Burlingame Safeway plans edge onward 

What lies ahead for the much-anticipated Burlingame Safeway property will be a decision among building a larger grocery store; a larger store plus more retail; or a ground-floor store with additional shops and housing, now that the first phase of the project has been approved.

The City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday approved criteria for the project, which dates back six years. City officials passed Phase I of three phases needed by the Safeway Working Group before construction can begin or the plan is denied altogether.

The plan that started as a "blank slate" now has criteria to work with, Safeway co­facilitator Candace Hathaway said.

Council members expressed different opinions on what the existing grocery store at 1450 Howard Ave. should evolve into, however.

Vice Mayor Rosalie O’Mahony has been on the council since the first Safeway proposal was denied back in 2003. She said her top priority would be a top-notch grocery store that provides ample parking and not housing.

"I would look very carefully at additional uses of retail or residential," O’Mahony said.

Still, there’s always a housing demand in Burlingame, other council members said. Councilmember Cathy Baylock said she is still open to all three options and that she actually prefers a boutique hotel, something that a study last year indicated would be needed and financially feasible.

The specially designed Safeway Working Group was formed in February and comprises seven stakeholders, including Safeway representatives, nearby residents, and downtown business and property owners.

The project has taken on a special significance to the city because it acts as an entrance to the southern part of Burlingame and is highly visible, Councilmember Ann Keighran said. The site is also 150,000 square feet.

The decision of the three options from which the city will choose during Phase II of the project probably won’t be made for another year, Hathaway said. The final phase before construction would include a typical proposal from Safeway.

She and council members did, however, express that the project should be much better this time around because of the working group that’s taking into account everyone’s perspectives ahead of time. Without that planning, the council would "have literally hundreds of concerned citizens approaching the council podium expressing how they feel" after the project is proposed, Councilmember Russ Cohen said.

The group was formed after the Planning Commission rejected plans to redesign and nearly triple the 24,000-square-foot store four years ago because of the store’s design, which included the back of the store facing downtown, Keighran said.

Safeway criteria approved Tuesday

» Traffic: Car flow on surrounding streets will not increase without acceptable mitigation.

» Parking: Parking needs to be adequate for shoppers so it does not spill over into surrounding neighborhoods.

» Use: The grocery store will be the primary use with the possibility of more retail and housing options.

» Economic impact: Overall project will add to "economic vitality" downtown.

» Visual impact: Design will reflect the "character of Burlingame" and surrounding neighborhood and will connect project to business district.

» Shopping experience: Will specifically reflect shopping needs of Burlingame residents.

» Integration with downtown: Project will connect with multiple shopping areas near Burlingame and Howard avenues.

» Environmentally responsible: Project will minimize waste, reduce pollution sources and promote energy efficiency.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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