San Bruno streets marked for transit development

City officials have designated El Camino Real and San Bruno and San Mateo avenues as areas for future transit-oriented development efforts when funding for such pro-jects become available.

Community Development Director Aaron Aknin said the city, by City Council resolution to be reviewed soon, plans on letting the Association of Bay Area Governments know it has tapped El Camino, San Bruno and San Mateo avenues as prime sites for transit-oriented development — typically dense, taller projects with a range of uses including housing, retail and office space. If ABAG has grants available, the city would direct them at those three spots.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mayor Larry Franzella said. “It fills a critical housing need, not just in San Bruno, but in the whole region.”

The city budget includes several hundred thousand dollars earmarked this fiscal year for planning — which includes looking to other cities and possibly holding workshops to gather input — to further this goal. More solid plans will come before the council sometime this year as part of the ongoing General Plan revisions, Aknin said.

TOD zoning, which usually includes design requirements meant to encourage walking and public transit use and discourage driving, is one method the city is using to create a defined downtown identity. Securing tenants for high-profile spots, including the long-empty Wells Fargo site on San Mateo Avenue, has been difficult, and officials think a revamped downtown might be the key.

The Crossing, a massive housing and retail project located across from The Shops at Tanforan near the San Bruno BART station, is the city’s first stab at such development. By all accounts, officials said, it has been largely successful and deserves a try downtown near Caltrain.

Early this year, the city resolved to encourage dense, mixed-use projects around the Caltrain line, an endeavor that coincides with planned Caltrain grade separations expected to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Caltrain does not plan on starting work on grade separations — which would raise the train tracks to separate them from the roadway and pedestrians — until 2010. But the agency plans on starting interim safety improvements such as fencing and safety medians to completely block a driver’s ability to drive around a lowered crossing arm next month.

Minor landscaping from the temporary improvements could help make the area more attractive, but officials maintain that the grade separations will be the key to the area’s becoming truly transit-centric.

tramroop@examiner.com

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