Centennial plaza's location may shift

After a year of public discussion about a possible centennial plaza by Burlingame’s train station, the city appears ready to scrap those plans in favor of an entirely new, more tucked-away site that officials say solves parking and safety issues.

When Burlingame turns 100 years old in June, officials want a permanent community area to be erected to commemorate the occasion. A logical idea for the city until recently was to build the centennial plaza on the parking lot in front of the train station, a symbolic location because the city expanded from the rail line.

Many residents and even a few City Council candidates in November argued the $800,000 plaza was too expensive, and that a community area by the train station downtown along the busy California Drive was dangerous. Furthermore, residents and businesses worried that downtown parking by nearby Burlingame Avenue — already a headache for visitors — would be worsened by losing some of the roughly 19 metered spots in front of the station.

The new proposed site at the west end of Washington Park behind its tennis courts would be safer and not tie up parking as much as the train station option, said Parks and Recreation Director Randy Schwartz, the staff member reporting to the city’s Centennial Executive Committee.

The proposed $690,000 plaza includes a 20-foot-by-20-foot bandstand, new seating areas, and renovated horseshoe and bocce ball courts at the city’s oldest park. The council tonight will likely direct city staff to conduct further study on the park plan, which could end up being implemented in favor of the train station idea.

“I’m not sure a bandstand is appropriate for the park at all,” said Dan Andersen, centennial committee member and Washington Park Society president. “It disrupts the entrance into the park.”

But the park site is a major improvement over the train station idea, which “was a hazard waiting to happen,” said Mayor Rosalie O’Mahony, who is on the centennial committee. “To me, it’s the smartest move to make.”

Councilmember Cathy Baylock is concerned the new proposal will not go through the same rigorous public hearing process the train station endured. After all, she noted, the residents will ultimately pay for most of the plaza through donations.

Baylock also wondered why the original idea to mark the centennial with a commemorative clock has gradually grown into a giant plaza.

“I’d like to see us take a step back,” she said. “I want it to be smaller.”

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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