Editor,

Regarding the San Mateo Planning Commission pushing back on Tim Draper, the owner of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel who turned that dilapidated building into the for-profit Draper University. I'd like to ask the commission members if they were residents of San Mateo when the hotel sat dormant collecting dust until Mr. Draper purchased it, gave it a restoration cleaning and helped give that section of Third Avenue a much needed shot in the arm.

The Benjamin Franklin is as much a historical landmark (not) as its previous next door neighbor, the San Mateo Theater, also built in 1926 and “renovated” into what the city hoped to be a dining, shopping and office space for the entire Peninsula. Yeah. How’s that working out for us.

If the Planning Commission decides to play hardball and Draper sells it or walks away from it, it will become the eyesore it was for the last 30 years before he acquired it. I seriously doubt anyone besides the Planning Commission cares about a outside glass elevator being built on the backside of the building.

Let Draper continue to improve that section of downtown and bring in more much needed business. You only need to walk up and down Third Avenue to witness the permanently closed businesses. The commission needs to worry about more pressing matters, like helping a downtown that continues to see more and more empty storefronts. Not blocking an attempt by somebody trying to improve it.

Bob Wackerman

San Mateo

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(2) comments

Old San Matean

Mr. Wackerman, I agree with much of what you've said. I do remember when the Ben Franklin was horribly neglected and I definitely don't want to see that happen again. But please recall that before it fell into disrepair, the Ben Franklin Hotel was the most popular hotel on the Peninsula, a true destination for those traveling from SF to SJ, and it was beautiful in its heyday. I loved the back dining room, the fireplace, the pool, the monkey in the back patio area … and it was THE PLACE to celebrate special occasions. So for many of us, the Ben Franklin Hotel is definitely a historical landmark, as is the Theatre. And while I’m on the subject, someone should turn the Theatre back into what it was built for -- a place of entertainment, with live music like The Fox Theater and Club Fox in RWC. Keep the historical buildings and liven the place up.

Terence Y

Agreed, Mr. Wackerman. Or maybe we should allow Mr. Draper to add 10 more stories to the building. That way, he can help the city in building high density housing. Or, maybe Mr. Draper can return the building to its dilapidated state before he bought it, and then leave town.

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