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December 09, 2013


Bruce Dickinson

Guys, the Burlingame City council needs to *Explore the Space*, as I like to say when recording in the studio. If San Mateo, the hodgepodge architectural capital of the Peninsula is ahead of the curve on cultivating historical preservation, then Burlingame really needs to step it up big-time. With the Grand Boulevard of trees lining El Camino, Burlingame should be the town that is at the forefront of preserving history. Almost no downside to passing an historical structure preservation ordinance with incentives for maintenance and restoration. This would prop up values (read: more property taxes for Burlingame) and create a center for architectural and historical excellence, which is so lacking on the Peninsula. Everyone would be better off.

Burlingame City Council, Guess WHAT? I got a FEVER!!! and the only prescription is an Historical Preservation Ordinance!


The Council took another good step on Monday with direction to staff to keep going on the Mills Act momentum for downtown buildings. Of course, I'm still interested in seeing it expand beyond that and here is some good color on who, what and why that is a good thing:

Beyond the pilot program, Mayor Michael Brownrigg and Nagel are voicing support for expanding the preservation program beyond the downtown district so others might take advantage of the Mills Act. However, that might open the door to a requirement that others would be required to get historic assessments by historical consultants to determine defining features and historic characteristics of their homes before doing any remodeling. That is already the case in the Burlingame Park district, due to documents submitted back in 2009 by the Burlingame Historical Society.

Councilman Jerry Deal is a bit hesitant about such an ordinance, but did agree it would be good for property taxes.

“Preservation can be expensive,” said Deal. “I saw one building owner go into bankruptcy. They had to sell the building.”

Meanwhile, some residents are in support of an ordinance being extended out of downtown. For example, Reese and Sally Foster live in a Julia Morgan home in Burlingame. Julia Morgan was a California architect who designed more than 700 buildings in California during her life, including the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon. The Fosters wonder how they can protect their home’s historic value.

“We’re thinking of downsizing and when someone buys our home our main concern is they would tear it down,” Sally Foster said. “It’s a 100-year-old house and we’re happy with the possibility of using the Mills Act.”

Nagel noted Burlingame has some charming, historic buildings in town that should be protected, including the little houses behind the main fire station on California Drive and the “storybook” homes on Carlos Avenue.

We will double back for more on this direction and possible next steps, but here is the link to the full piece:


Bruce Dickinson

Guys listen, comments such as "Preservation can be expensive", "preserve without infringing rights of homeowners" and "designations foisted on people who don't want them" sound like your city government is on your side and looking out for your rights? Right? No, WRONG! I will be the first to admit, Bruce Dickinson is not a professional translator, but one thing about dealing with record labels and execs for 50 years is that you are pretty damn good at sniffing out when someone is trying to cut you a raw deal.

Bruce Dickinson's translation of those comments would look something like this: "Preservation ordinances are a problem because how would developers, architects, builders, engineers, get paid when all the old houses and buildings don't get torn down and rebuilt - we'd all be out of work".

Guys, this translation spills right off the page and yes, while I am advanced in age, I know phony comments when I see them. When I made a request for the city council to "explore the space" I didn't want a token BS debate with thinly veiled pro-development comments but instead a real prescription for preserving all things historical in this great City. C'mon fellas, let's make some real music here!! San Mateo is making you guys look like amateur street musicians.

Studio Aficionado

Great to hear voices for preservation. Another area that needs preservation is the Peninsula Studio area. The studio HQ buildings are still there along Peninsula Ave and Woodside Way. It is hard to imagine that dozens of important films of the day were made in the Burlingame-based studio complex during the silent-film era. (even Rudolph Valentino did a film or two there). Most of the unique buildings are still in great shape and you can tell they are connected by the brick roofs and minor art deco touches. Many of these structures are crowded by newer structures and a gas Station. The studio back-lot area is a wreck with rows apartment buildings. The forgotten Peninsula Studio is a important historical gem that needs preservation and polishing.


My dentist moved into one of those studios a few years ago and has rehabilitated it for his practice. What you describe is a cluster of very cool studios and apartments, and mostly intact. If anyone is interested in this topic, the SM County Historical Association in Redwood City will likely have the most information.

Bruce Dickinson

Fellas, aren't the Pacific Studios buildings located in San Mateo?


Yes they are!

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