Developers may get a break due to the recession

In response to construction delays caused by the economic downturn, officials may give developers two extra years to get construction started after a plan has been approved.

Currently, when a housing or commercial project is approved by the city’s Planning Commission, builders have one year to obtain permits for construction or risk jeopardizing the approval.

An ordinance to be considered by the City Council later this month would give developers three years to complete construction documents and obtain building permits.

John Bear of Matteson Realty Services, based in Redwood City, said cities have learned from past events that they need to be more flexible with developers, who faced similar concerns during the dot-com bust in 2001. Although many developers had property ready for construction, work stalled when the economy declined.

“But now it’s even more pronounced,” Bear said. “It’s infeasible to build. And even if you can build, you can’t find financing. The time horizon is much longer than anticipated.”

The ordinance for the extension was introduced this week and a public hearing on the matter will take place at the Burlingame City Council’s Oct. 19 meeting, Community Development Director Bill Meeker said.

He said the city has received an increased number of requests to extend the project’s approval because of the recession.

“It gives them more time to get financing together,” Meeker said. “We want to give developers a break.”

Existing approved projects would also benefit from the ordinance.

Currently, developers can request an infinite number of one-year extensions, but Meeker said each project would typically only be granted one.

He said he could not discuss big projects in the works that may seek an extension.

If a project is still in its first year of approval under the current ordinance, it would have an additional two years added on to its approval, Meeker said.

The largest project currently in Burlingame is the construction of a new Safeway store, he said.

Plans for that project have dragged on for more than a decade because of residents’ concerns. The latest proposal includes a 45,645-square-foot store — 40 percent larger than the existing Safeway — along with a two-story retail and office development adjacent to the supermarket.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

SF Examiner
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