San Mateo planners to study new 'gateway' project

With all the improvements and upgrades made to downtown San Mateo in recent years, city leaders have always lamented the fact that for those entering the area from El Camino Real, the sight that greets them is two abandoned lots, including what was once a Beacon gas station.

But on Tuesday, the San Mateo Planning Commission will begin to study a possible mixed-use development on the site at 221 S. El Camino Real, which planners say could become the city’s “gateway.”

“It is a very important property for the city of San Mateo, that and the property south combine to form a major entryway into the city’s downtown,” Associate Planner Julia Yeh said.

The 12,075-square-foot site — vacant for approximately 15 years — has long been considered one of the most important downtown development locations for the city, because it is such a visible space.

“When we get to the point where we knock that gas station down, I’ll be out there with my sledgehammer,” Councilman John Lee said. “That entrance is absolutely terrible and we need to fix it.”

The owner and developer, Third and El Camino Land Partners LP, has proposed a three-story project with 11,426 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 21,883 square feet of office space on the top two floors.

Yeh said the upper floors would be a “vanilla shell,” with just the exterior spaces developed, leaving the actual floor plan inside available for redesigning to fit future occupants.

There hasn’t been a project proposed on the property since the late 1990s.

“It’s not easy to develop the site,” Yeh said. “Because El Camino is a state route, there are additional levels of review in the process.”

Unlike many regular city developments, Caltrans must approve of the plans before they move forward.

Lee is hopeful that if this development gets off the ground, a sister project on the south side of Third Street won’t be far behind.

“Once this one gets moving, we need to get the one on the south corner going too,” Lee said. “These things can never happen fast enough.”

The Planning Commission study session will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, in City Council Chambers, 330 W. 20th Ave.

jgoldman@examiner.com


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