Senior complex seeks upgrades

In the last two years, the city of San Mateo has come through with close to $150,000 to help renovate and repair the 45-year-old, 56-unit Pilgrim Plaza senior complex on North San Mateo Drive.

Now, the city may provide more money to make sure the structure is up to snuff after decades of use.

“Once these buildings are up, it’s in the interest of everyone to keep them in top shape, so we welcome them being upgraded and rehabilitated,” Neighborhood Improvement and Housing Director Robert Muehlbauer said. “It’s easier to fix than to build a new one.”

Home to 62 residents, many in single-person studios, the apartment complex is owned by the Lesley Foundation, which owns three other local senior living complexes in the county. Last week, the foundation submitted a grant application to the city for $250,000 of a $350,000 fire-sprinkler installation project.

“The buildings that we own are all 30 or 40 years old, and because we charge very low rents, when it comes to doing major rehabilitation like elevators or sprinklers, in order to not pass those costs on to tenants, we need to work with the city and county,” foundation Executive Director Sarah Lambert said.

In the summer of 2005, the city provided a low-interest loan to pay for a new elevator system for the three-story building. Earlier this year, a ramp was installed in the inner courtyard to aid access to the communal area.

Similar accessibility improvements have been made at the foundation’s other local buildings: Bonnie Brae Terrace in Belmont, Lesley Gardens in Half Moon Bay and the nine-story Park Towers in San Mateo. Both of those projects also included mandatory fire-sprinkler installations.

And although Pilgrim Plaza is not required to have a fire-sprinkler system, several false alarms that occurred when residents burned items while cooking highlighted the need.

“We did notice that it was difficult for some people to get out of the building in a quick manner, so we feel that it’s important to have as many safety features as possible,” administrator Ray Holtsaid.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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