Small-town Burlingame may go big

Burlingame residents accustomed to quaint shops and a small-town atmosphere while walking around downtown may look up to see 75-foot buildings on its main shopping streets in the next 20 years, a new report suggests.

Consultants hired by the city released this weekend three drafts of what the city could look like in the future after several public meetings and a citywide survey regarding changes to Burlingame’s downtown area.

The drafts include options on how to bolster housing, a likely Howard Avenue shopping expansion and the potential for raising the ceiling on maximum building heights. The areas affected by the plan lie between El Camino Real and the California Drive Caltrain tracks region, and between Oak Grove and Peninsula avenues.

“We expect to have some really spirited debates about [the proposed options],” lead consultant Kevin Gardiner said.

One of the consultants’ three alternatives for adjusting the height include pushing buildings to as high as 75 feet throughout downtown, 20 feet more than the tallest edifices allowed under the current code. Another option includes a “donut” design with shorter buildings on Burlingame Avenue leading to structures as tall as six stories around the downtownperiphery.

“I think we would want to preserve the downtown heights as they are now,” said longtime resident John Root. “Perhaps a taller building in the proper place would be fine but not [throughout] downtown.”

The consultants’ suggestions are part of the city’s specific plan, a new downtown policy that would define what the city would like to see in that area. The police should be drafted later this year, said Community Development Director Bill Meeker. The Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the specific plan meets Tuesday to discuss the alternatives.

A pamphlet describing the options will be created for residents and a community meeting will be held in early March, Meeker said. Both Gardiner and Meeker stressed that the plan will be completely determined by residential input.

An aspect of the plan that was not as divisive, Gardiner said, was the recommendation to expand shops on Howard Avenue and its side streets. With mom-and-pop shops forced from Burlingame Avenue to lower-rent areas, the city could take advantage of Howard Avenue to maintain small businesses, he said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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