Kaiser plans head for review

SAN MATEO — Neighbors are tentatively throwing their support behind Kaiser Permanente’s plan to build a new medical center on an empty parcel near Bay Meadows Phase II where plans for a luxury hotel failed.

Kaiser’s proposal to build a 70,000-square-foot, two-story medical office on 2.8 acres at the corner of Franklin Parkway and Saratoga Drive, heads to the Planning Commission for a study session Tuesday. San Mateo/Glendale Village residents got their first look at the project in late October and offered little criticism, much of which focused on a proposed 14-foot-high parking platform.

“The fact that [the parking] was going to be on Saratoga was an issue — the neighbors thought it should be on the east end of the lot,” said Greg Grialou, president of the San Mateo/Glendale Village neighborhood association, adding that some were concerned about its size. “As it turned out, it’s not really a large garage; it’s not going to create any issues.”

The parcel has sat vacant since 2002, when the Westin hotel chain submitted plans to build a W-branded hotel on the spot. San Mateo issued Westin the necessary permits, but the downturn in the hotel market discouraged officials from moving ahead with construction, according to planner Kenneth Chin.

In October of 2005, the city’s Planning Commission rejected a plan to build 190 multi-family units on the site because commissioners feared the area’s high-traffic streets would not provide adequate pedestrian safety, Chin said.

The land still belongs to the Bay Meadows Land Company, though Kaiser is in talks with the company and has begun making payments on the parcel, according to Kaiser spokesman Carl Sonkin. Building the medical facility, which would include offices for 33 physicians, pediatric and women’s care, diagnostic laboratories and optical services, would require a change to the Bay Meadows Specific Plan, Chin said.

“It would be nice to have something there instead of that lot that’s been sitting there,” Grualou said.

Others in the neighborhood agreed.

“This part of the Peninsula could use a medical center,” resident Norm Wood said. “I think the idea of a medical facility will generate less traffic than housing or a hotel.”

However, both residents agreed that the city would need to examine how patients will access the site, located near U.S. Highway 101 and the complicated intersections along Franklin Parkway adjacent to the Whole Foods shopping center.

The San Mateo Planning Commission meets Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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