State holds key to rec center upgrade

A proposed state constitutional amendment in Sacramento allowing cities to collect fees for flood control infrastructure may free up funds for Burlingame to revamp the aging Recreation Center, city officials said Monday.

In Burlingame, where the storm drainage system is in particular need of care, city officials hope the amendment, SCA 12, passes. Its approval would open up the city budget, allowing officials to address the issue of whether to revamp or replace the Recreation Center, a debate that has been floating around for more than a decade.

In 2004, city staff compiled a report that the building, believed to be more than 60 years old, does not meet building code standards. A sizable earthquake could cause “substantial” structural damage, with “partial collapse likely in the auditorium” according to a recent city staff memorandum.

“Part of the question is, do we take care of the seismic things in the long term [with a new facility] or approach it as a quick band aid and spend a few million dollars now [on the current facility],” said Randy Schwartz, Parks and Recreation director, who said revamping the facility would cost approximately $2 million, while replacement costs would jump to the tens of millions of dollars.

City Manager Jim Nantell said funds for capital improvement projects mostly go toward the storm drainage system. If the state passes the proposed amendment — which may happen toward the end of summer — that money could go toward the Recreation Center, which Schwartz called “a designated area for seniors to congregate and socialize or an area for teens to socialize.”

Seismic retrofitting on the current facility would have been funded had voters passed Measure H in November, a $44 million bond measure for capital improvement projects.

Mayor Terry Nagel said a new Recreation Center is a high priority, but that it is “not on the front burner” when compared to the city storm drainage system.

“Flood control is an emergency-type need,” she said. “We live in fear each winter that people will be flooded out of their homes.”

Burlingame resident Joy LeVeau, 91, who regularly visits the center, did not know the building was seismically unstable.

“I go every Friday to play bingo,” he said. “To me, it looks like a good building.”

bfoley@examiner.com

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