Housing proposed to drive business traffic 

Drab stretches of El Camino Real and San Bruno Avenue may soon be completely transformed with housing to accommodate the city’s growing population.

Under a new proposal, San Bruno Avenue and the 2½-mile stretch of El Camino Real, zoned only for businesses, will be rezoned to permit residential use, Community Development Director Aaron Aknin said.

Housing developments would pop up on El Camino Real from the Millbrae city border to Crystal Springs Road under the plan. The remaining two-thirds of the road within the city limits would feature mostly shops on the ground floor with housing above, up to a total of 50 feet for the entire structure. Under the plan, the residential developments would house mixed-income residents, with a minimum of 15 percent devoted to affordable housing.

City officials hope property owners will help them with this transition because it doesn’t have plans to use eminent domain to force out businesses.

"Their property is now going to be worth more because their property will be allowed a wider range of uses," Aknin said "When you have residents in your downtown area, all of a sudden you have a nighttime population there that can patronize the stores."

Officials envision El Camino Real and San Bruno Avenue as the best thoroughfares to house the city’s growing population during the next few decades. San Bruno’s population jumped more than 2,000 people to 42,215 residents between 2000 and 2005, and officials expect about another 3,000 residents to move in before 2025.

Aknin said the mixed-use structures would be also beef up city coffers through sales tax from businesses and property taxes from homes. Residential buildings typically yield more money for the city than businesses, he said.

Businesses would benefit from the plan because they would have built-in customers within walking distance, said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Baughman. The street is currently lined with chain and local food shops, as well as hotels and offices.

"Small businesses are suffering everywhere and aren’t staying as long," Baughman said.

The project is part of the city’s general plan that will be voted on by the Planning Commission and then the City Council within a month or two. Aknin hopes housing projects on El Camino Real and San Bruno Avenue could begin in about a year.

Other Peninsula cities have also begun adding housing on their stretches of El Camino Real, said Christine Dunn, spokeswoman for the Grand Boulevard initiative aimedat revitalizing the road.


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