More than two years after plans for a new Howard Avenue store were rejected by the City Council, Safeway has agreed to come back to the bargaining table, Mayor Terry Nagel said in her first state of the city address Thursday.
“Something’s in the works,” Nagel said after the speech, noting that Safeway has hired a consultant to work on a compromise plan with a Planning Commission subcommittee. In the next year, “we’re very hopeful they’ll come back with a design that will sail through the process,” she said.
The grocery chain’s proposal for a greatly expanded store in Burlingame became unexpectedly controversial after residents objected to its size and configuration, which some said turned its back on the downtown. The council ultimately rejected the project in 2004 after a series of heated public hearings.
The city has since explored the possibility of a mixed-use project on the site, but Safeway has so far declined to bring forward a new formal proposal without clear guidance on what would be acceptable.
Nagel made the announcement as part of an upbeat speech at the Lions Club in which she also called for city officials to make a second try at a bond to finance flood control improvements as soon as possible.
The narrow failure by two percentage points in November of a $44 million measure to pay for stormwater system improvements was “an incredible accomplishment that shows how well we were able to educate the public about something as unsexy as a flood-control project,” Nagel said. The council is set to discuss a new funding measure at its Tuesday meeting.
Among other achievements from the last year, Nagel cited efforts to improve plans for the Burlingame Avenue Caltrain station, which ultimately prompted Caltrain to shell out more on that project than for any other city.
“We got all the people in one room,” she said, and therefore the new station will have “much more pedestrian access than it did before, and it’s going to be lovely, too.” Caltrain estimates construction will begin in March or April.
In the coming year, Nagel said she wanted to encourage residents to solve more local problems themselves rather than turning to city officials. She added that on her street, Poppy Drive, residents are now holding regular meetings.
Officials also hope to start a new Citizen’s Academy, add more City Council study sessions, encourage citizens to take part in the budget process and empower residents to speak up about downtown redevelopment through a grant from the League of California Cities, Nagel said.