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September 30, 2005

Comments

Hiram

Perhaps the City could condemn the awful building in the 1100 block of Broadway which used to house the rug store, Galleria de Farsh? Having a sensible, nicely designed building there with access to store fronts would be a big help. Allowing a few more restaurants or food places on Broadway would be ideal. The grocery store at Paloma is a mess and having a nicer, well-maintained food place there would also be great.
Most of the store fronts on Broadway are fairly small, so this naturally limits the interest of big 'chain' sort of places.

I'm not sure that Broadway wants the big chain stores. Burlingame Avenue repells some, because it has so many. I think the people who frequent Broadway see plenty of room for improvement, but I'm not sure they see it in the form of chains.

The biggest obstacle that I see is coming from the look of the street. There is nothing wrong with charming and old-fashioned, but some areas look dowdy, (particularly the numerous nail and hair salons.) There are easy fixes for this. I find that it is very hard to see into the stores and restaurants, with few exception. It looks "closed". I frequent a few stores on Broadway, but would have difficulties reciting the remainder of the stores and restaurants, because they lack that open "bistro-like" feel. Perhaps the narrow sidewalks preclude this, but I think it could visually be done be more vitrine space, open window look.

To continue, how can people frequent Broadway, when they don't really know what is there? I do not mean to be disrespectful of any of the store owners, I just find some stores very difficult to see into. Much in the way that Cohen last night advocated an increase in awareness of services on Burlingame Avenue, the same needs to happen on Broadway. I'm embarrassed to say that I only can name a couple of restaurants on that street, as well as a few cute shops, the others are a blurr, and yes, the rug store is pathetic.

Yesterday I spent an hour on Santa Cruz Ave. in Menlo Park. I've always liked that street, and it has remained the same in character for at least the past few decades. There are few, if any chains (because the University Mall sits very close by). But I also noted that there aren't any empty commercial spaces. Most are independents and they vary in wares: lampshades, lighting, lots of home decor shops, rugs, furniture, bakeries (lots of bagel shops), a real Ace Hardware and stationery store. Behind the main street are both Draegers and Trader Joes, almost hidden. Also parking is free.

Just as in Burlingame, there are quite a few transients on their Avenue. I talked to a merchant of Swiss merchandise (talk about eclectic mixes) and she also mentioned the high rents being problematic, yet somehow, all the storefronts are full and teaming with people. Her only real complaint was that they have had too many rug stores in the past. Apparently, the city put an end to that, but I don't know how. As was suggested by several last evening, this city needs to do some homework and find out how other similar cities handle all of these issues. There's some amount of arrogance in thinking that we cannot learn things from other places, and I hope we are more humble than that.

fred

That building on the 1100 block of Broadway just went before council to allow a second realtor's office to move in on the street. Why on earth would you condemn it? The scary thing is the attitude of some candidates trying to take so much control over private property. With the prices people pay out here you would think there would be more passion about the fact that blood, sweat and tears have gone into making any property investment pay off.

Instead Russ Cohen wants to limit store size to force larger retailers off the main avenues and somehow allow smaller retailers to move in. Sounds like an economic disaster to me. Private property and council control over it seems to be the single most important issue in the election. Residents should take notice. The idea seems to be to start by controlling business property but would massive control over residential property be far behind?

On the other side of the coin Anne Keighran wants more national chains on Broadway but couldn't that make Broadway Avenue parallel Burlingame Avenue? Couldn't that promote the same kind of rent increase problems facing the smaller businesses on Burlingame Ave? This may be unavoidable anyways.

I haven't said it in a while but I think the current make-ups of the streets are actually very benefical to the city and doesn't require much change other than growth onto Howard and Chapin. The Safeway project is kind of holding up change on Howard. The empty storefronts on the south side of Burlingame Ave disturb many people. I don't think it is a sign of trouble just a sign of high rents. Half the block is in development and I would wager the other empty storefronts will be filled in quickly enough when the landlord gets his price (as is his option to hold out for - tax write-offs and all).

It always seems to be about more restaurants, movie theatres and grocery stores. But it takes a lot more for a city to function as a whole than just focusing on comfort for residents. But maybe those are the issues that get people elected.

Bruce

I too think Cohen's idea of limiting store size... is totally unreasonable. If national chains are willing to pay for the high rent, so be it. Isn't this is a free market society? Why limits property owners' rights to rent?

Thanks for the update, Fred. I'm glad to hear we will finally see some activity at the rug store. What was it, 2 years empty. I remember a council meeting about that building, where the high price tag per sq. ft. was brought up. Maybe he/she finally reduced the cost.

I also doubt you were at the meeting last night, because that is not what Russ Cohen said. He said cities can and do control sizes of stores, that it should be looked into, though on our Avenue, the train has already long passed.

By the way, cities like ours have reduced sizes of buildings (at least made the permits conditional use) and have encouraged chains on side streets, not main streets. Our downtown is the opposite. He alluded to the fact that many of our smaller stores have become one large store, because there are no size limits. As a resident, I like to see more stores, not fewer.

By the way, 5-6K (used by some cities) for a store is pretty darn big. We're not talking hole in the wall. Other cities, like Mill Valley, I've mentioned here before, use 1500 sq. ft. as a marker for a conditional use permit. It certainly does not mean that a larger store cannot open up shop, it does mean that the public can have the opportunity to voice their opinion about this or that (usually chain) coming to town. In the end, it helps the business owners, because they will know or have some indication advance, how their establishments will do in town.

I remember when Pottery barn was three stores, before it burned down. I also see that the corner building on California was once three or four spaces, now it will become one big restaurant. I think that limits what our downtown has to offer, and certainly keeps out the little guy.

Do you remember the sock store? This was a very small store, and bless their hearts, they tried hard, but couldn't anyone have told them in advance, that socks weren't going to pay the rent in this town? How many socks can people really buy? There are other examples. They come and go so fast, I've forgotten. Somehow, there needs to be a connection between those who want to start businesses here, and those who would be their future customers. This is simply lacking.

JL

Some discussion of issues, here...nice.

Jen, I think you provide an excellent description of the current state of Broadway. Mostly non-descript stores, very little done by most vendors to advertise or promote their services. I don't understand why some here find it so charming. The street needs more recognizable chains to drive more traffic and interest in the area. If that's what Keighran wants, good for her. Fred, I have no issue with rising rents on Broadway -- it means more interest and demand. If that weeds out underperforming stores on the street, so be it.

Limiting store sizes is an economic non-starter.

I'm not sure I understand Baylock's idea of property tax abatements for owners of historical buildings. Mom and pop stores that provide value-added services/products and do a good job of promoting themselves will do just fine.

Glad to see that the candidates recognize the importance of reopening the Broadway station: improving the retail area would be a big first step towards that goal.

Ray Park

The cream rose to the top.

Lat night's forum provided few surprises. Gene Condon was clear on his regret and how he has used his less-than-perfect past to help troubled youth. That was not the surprise as much as the crowd reaction to the question in reference to the police records. A large portion of the crowed booed and the clapped at Gene's response. For those who say it was just Gene's cronies in the stands, you were not paying attention to the numbers. This was Burlingame rejecting this witch hunt. Cathy Baylock was my other surprise. She was poised, sure of her self and had a conciliatory tone that convinced me she can work well with Ms. Nagel and Rosalie.

With the exception of Cohen, Baylock and Rosalie, all others sounded like the mumbling of adults in the Charlie Brown cartoon with a few words sticking out. Root: Education, Anderson: Broadway Train station, Kieghran, I did this, I did that, Prendiville: renderings, Condon: kids. I like that Root recognized that transportation and housing are regional issues and we cannot pretend to correct them in a vacuum. There is one issue where Ms. Keighran snapped back at Rosalie and said that Broadway was her project. I wish she had shown a little more respect to her mentor.

Mr. Cohen left me with a sharp pain in my wallet. He has a huge list of programs he wants to implement but not once did he make mention of how they would be funded. He didn't express any concern for the City's finances and that scares me. Baylock shared some of his ideas but she was able to articulate a business rationale, showing that at least she is thinking about money. When Cohen was asked how he would promote business in response to the current vacancies downtown, he said he would restrict the size of the buildings. Adding regulations is not the way to attract business. There was a fixation with affordable housing and mom-and-pop business but no one came up with a proposal that takes into consideration the free market. Rosalie was the only one that acknowledged the existence of free market forces working on our town.

Rosalie truly rose like cream to the top. She is in command of the issues and demonstrated her fiscal caution that has helped keep our City the envy of the Peninsula. She was warm engaging and believable. She is truly the Grand Dame of Burlingame. I still don't agree with her on her strong opposition to housing on the bay front but with all the newbies coming on board, I thank god she is there. For those who said she was losing her edge, maybe you were nodding off at that meeting.

There are still some unresolved issues and we can't keep passing the buck and saying that we are conducting a study or a survey. We need action.

Affordable housing: I agree with Mr. Root in that we need to work with our neighbors on this one. Creative financing through partnerships with the County and the private sector, should be part of the solution. There is no more land in Burlingame and the only answer is up. If this is done correctly (close to transportation, entertainment and shopping), the impact on our infrastructure and services will be minimized. We need to send a clear signal to developers that we welcome this type of construction or we need to stop pretending that we are concerned and accept that our City workers, teachers and many of those at the private firms will just have to keep commuting from Tracy.

Transportation: As I heard everybody talk about how devastating the closure of the Broadway train station is, I kept waiting for someone to tell me how they plan to work with the local businesses to encourage their employees to use public transportation. A sort of Rail to Burlingame? voucher paid for by both business and the City. Maybe even a discount at the retailers if you show your train ticket. Cohen and Condon being Traffic and Safety Commissioners had nothing new to add. From the bit I heard of yet another survey, it sounded like many of the affected riders were workers coming to work. If we increase riders, JPB will pay attention. I am not sure why everyone kept boasting that they were at the meeting where the closure was decided. You were all there but you all failed to sway the vote.

Movie Theater: All movie theaters are hurting because attendance is way down all over. With the theaters in San Mateo I doubt any chain will take a chance on Burlingame. They beat us to that punch and we need to move on. But wait! We already have a movie theater. Does our shuttle stop at the Hyatt? How can we promote our own existing location by making it easier for teens to get there?

Teen Center: Now that we have hooked up with Millbrae for Parks and Rec., It might make sense to look at a joint teen center. Economies of scale! Has anyone discussed a location that can be closer to Millbrae in order to share? Has this been included in the studies of the North end? There are existing buildings that may provide opportunities for conversion.

After this forum, the two incumbents rose to the top as clear choices. Mr. Cohen displayed his well-meaning but fiscally dangerous ideas. All others were lost in the fog of self-promotion, vague concepts and muddled speech. Absentee ballots are going out and we need a reason to vote for you. If I hear about one more study and one more survey, I am going to scream. I hope we hear new and sensible ideas in the next round.

JL

Jen, in the retail business, talking about what people want is generally unproductive...people talk with their wallets, bottom line, and that's how you know what people want. Also, retail is a very tough business and turnover is constant. I don't know the sock store you're referring to, but I applaud them for trying and their entrepreneurial spirit, even if it didn't work out.

fred

Didn't the pottery barn used to be Woolworth's? Maybe including the small Double Rainbow ice cream store but I don't recall a huge consolidation. Limiting store size whether it be 1,500 sq ft or 5,0000 sq ft is still a dangerous gamble and will force potential business to neighboring cities. Guidelines but not control is what property owners deserve and are entitled to.

Nice to see a blog where the issues are discussed and the insults are lacking.

Thanks for the thoughtful recap. One thing I personally wanted to ask, but couldn't, was IF we have to share services with Millbrae? Has this already been signed on the dotted line. This is another train moving swiftly down the track, and I am wondering if we can opt out. What do these candidates really feel about this.

Ever since Randy has moved to Millbrae, he appears overloaded and difficult to get in contact with. He does his best, but that is the nature of sharing. Also, the "joining" parties are constantly in meetings. How much meeting time will be added to what already exists. II fear that joint services means more and more internal meetings, and far less of what benefits the Burlingame public directly. Are we going to vote on this? Is a future council going to vote on this? Help me, somebody. Are we following blindly into a trend, because everyone else is doing it?

Just because shared fire and police services are working, doesn't mean to me that everything else should be shared. We may well have completely different needs than Millbrae. Geographically, it is an issue for me, too.Why aren't we joining forces with Hillsborough's rec, for example. I admit, this is a subject I should know more about, but what I've heard or seen so far I am not happy with. I don't like feeling rail-roaded.

Jim Nantell made a competant and lengthy presentation of this subject, but at the end I would have still wanted to ask, do we have to do this?? It sounded like about 10-15K would be saved on personal. Is it just me? That doesn't seem like an enormous savings to me, if it means sacrificing the hands on, in town opportunities we have.

I think the current rec. dept. does a fabulous job of offering varied classes. They continually try to introduce more classes that would be attractive to teens, and generally earn big kudos. I just fear we will lose a lot of these positives.

Ray Park, I do not think Mr. Condon did as well as you have noted. I think the clapping was sorrowful on his behalf, as none of us would want to go through what he is going through. But, he put himself in it. His response was a spin - probably his only choice. He hasn't learned from it as he has recent outbursts on record.

I think Gene is a good guy. And I know he has contributed to Burlingame. Many of us have.

But I do not think he is right for City Council, neither am I. If my past was opened up, it would be ugly, but no one would care - unless I ran for public office. But I will continue to contribute, and I hope Gene does too.

I completey agree with everyone of your other assesments.

I was not in favor of Rosalie until last night. She may be critisized for not having a vision - so what - there's four others that do. She is a strong anchor and truely passionate. It was nice to hear her.

Ray Park

Jen.

I don't think that Millbrae and Burlingame toghether make up such a huge area. I think when sharing gets ironed out, this arrangement will work just fine. As to added meetings, can't we create a joint Parks and Rec. Commission with a set number of representatives from each city? I think this is another good policy by our City staff. It was politically dangerous but fiscally sound. Hey waddaya know? real issues being discussed. Maybe there is hope after all.

JL-You are right on the money! What better survey to know what people want than where they spend their money. Why is Village Host still around while others come and go? Good food, good price and a nice place to hang out with kids. There is something to be said for those large retailers who provide consistency and draw crouds. I like the mom-and-pop concept but not at the expense of strong anchor retailers. What would Copenhagen be without Pottery Barn, Gap, Apple?

This is a good question, Ray Park, but I have a better one..... What would Gap and Pottery Barn be without Copenhagen?!

Ray Park

Bluesky-On the Condon issue...I think Burlingame was the real winner when so many in the aduience repudiated the character assasination.

Exactly - the Copenhagen has been around for gazillion years, the others have not. In addition, the Copenhagen is very generous to many in Burlingame.

At a recent meeting a gentlemen said he would not go downtown if the Copenhagen was not there so this restaurant is a very important "anchor" on Burlingame Avenue.

One newest Broadway addition to Broadway is Mivan which has chairs and tables outside and a great place to eat.

james

The people doing the repudiating were not from Burlingame.

Ray Park

Agreed-I was going to Copenhagen well before Pottery Barn and Gap but it has since doubled in size. I wonder if it would be too big for Mr. Cohen's size limit. Those large stores on Blgm. ave bring a lot to our community and we need to stop bashing them. Instead, lets use their appeal outside of the City to help support the surrounding mom-and-pops. Do not shoot the Goose whith the golden tax revenues.

fred

Careful Ray - geese talk starts a hornets nest.

Republican II

Come on Bruce, Ray Park, and the others who keep espousing a "no restrictions on business and the free market" approach -- Urban planning is here to stay. Any zoning, height limits, use limits, etc. impede a landlord's ability to do exactly what he wants with his castle. Good zoning and planning has made and kept Burlingame the charming city that it is. I don't want Burlingame to become a Southern California suburban sprawl town or even a Millbrae. Cohen isn't suggesting rent control...he's suggesting limiting the square footage of stores...hardly a "pinko" thought (and he made it clear he would never take action without lots of time for community input, unlike some of our current council). I, for one, think his ideas are worthy of lots more discussion and thought....how do we keep our avenues from becoming strip malls? The answer is probably "very, very carefully with lots of planning and thought" -- not a free-market approach. We know what a free-market approach looks like...we've got lots of cities north and south of us that have it....many of us absolutely don't want that.

Ray Park

That's what I've been trying to do. So you think this might actually get a response? I sure hope so 'cause I'm gonna get fired for doing this and I still can't get people fired up.

Fiona

Ray Park - past candidate's business licenses, photo mailings and past good deeds and misdeeds have been scrutinized in past elections. Violent police records are also part of the information package. When everything is out in the open, we can decide whether this is relevant to our voting. Of course we do have to be Burlingame residents!

I was undecided on my fourth vote until last night but I made up my mind during the debate. This forum separated the wheat from the chaff, the brain from the brawn, the experienced from the inexperienced, the naff from the classy and those who will work together (kumbaya, fred!) and which candidates know what is going on. It was an awesome group and I have a renewed optimism for a great council after November!

Also have a renewed optimism for Broadway, which I love!

fred

What planet are we on that Burlingame Avenue is in threat of becoming an SoCal strip mall?

The design review board would prevent that from happening anyways. But limiting store size limits business opprotunity. We're not talking Costco here but if Burlingame had instituted limits decades ago I imagine Burlingame Avenue would look more like downtown Campbell with a lot of little chotsky shops and antique stores. Even as scary as a strip mall.

not from Burlingame, not voters...but Condon supporters. like i said, he's a good guy...just shouldn't be in public office. and besides, the crowd wasn't that big..i was surprised, not a very good representation of Burlingame. anyhow, enough on the subject.

fred, i'm such a fan! keep it up!

Ray Park

Oh! Do share your choices Fiona or have already?

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