The Burlingame Bayfront Shoreline Trail, part of the San Francisco Bay Trail system, is 5.5 miles of scenic hiking and biking trail that runs alongside the Bay. Its views are beautiful, but two noticeable gaps divide the trail. Walkers and bikers must retire to the street or forge ahead through nonpaths that may be littered with detritus such as old mattresses.
The gaps may not be filled anytime soon. That's because the owners of the lands, through which eight-tenths of a mile of the 5.5-mile trail travel, have no obligation to develop a walkable trail until they need something from the city — namely a permit to rebuild or expand.
"Here is our beautiful Bay, beautiful view," Councilwoman Terry Nagel said at a recent City Council meeting. "Get up close and it looks terrible. It just seems like such a lost opportunity."
Burlingame Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said it's unlikely the businesses and landowners will take on those improvements themselves. Projected costs for construction range from $8.8 million to $10.5 million.
The high cost of building this relatively short amount of trail is due to requirements from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, including building retaining walls. So hikers and bikers who use the trail must travel from trail to street to trail to street and back to trail.
One of the two gaps is 1,165 feet long and runs behind several privately owned businesses, including a Hyatt Cinema building, a Holiday Inn Express, an office building and part of a Chevron gas station. The other, larger gap is 3,235 feet long and also on privately owned land.
The city learned about the complications of building along the Bay, Murtuza said, when it constructed the initial trail. Walls had to be built underground along the trail to stabilize the shoreline and keep the dirt from escaping into the Bay. And environmental studies required by the commission also drive up the cost.
Some city businesses have extended the trail alongside their developments thanks to a city development plan requiring anyone who wants to build on nearby property to develop and maintain the path. Gaps in the trail appear at those businesses that have been there since before that requirement was enacted and have not improved their properties since that time.
Councilman Jerry Deal walks to work along 2 miles of the trail. He said he notices that some of the property owners maintain their trail segments beautifully, while others are more neglectful. And then there are the gaps, where there's no path to speak of at all and the land is sometimes littered with refuse.
The council plans to check with businesses to make sure they are maintaining the trail consistently with their requirements. But those gaps will most likely remain undeveloped until one of the adjacent businesses needs to expand, at which point the city will require them to mind the gaps.