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June 28, 2005



Nice to see a few "new" naysayers in town have found the Burlingame Voice blog. It's almost sounding like a "dialog". Pitbull has the mentality of one and just one kind of bark. Reality probably hasn't had an original thought since 1979, but so what? We enjoy her mindless little comments nonetheless. Freather thinks everyone should just go back to not paying attention, but his dream is just that--an old timer's dream. Not going to happen. Things were getting a little boring as they went to the dogs, so at least this is entertaining.

KRN is definitely paying attention and has assessed the situation correctly. Too much of any one style is bad for both B'way and the Ave. He also understands the war chest is the true divining rod for the next election. And I don't think Ian is exaggerating the situation at all. He too is paying attention.

Does anyone know if there's been any recent study done on the Burlingame Ave district similar to the one that was just completed on the Broadway district? Seems like the Broadway one, in attempting to determine what kinds of new businesses people would like see there, is helpful to a range of interested parties - landlords, existing business owners (BID), local gov't (Planning Commission), maybe even potential new business owners. Did DBID ever undertake something like this? What about the Chamber of Commerce or the Planning Commission?


Hi Jen, none of the chains are keeping a store on The Ave at a loss for the sake of their letterhead (Paris, New York, Rome, Burlingame!?!). I'm not sure I understand your Sausalito analogy. First, Burlingame is not a destination like Sausalito. Second, I have long shopped at several of the stores on Bridgeway; I don't think the merchants care if it's tourist dollars or local dollars, as long as people are spending money.

Russ, today Downtown Burlingame caters primarily to pregnant women with kids. But if all of these oversized dress shops are making money, then that is what the local market is demanding. I could not disagree with you more when you say, it is up to the council to dictate how growth occurs.? Markets correct themselves. If I wanted to open, I don't know, a topless bar, on The Ave I should have every right to do so (if I lived in a free country). If nobody in town wanted to visit my establishment, I would have to close my business. Likewise, if Burlingame turns into the pregnant mom capital, what right should the council have to say, No new maternity shops, we need a delicately balanced mix.?

Citizen X

The Citizen's for a Better Burlingame know what is in the best interest of Burlingame. Just let them tell everyone what shops to open and where and we'll get it done, gosh darn it.

That actually wasn't my point. Ice cream doesn't pay rent, so I wonder what does over there. I agree, Rome and Burlingame have zero in common, though Burlingame is quite full of itself, too, especially of late.

I'm still not sure how well even the chains are doing, if there isn't much activity inside. My favorite store (ha, ha) AF closed, for example. I guess they didn't even feel the logo in Burlingame was a benefit. I recently went in every single dress shop in town, looking for a graduation dress; big and small, we saw every store. I can tell you that not a lot was being purchased. Lots of looking, not a lot of buying. Some of these stores must be paying 20-30K a month. There must also be a reason why the GAP, for example, is reducing the price of clothes very soon after they get arrivals. That never used to be the case. How much make-up does Sephora have to sell to pay their rent? I've never been in the place, so maybe somebody can tell us about it. They all do seem to have deep pockets, and time will tell how deep.


Thank you for the chuckle, Jen; there are some in Burlingame who seem to think this town is more than it really is. It's my understanding that Burger King and AF were, essentially, forced out of town. The latter because of its very loud music and sex-sells type marketing. Burger King because, well, it's Burger King and not Chez Panisse (or Panda Express, as it turned out).

You're correct regarding rents; many are in the tens of thousands. Something that few seem to understand is just how much of a mark-up you're paying at a lot of these chains. My first summer job as a teenager was at the Bombay Company on Burlingame Ave. I don't think anything in that store cost us more that $16 (almost everything was under $10). Meanwhile, your price was between $95 and $495, do the math. A new sofa from Pottery Barn may retail at $999, but the cost is very small fraction of that. Dresses cost almost nothing to make, clothes are almost all profit. My point is that you don't have to sell very much to keep many of these stores open.

Sephora is another example. I began to buy my Channel cleansers and moisturizers from them as soon as they opened on The Ave. How much profit do you think is in a tiny, $65 jar of eye cream? Fortunately for me, on my second visit I got fed up with the cashier who couldn't ring up a sale and I walked out. I walked into Wallgreens and bought something very inexpensive and realized (after, um, about 17 years) that L'Oreal (I think that's what I bought) is just as good and a hell-of-a-lot cheaper. (Unless I get crow's feet soon in which case I'm wrong and should have stuck with Channel)

Sean, Your Bombay story was amazing. Those are huge mark-ups!(slave labor?). You are also correct about make-up, the mark-ups must be incredible. The graphic designers and packagers probably do the best of the lot. That's what we're paying for!


So, one of the topics in this thread is quite interesting. Do you legislate diversity in retail -- which we can certainly do (right now the council has a cap on the number of restaurants allowed on Broadway for instance), or do you let the market self-correct. Market self-correction is of course great in theory, but can take time -- that is, potentially years before you end up with the "right mix" as defined by any random group of people. Right now Burlingame Ave is indeed a mecca for maternity stores and baby clothes stores -- not my personal choice of stores, but equally do you think city council could be more efficient at forcing the "right mix" of stores than customers themselves.

We talk about Burlingame Avenue as a sole-shopping area, but literally on any side street and parallel on Howard Avenue, vacant stores abound. There is opportunity for new stores to enter the downtown market in these locations, although I do believe a connecting project (ie. new Safeway development or similar project) needs to make the "off-Avenue" experience feel more vibrant before we'll see a whole lot of activity there.


I noticed a "moving sale" at the posh clothing store, next to our favorite art gallery, and across from Il Fornaio. That's a great location..lots of traffic, both foot and car, and right up from Donnely Square. What happened there?


I think most are missing an important component to downtown Burlingame. The component that makes it different than any other district for miles around. The difference is that retail and restaurant uses are not the sole inhabitants. They share their space with service professionals. Everything from therapists to insurance agents, realtors, mortgage brokers. It isn't all baby stores and coffee houses.

I agree with Russ, that coucil can lkimit store size, thus attracting more independently owned stores. Chains need more square footage.

Council has already dictated how many restaurants there can be. So those who advocate for a market driven downtown have never investigated how much it would cost to actually run a business downtown regardless of how much their goods are marked up. It is now virtually impossible to own and operate an independently owned store. It must change. Council can help it change. They created rules and regulations all over town to insure a great balance of interests. You can't have medical on the ground floor along Burlingame Ave. or Broadway, for example. You can't have retail along Airport Blvd. You can't have residentil units along the bayfront. Council is elected to keep the city balanced. Those who say it's all market driven are fooling themselves.


Here's a suggestion: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Burlingame Ave. is fine -- lots of patrons and a thriving retail/commercial area. Excessive meddling by the council is a recipe for disaster.

It's funny that few people here focus on what does need fixing: Broadway. It's the closest retail area to my home, but I rarely shop there and find the area very disappointing. From talking to my neighbors and observing the foot traffic on the street, it appears that many feel the same way. And now they might shut down train service to Broadway...not good. Seems to me that people should be focusing on how to fix Broadway, not Burlingame Ave. Ideas?


Many of the merchants in downtown Burlingame have clearly expressed the need for improvements along Burlingame Avenue and its companion streets. Precicely why a BID was formed. To say the area is "just fine" is an assumption with no factual data. Take a survey of those who run and own businesses in the area and the vast majority would contend that improvements are sorely needed.

I do, however agree that Broadway has much room for improvement as well. Also why Council has approved 5 more restaurants in the area. Council plays a pivitol role in the development of Burlingame. Anyone who suggests otherwise does not understand the role of Council.


There is a difference between nurturing a business environment and controlling it.

The Burlingame council seems poised to move from the role of nurturer to enforcer if the CBB has their way.


You seem to have a very strong opinion of CBB. Have you attended any of the CBB forums? If you had, I might not have such an opinion.


The paranoia about CBB's power is still alive and well in Burlingame.

Vocal informed residents who speak up seem to scare some people.

Get over it!


Timmy, did you take part in the Broadway survey? It is probably still available through some of the merchants. Fill it out and express your opinion about what you'd like to see. It was a very well-done survey and the more input they get, the better.


Paranoia? Read the article in the Burlingame Daily News today. Terry Nagel and the CBB are upset they don't have two representatives on the city economic subcommittee.

"Downtown development, of which the Howard Avenue and El Camino Real Safeway site is part, however, is of extreme interest to the issue-based group which called for a non-political Citizens for a Better Burlingame member, like co-chairperson Steven Hamilton or Voltz, to also sit in on the committee."

They should have two people on the committee but there are no business owners from the retail districts.

Sounds like CBB power to me.


Timmy, do your homework. CBB did NOT want anyone on that committee who would be a likely candidate for a council seat, but that opinion was not shared by Mayor Galligan. If anyone, he would be responsible for the pick. If you want some business owners on that committee, go for it. I do recall the hefty criticism of CBB a few years back, that the organisation was comprised largely of "greedy" business owners in town, also bogus.


Actually I believe the CBB would like to run some "greedy" business owners out of town.


Of course everything can be improved. However, Russ, your suggestions aren't improvements; they would fundamentally alter Burlingame Ave for the worse. You and other blogger recommmend rent control and limiting stores sizes to prevent chains. This represents small store protectionism and would be growth/economy killers. And BID got shot down--seems to me that more merchants didn't want it.
This will be an unpopular suggestion here, but Broadway needs some more well-known chains to help generate more business.


Russ, JL is absolutely right. As much as I would love to see The Ave go back to what is was like 20 years ago, it cannot and should not be forced. I don't like the big chains, but obviously many do. I prefer mom-and-pop shops, but that's me. Creating obstacles for the chains is wrong. Sadly, JL is also right about what Broadway needs

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