Burlingame rec center silently seismically unsafe

The seismic safety of the Recreation Center is in doubt, with some officials even questioning whether the building should be shut down altogether, but residents don’t seem to be aware of the problem.

According to a city survey discussed at the Aug. 16 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, most people in the city are happy with the building at 850 Burlingame Ave., which hosts about 400 activities over three semesters a year.

However, a 2004 report found the building does not meet code standards. A sizable earthquake would cause “substantial” structural damage, with “partial collapse likely in the auditorium” according to a city staff memorandum.

Parks and Recreation Director Randy Schwartz said that the facility requires about $2 million worth of work. A ballot measure that would have financed repairs to the Recreation Center as well as to the city’s storm drainage system failed last November by 2 percentage points.

The extent of the Recreation Center’s seismic issues has left some commissioners — namely, Ed Larios and Peter Comaroto — wondering whether it should meet the same fate as San Mateo High School, which was shut down in 2001 for similar problems. The issue will come back to the commission for discussion this Wednesday.

“The structure is clean and nice and inviting,” Larios said. “But I don’t think people are aware of the problems when they keep saying, ‘Don’t cut this tree, don’t cut that tree.’”

In the recent citizen survey, 76 percent said the city’s recreation facilities were excellent or good.

“I do feel safe here,” said Lynn Mutto, Recreation Center supervisor. “But if we do have the big one, I don’t think [the auditorium] will make it. It’s interesting to note that we are designated as an emergency center. It’s all a Catch-22.”

Activities in the auditorium include yoga, gymnastics, bingo, and dances for Mercy High School and Burlingame Intermediate School.

The City Council has indicated that the city’s storm drainage system is a more immediate issue.

Schwartz said Burlingame is one of the few cities without a public gym, a senior center and other facilities for activities typically provided by cities.

However, the public continues to enjoy what the center has to offer.

“It doesn’t look like it’s falling apart to me,” said Kathleen Addison, who recently hosted a birthday bash in the auditorium, which hosted 100 people.

bfoley@examiner.com

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