Cities look to gateway signs for more visibility

Monuments considered way to ramp up downtowns’ identity

Differentiating between Peninsula cities can be a challenge for out-of-towners, but local governments hope identifying gateway features will ensure their cities and downtowns stand out.

A number of cities already have such landmarks, like the post-World War II era arch over Broadway in Burlingame and Redwood City’s arches on its own Broadway emblazoned with the city’s motto, “Climate best by government test.” But several cities are looking to create landmarks of their own or, in some cases, add more to the ones they already have.

The landmarks can range from small welcome signs to art-deco arches — all designed to draw shoppers into sometimes oddly placed downtowns or just to let people know they’ve arrived somewhere new.

Millbrae is making plans and seeking cost estimates for an arch over Hillcrest Boulevard at El Camino Real, to bring more shoppers to relatively hidden retail districts along Broadway and Victoria Avenue. Those plans, revived this year after being shelved for nearly a decade, should head to the City Council this month, Chamber of Commerce President John Ford said.

San Carlos, which also has a large entryway feature leading into its downtown, wants to make more improvements around the train station area. Belmont similarly wants to design a gateway plaza at the Ralston Avenue entrance into town.

San Bruno is spending more than $100,000 to bring its north and south gateways up to snuff, City Manager Connie Jackson said, with updated artful welcome signs in the median on El Camino Real.

“We want to let people know that they’ve arrived and that they’ve arrived somewhere special,” Jackson said.

Redwood City, which has invested hugely in their downtown with a new retail-cinema complex and plaza, recently approved more than $280,000 in funding for “way-finding” signs, branded with a new logo, pointing shoppers to the city’s museum, parking lots, theater district and surrounding shopping areas, according to redevelopment manager Susan Moeller.

There is also some talk of gateways at key intersections such as El Camino Real at Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real at Broadway, Moeller said.

Burlingame, which already has gateway features at Burlingame Avenue along El Camino Real and on Broadway with its famous arch, more identifying markers into downtown will likely be folded into the city’s Downtown Specific Plan, said City planner Meg Monroe. The city is also considering some way to tie Howard Avenue to California Drive, once the city determines how to make Howard a stronger connection to Burlingame Avenue, Monroe said.

Part of the appeal for cities, Monroe said, is “branding” the city, much like people do when marketing products.

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