinion among his colleagues.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Gina Papan said she believes there is a considerable amount of work which still needs to be done before the project is ready for construction.
“There are a whole bunch of things before you get a building permit here, so let’s not say this is complete,” she said.
Meanwhile, Holober suggested the decision could help officials stave off criticism that they are lagging in approving the development.
“In case anyone is accusing us of another delay in the project — no, coming back to discuss these art features will not be impacting the timeline of the development,” he said.
The suggestion that officials were not moving quickly enough did not sit well with Papan.
“A project like this, to come from the council to this point in a two-year period is phenomenal. Other jurisdictions take decades for this. So if there is any suggestion by this developer or BART that this council has delayed — we’ve had special meetings time and again — that is absolutely appalling and I find it insulting,” said Papan, who has long been a critic of the project.
In an attempt to calm rising tensions, City Manager Tom Williams plainly detailed the project’s status moving forward.
“This project is approved with conditions. And there is a lot of work to do with implementing those conditions,” he said.
In other business at the meeting, officials assigned Lee and Councilwoman Anne Oliva to an ad-hoc committee designed to examine homeless support systems. The councilmembers will work alongside representatives from law enforcement, the county, the airport, BART and other local agencies to develop regional strategies addressing those who allegedly take BART to the end of the line in Millbrae then migrate into the surrounding community.
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