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November 23, 2013



Yikes, ' away a few days, our trees are under siege and downtown is burning (!)

Darn those space heaters-- thank you to the baker who noticed this in the middle of the night, and to the firefighters who battled the blaze. The charred home on the right (1214) is the home of a Burlingame pioneer family -the Gates' home, turn of the century. It was probably only about 15 years young when Burlingame Avenue became more commercial, and it was rolled back from its original location on Burlingame Avenue (current Pottery Barn) and replaced with the Gates' Garden Theatre (also burned down). I hope it can be saved, and I hope the city has the ability to let the owner use the Historic Building code so that it doesn't become burdensome to the owner to put back together.


From today's DJ:

An apartment complex and the historical Gates House sustained an estimated $2 million and $250,000, respectively, in damages from a four-alarm fire in Burlingame this weekend, said Central County Fire Marshal Rocque Yballa.

A floor heater appears to be the source of the fire near downtown Burlingame early Saturday morning around 3:49 a.m. The Fire Department believes combustible items near a floor heater on the first floor of the two-story building were the cause. The apartment complex, at 1218 Donnelly Ave., is red tagged, meaning it’s not safe for human occupancy, Yballa said.

“That doesn’t mean it can’t be salvaged,” Yballa said. “It needs to go through assessment by engineers to see if they can save or not. It could take months. Saving it or not depends upon if the owner of the building wants to try to retain it.”

The other building at 1214 Donnelly Ave. was formerly occupied by G.W. Gates, the city’s first stationmaster and postmaster, according to a 2008 inventory of historic resources by the Carey & Co. architecture firm. He constructed the drug store and post office on a parcel now adjacent to the Bank of Burlingame on California Drive. The space is occupied by the mobile accelerator Tandem Entrepreneurs Management Services, which is moving to a 1813 El Camino Real property and a 1220 Donnelly Ave. space for the time being, said Ron Evans, Tandem’s director of finance. The company’s three-year lease at 1214 Donnelly Ave., to the east of 1218 Donnelly Ave., expires in July 2015, he said.



Great human interest angle in the Daily Journal today on this story. Here's a little bit with the link at the bottom:

Sixty-five-year old Louis Marlin Jr. was on a cruise in Europe when he found out his Burlingame home of 39 years had burned down.

Just before Thanksgiving, at 3:49 a.m. Nov. 23, Marlin’s apartment, at the 1200 block of Donnelly Avenue near downtown Burlingame was part of a four-alarm blaze that badly damaged both his building and a commercial building next door, according to Central County Fire Marshal Rocque Yballa.

Marlin, who is deaf, found out about the fire through an email sent to the leader of his trip one morning at breakfast in Rome.

“At first I was shocked,” he said through an interpreter. “Then I was worried, thinking about all the valuable things [I lost]. I was so unsettled and couldn’t sleep well.”

Now he is disappointed, but glad to be alive.

“In some ways I felt the house was mine,” he said. “I loved the stairway because it kept me in shape — I was getting a little bit thick in the middle. I loved the view and watched people go by and of course I would flirt sometimes with the girls going by. One of the most important things I thought of was my life. I would have died for sure if I was not on vacation since I’m a heavy sleeper.”



Four years later, things are not looking good for the restoration of the Gates house.


The sad end of this sad story is here. The Gates house is gone never to return.


What a shame.


From the DJ:

The Burlingame Planning Commission will consider Tuesday, Oct. 9, a plan to rebuild the former Gates House site at 1214 Donnelly Ave., into a new mixed-use development.

The land near downtown where the Gates House was formerly located is slated to be rebuilt into a new three-story project with commercial space on the ground floor and 14 units spread across the top two stories.

According to the new vision for the site, the ground floor will likely be designed to accommodate a restaurant or retail space. Twelve two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units are slated to occupy the top floors, and 23 parking spaces will be provided on site for patrons, workers and residents in a stacking mechanism. The units will range in site from 525 square feet to 1,040 square feet, according to a city report.



There are some unusual coincidence's regarding Fires at two residences this person lived at.
"Just Say'n."


6 1/2 years after the fire, there is news on this property:

Plans call for 14 units to be spread in the top two floors of the development over a ground floor, where 5,000 square feet will be reserved for businesses. Of the residential units, 12 will be two-bedroom units and two will be one-bedroom units. The development is slated to offer 23 parking spaces.

Previously, the site was occupied by the home constructed in 1900 by the city’s first stationmaster G.W. Gates until it was demolished in 2018, following a 2013 four-alarm fire.

The damaged building sat vacant after the blaze that was started by the floor heater in a neighboring building. The fire’s toll was clear from the charred exterior, visible behind a fence downtown.

Gates, also the city’s third postmaster, commissioned to construct the building on Burlingame Avenue around 1900. He then had the house moved to its current location on Donnelly Avenue in 1917. It was deemed to be a historical building, eligible for listing on the local and national registers, around 2008.


Followed up by this letter to the editor today:

Thanks for the article about the former Gates House, Burlingame’s original residence (“Redevelopment of historic home moving forward,” Aug. 17). It is truly regrettable that the home was not saved. As you stated in the article, it was singed when the adjacent dwelling caught fire. The $250,000 in damage it suffered, as you pointed out, should not have been a death sentence. The home was worth millions as she sat, but the owner was only interested in the land and had no interest in repairing the beautiful Queen Ann. As you mentioned, the home was eligible for the Historical Register, yet was not submitted for inclusion. Instead, the city allowed the owner to demolish the home without a hearing, as CEQA requires. It is regrettable that they reward poor stewardship and show no interest in the historical structures in Burlingame.

Tim Donnelly


This guy Tim Donnelly is like a little dog yapping away at some illusory noise. Again yesterday in the DJ:


I’m being attacked for lamenting the lack of effort in preserving older homes, including the Gates House, Burlingame’s first. It suffered burned shingles and water damage when the adjacent home burned. Estimated cost of repairs $250,000, a fraction of its value, not to mention its historical significance. It sat abandoned for several years. Within weeks of my begging Mayor Brownrigg to use eminent domain, it was demolished via an emergency permit, stating it would attract vandals.

The Burlingame Historical Society, with some members who were once on the City Council, could have sent a request for the property to be considered for inclusion in the California List of Historic Places. It would have demonstrated their desire to save the residence. They did not need owner’s consent to make the request, and it would have triggered CEQA, which requires the owner show “Just Cause” for demolition, at a public hearing. The owner has since received approval to build condos.

Russ Cohen suggested I attend meetings of the Planning Commission, instead of complaining from the comfort of home. I have attended many, and spoke out in defense of older buildings that are disappearing daily. I’ve also been to several meetings regarding the General Plan and Historic Grove. I’ve yet to see Mr. Cohen at any of them. Perhaps he prefers the comforts of home.

Tim Donnelly


I have a question for Mr. Donnelly: Why didn't YOU do any of this YOURSELF? YOU sound like you know a little about this, so why didn't YOU ask for the historical designation? Why didn't YOU file a CEQA request or even a CEQA lawsuit? I've done it myself, it's not that complicated. You sound like the worst kind of armchair quarterback--still griping after the game is over.

Paloma Ave

Tim sounds like an ankle-biting small ...

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