Burlingame officials moved forward with the Burlingame Streetscape Improvement Project Tuesday night, discussing the best design at the right price while focusing on the pedestrian experience.
Members of the consulting firm Royston Hanamoto Alley and Abey (RHAA) have been meeting monthly with Burlingame Avenue property owners, Downtown Business Improvement District (DBID) members, merchants and community members, discussing options and gathering feedback.
“If we miss this opportunity, we’re going to be kicking ourselves,” said Vice Mayor Ann Keighran, referring to the chance to redo the Burlingame Avenue streetscape in conjunction with upgrading the water and sewer utilities, a project that needs to be completed either way. “We haven’t done much to our downtown in many years. If we want to keep in the forefront, let’s set the pace.”
Taking into consideration these meetings, as well as two community workshops, RHAA representatives presented three design options for an improved Burlingame Avenue.
Features that were agreed upon throughout the three designs and are the groundwork of the base design include widening the sidewalks from 10 feet to 16 feet for more pedestrian space, restaurant tables, seating, lighting and landscaping by changing from angled parking to parallel parking.
This will eliminate about 10 to 15 parking spaces, which will be offset by new spaces created by the Safeway project and Caltrain station improvements.
The pedestrian experience will also be enhanced by bulb-outs at intersections. Crosswalks will be a different material than the rest of the street, warning traffic to slow down. The base plan also includes limited furnishing and features.
“I know there is a lot of concern with parallel parking, [but] I think the benefit of wider sidewalks will really outweigh that,” said Dale Ferrel of the DBID and Paper Caper, noting the emphasis on the pedestrian experience. “It’s getting harder and harder for downtowns to be important…we need to take every opportunity to make downtown more exciting.”
Council members and stakeholders reached a consensus that of the three plans, Alternative 1 was the one they liked best. It includes larger street trees than the basic plan and upgrades streetlights, furnishings and seating. It is more expensive than the estimated $14.3 million base plan at $15.9 million, but less expensive than the $16.9 million Alternative 2, which includes premium features and furnishing and gateways at El Camino Real and California Drive.
Pavers and materials used in the streetscape also differ from one design alternative to the other, additionally impacting cost.
According to a staff report, “Staff has identified a total of approximately $7 million in City funds from water and sewer enterprise funds; state gas tax and measure A for street paving; grants such as the San Mateo County Transportation Authority grant for design and engineering of pedestrian and bicycle improvements along the Avenue; as well as existing funds in the streetscape CIP budget.”
City staff suggests that the remaining cost of the project come 50 percent from changes to parking meter rates and 50 percent from an assessment district. Exact costs are uncertain, but a Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission meeting will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. to address parking rates.