Mas­sive Mill­brae ex­pan­sion meta­mor­pho­sis moves for­ward

The Mercury News - - Local News - John Hor­gan’s col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Mer­cury News. Con­tact him at john­hor­gan­ or at P.O. Box 117083, Burlingame, CA 94011.

Inex­orably, a sea change is head­ing for south­ern Mill­brae. Three huge high-rises, pro­posed for prop­er­ties ad­ja­cent to a key Penin­sula trans­porta­tion hub, are on tar­get to al­ter the town’s sky­line in a very big way.

Two of those planned build­ings, lo­cated just north of Mill­brae Av­enue on the east side of El Camino Real, would be 10-sto­ries tall, the other would be nine floors in height. At least one of the tow­ers would ac­tu­ally be a bit higher than 10 sto­ries.

Once com­pleted (ap­provals have been slow in com­ing but there seems to be lit­tle con­certed op­po­si­tion within the com­mu­nity at large), the project would dra­mat­i­cally trans­form the char­ac­ter of the city of 22,000 res­i­dents.

In some ways, it would mir­ror what is oc­cur­ring in down­town Red­wood City, where a num­ber of high-rises are un­der con­struc­tion.

The Mill­brae plan, which has been dis­cussed, an­a­lyzed and cri­tiqued for al­most five years (it has al­ready gone through six dif­fer­ent city plan­ners, ac­cord­ing to the de­vel­oper, Mill­brae Serra Sta­tion, LLC), would bring stark ur­ban­iza­tion to a small sub­ur­ban town.

Mill­brae’s five-mem­ber plan­ning com­mis­sion gave the project its OK, with cer­tain pro­vi­sions, last week. The City Coun­cil will take up the mat­ter in the near fu­ture.

There are five-story apart­ment/ condo com­plexes along El Camino Real al­ready. The new project would dou­ble that height in the same gen­eral lo­cale.

In­ter­est­ingly, the pro­posed triple tow­ers would rest di­rectly be­neath a San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port flight path uti­lized by jet­lin­ers dur­ing some heavy weather days. So far, though, any out­cry from SFO or fed­eral avi­a­tion of­fi­cials has been muted or nonex­is­tent.

Ac­cord­ing to plan­ning doc­u­ments pro­vided by the city, the two 10-story tow­ers would in­clude 444 apart­ment units and 4,255 square feet of re­tail space. The nine-floor build­ing would house 8,960 square feet of re­tail space and 290,140 square feet of of­fice space. A three­level un­der­ground park­ing garage is also planned.

Sep­a­rately, more square footage, lots of it, is be­ing planned for two other plots of land near the tran­sit hub, which is uti­lized by Cal­train, BART and SamTrans and, one day per­haps, high-speed rail.

All in all, Mill­brae’s pop­u­lace is star­ing at a trans­for­ma­tion of its com­mu­nity, for good or ill.

Rent con­trol

Once again, a Penin­sula com­mu­nity has soundly re­jected a lo­cal rent con­trol mea­sure.

The vot­ers of Paci­fica gave the lat­est ef­fort to put stiff re­stric­tions on rental fees and poli­cies very short shrift in the Nov. 7 elec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the San Ma­teo County Elec­tions Of­fice, Mea­sure C was crushed, 5,302 to 3,291.

That one-sided de­feat fol­lows routs of sim­i­lar pro­pos­als in Burlingame and San Ma­teo.

The denizens of San Ma­teo County may lean left on a lot of im­por­tant mat­ters, but, when it comes to their own prop­er­ties, a much more con­ser­va­tive view comes into play.

Food drive

For more than a gen­er­a­tion, stu­dents at San Ma­teo High School have op­er­ated an award-win­ning hol­i­day food drive. Since its in­cep­tion, hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds of food have been pro­vided for the Penin­sula’s needy.

The ef­fort, which has been copied by a num­ber of other lo­cal schools over the years, ben­e­fits Sa­mar­i­tan House and the Se­cond Har­vest Food Bank.

This year’s San Ma­teo goal is at least 100,000 pounds of food and do­na­tions used to pur­chase food. The drive will last through Nov. 27.

Stu­dents are col­lect­ing food and cash equiv­a­lents at su­per­mar­kets through­out the mid-Penin­sula.

John Hor­gan Colum­nist

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