San Bruno considers ballot measure to relax development restrictions downtown 

San Bruno is considering relaxing some building restrictions in an effort to encourage new investment in its historic downtown area.

At a recent study session on the Transit Corridors Plan development project, San Bruno officials announced intentions to draft a measure for the November ballot that would amend a city ordinance restricting certain types of development.

The ordinance, which dates back to 1977, limits building heights to 50 feet or three stories, prohibits above-ground parking garages and confines residential densities to levels enforced in 1974.

The proposed ballot measure would ease the citywide maximum building height within the transit corridor to allow for five-story buildings along El Camino Real and four-story buildings along San Mateo Avenue. It would also permit higher-density construction and the building of parking facilities.

Similar steps were taken to greenlight the four-story construction of The Crossing, a development completed in 2007 on a former San Bruno naval site.

"What we have found in talking to developers and property interests in other communities, is these city restrictions in Ordinance 1284 are major limitations to private investment and redevelopment and economic development here in the city of San Bruno," said David Woltering, San Bruno's community development director.

"Given our transit hub and the opportunity for using that transit, we have a tremendous opportunity for office development and jobs in the community. This is the potential that we could realize over an extended period of time," Woltering added of the impetus for easing such development restrictions.

The Transit Corridors Plan is a long-range vision for increased economic vitality in San Bruno's downtown, with build-out anticipated to take place over decades.

It aims to reinvigorate the areas along El Camino Real, San Mateo Avenue, San Bruno Avenue and Huntington Avenue near the city's new Caltrain station by attracting investment in mixed-use development, commercial and retail business opportunities, and pedestrian- and bike-friendly environments.

Under the plan, the number of residential units downtown are expected to increase from 320 to an estimated 1,930. The effort would also seek to add 148,000 square feet of storefront area and 900,000 square feet of office space within the 150-acre project area.

Few members of the public addressed the proposed amendment, though several expressed concerns about the project in general, including loss of access to affordable housing and blue-collar jobs, displacement of current tenants through eminent domain and turning the community into more of a metropolis.

"If I wanted to live in San Francisco, I wouldn't have bought a house in San Bruno," one resident said.

The resolution to amend Ordinance 1284 will likely be introduced this month and submitted for City Council consideration by an Aug. 8 deadline, in time to put it in front of voters in November.

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S. Parker Yesko

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