Burlingame council approves rezoning northern area 

Cars zooming along a six-lane highway doesn’t sound pedestrian-friendly, but officials have rubber-stamped a plan designed in part to make foot travel in the city’s north end easier.

The Burlingame City Council on Monday unanimously approved zoning changes for the El Camino Real Gateway Corridor Sub-area, which encompasses everything between El Camino Real, Murchison Drive, the Caltrain tracks and Dufferin Avenue.

The approved changes in the area — home to the Peninsula Medical Center, a sprinkling of medical office buildings, apartments and the Burlingame Plaza shopping center — encourage taller residential developments of up to 40 units per acre and projects built closer to the sidewalk to narrow the appearance of wide El Camino Real.

Though the hospital, which is slated to be completely rebuilt by 2010, is not part of the discussion, it may nonetheless reap the benefits of the plan.

A closed-off frontage road in the Burlingame Plaza parking lot that faces El Camino Real, which has confused many drivers coming out of the shopping center, is under plans to eventually become a landscaped pedestrian pathway linking the nearby hospital and the Millbrae BART station area, City Planner Meg Monroe said.

The city is banking some developer fees so it can start applying for matching state grants to help fund the walkway project, Monroe said.

The city may also qualify for funding through the Grand Boulevard Initiative, a plan seeking to unify the piecemeal design styles that exist on El Camino between cities.

"All this is just to make the plan come together," Monroe said.

These zoning changes are part of the implementation phase for the North Burlingame/Rollins Road Specific Plan, an overarching blueprint for development in this area.

Though the council approved the plan in September 2004, on Monday it also unanimously approved some amendments to it, including removing a restriction that all development on California Drive must be residential. Some of the plan’s most vocal critics take issue with the planned relocation of many of the Peninsula Humane Society services to a new facility on Rollins Road.

The critics, who include property owner Albert Guibara and Save Our Bay founder Oscar Braun, maintain that the change does not match the light industrial uses of the street, nor were all the proper environmental evaluations completed in the area. Several property owners are suing the city over these zoning changes in a continuing legal battle.

"I’m asking you to step back, take the time and do it right," Braun said.


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