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JUNE 17, 2015

Housing project gets thumbs up: Burlingame City Council gives huge development unanimous approval

The Daily Journal

The largest housing project in more than a decade will be coming to Burlingame, as the City Council gave the final OK to constructing a mix of apartments and condominiums which will feature 290 new units for rent and purchase.

The council unanimously approved building the development just south of Broadway, at Carolan Avenue and Rollins Road, during its meeting Monday, June 15.

Councilmembers praised the development as it will significantly increase the available housing stock in Burlingame, and set aside a portion of the units at below-market rates.

“This is a really significant project,” said Councilman Michael Brownrigg.

Mayor Terry Nagel echoed those sentiments, and noted that in the past 20 years Burlingame has added roughly 250 new housing units, only 13 of which were available at an affordable rate.

The developer, SummerHill Housing Group, has agreed to set aside 29 units in the project for those earning what is considered moderate income in San Mateo County, which equates to roughly $86,000 per year for an individual and about $101,000 annually for a family of four.

“This is an extraordinary step in the right direction,” Nagel said.

The development will be comprised of two four- and five-story buildings which will house the 268 apartments for rent, and four separate two-story townhouse buildings that will offer 22 condominiums available for purchase on a 5.4-acre site currently home to a variety of car service companies.

There are a range of apartment sizes included in the project, including 149 one-bedroom units, 111 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units.

The condominiums are proposed to have six two-bedroom units, eight three-bedroom units and eight units with at least three bedrooms plus an auxiliary room that could be used as an additional bedroom or office space.

Elaine Breeze, vice president of development at SummerHill, estimated that the market rate for renting the one-bedroom apartments will be roughly $2,600 per month and a two-bedroom unit would likely be more than $3,000, while the townhouses would probably sell for about $1 million.

Alternatively, the affordably priced one-bedroom apartments would probably be available for a monthly rent of about $2,100, while the two-bedroom apartments would be on the market for nearly $2,600 per month.

Not everyone has the same definition of what may be considered affordable though.

Affordable housing advocate Cynthia Cornell noted since the cost of the below-market rooms is contingent on the local prevailing wage, which seems to be continually increasing, the price of the cheaper rooms should be expected to rise by the time the project is built over the next couple years.

People who currently might be able to afford the rooms reserved for those earning a moderate income could be priced out of the project by the time it is constructed, she said.

Councilmembers said they were pleased with the developer’s willingness to set aside a portion of the project at a below-market rate, considering the city’s inability to implement rent control, due to Measure T, which was passed in 1988.

Breeze said SummerHill would be amenable to extend a guarantee that the development would continue offering rooms at affordable rates for 20 more years than had been agreed upon initially.

The affordable room rates are one component of a variety of community benefits the developer has offered Burlingame, along with more than $2 million in contributions to the city and local school districts to pay for the impact new residents will have on public services.

Brownrigg also noted the city will also enjoy increased tax revenue from the development once it is completed, as the property value is expected to jump from a current assessed value of roughly $13 million to $147 million.

“That’s a significant benefit to the city of Burlingame,” he said.

And though the project was approved, it is not without a few remaining hurdles to clear.

Councilmembers took issue with an 8-foot concrete wall which is proposed to be built around the perimeter of the project, and the impact such a structure might have on the character of the existing neighborhood near the development.

SummerHill, though, has worked to build a consensus with nearby residents, and many seem to be in favor of the wall, so councilmembers said they are inclined to side with the will of the neighborhood.

Councilwoman Ann Keighran requested the developer post story poles replicating the size of the wall prior to building it.

“I just want the neighbors to know what they are potentially agreeing to,” she said.

Brownrigg gave the developer kudos for the company’s willingness to collaborate with nearby residents, and expressed excitement for the project to be constructed.

“I look forward to seeing it built,” he said.

By Austin Walsh

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tel: (925) 244-7500

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