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August 25, 2015

Comments

Bruce Dickinson

Well, well, well, look who got into the taste making business all of a sudden? Yes, the Burlingame City Council of all bodies. With the Rec Center, for the first time we don’t see the brick-and-glass modern architecture that has infiltrated Burlingame like a cancer and here we have something that harkens to the high school and Burlingame train station, and now we have Association of International Architects chiming in all of a sudden! Is it just me, or does this Bruce Dickinson detect something is amiss, particularly given the scathing comments from Nagel and Brownrigg? So what gives? Is this a case of OPM versus YOM? Let me elaborate, if you will.

When it’s OPM, or Other People’s Money, namely developers proposing projects who grease the paws, of various governmental bodies, ya know what I mean? allowing council members to conveniently look away, count the tax dollars, and reserve the criticism for other stuff where they know they don’t have much downside. In the case of YOM or Your Own Money, when you gotta spend it (or in this case the money doesn’t really exist, as it were), the bar is higher all of a sudden. C’mom guys, do you have to make it so obvious? Sometimes I think government thinks they’re always dealing with an electorate that is a bag of hammers! Or is it that an outside architectural firm, not one of the local Burlingame ones, is doing the work the issue? Who knows, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter but the scrutiny and comments seem like a double standard to me. Bruce Dickinson loves the comment that the problem is from ‘crowdsourcing or democracy” as opposed to a single source (aka ‘dictatorship’ ya know what I mean)? Well I hope that view isn’t reflective of YOUR OWN OFFICE, buddy! where you were democratically elected and people expect you to act as a representative! One would think given Brownriggs diplo- background, he should know better than to say this.

Like I said earlier and as mentioned by Joe and several others that unilateral architecture, rubber stamped by our own City Council, including the property on California, that Which Wich building, the senior facility, the new monster on Carolan, some of the condos near Trousdale is where there should have been a lot more scrutiny. All we heard there was crickets chirping followed by a rubber stamp hitting the approval documents.

Call my intelligence insulted!!!

hollyroller@hotwire.com

The need for a new Rec Center is without a doubt a reckless waste of time and energy from all City of Burlingame employees.
Considering the amount of new homes/condos, business parks being put forward those corporations will have plenty of need, and recourses to provide the same and more than a City of Burlingame Dept could ever provide.
Plus, The lack of interference from the City Council regarding management and fees for the people who will live and work there.
I am always surprised and disappointed that this ridiculous concept of spending 7-8 Million Dollars to create a Recreation Center come up again and again.

Lorne

If I understand correctly, the total estimated cost for this project is closer to $30 million, if not slightly above. The estimate for constructing the proposed building is $15.2 million, and in addition to this, $9 million to $10.5 million is estimated for parking accommodation and relocating the playgrounds, as well as another $7.7 million to $8.2 million for "soft costs."

Lorne

And just a bit more detail about the meeting for what it's worth, as I attended it:

In addition to staff and all five Council members, former Mayor/Council member Cathy Baylock and Park and Rec commissioner/City Council candidate Donna Colson participated. Both sit on the Community Center Master Plan Citizens Advisory Council ("CAC") along with Council members Keighran and Ortiz.

I'm fairly certain the other three Council candidates were not there (not surprising, given the meeting occurred when many people are on summer vacation); that said, Emily Beach's husband was in attendance taking notes.

Here is a list of the current CAC members (I requested this list directly from the Park and Rec department, as I couldn't find it anywhere on the city's website):

Ann Keighran, Ariana Ebing, Carolyn Tang, Cathy Baylock, Dawn Merkes, Donna Colson, Erik Winkler, Janet Martin, Jeff Londer, Jennifer Pfaff, Laura Hesselgren, Mary Hunt, Julie Baird, Margaret Glomstad, Karen Hager, Ricardo Ortiz, Vance Stoner and William Loftis.

Bruce Dickinson

Aha!! there you have it! Bruce Dickinson knew something was weird about the out of no-where architectural critiques from Nagel and Brownrigg on this project, when they rubber stamp other odes to poop projects all over the city without batting an eye. Look who wasn't on the CAC design team (in contrast to Keighran and Ortiz who were there with other community members). Talk about sulking party-poopers.

Guys, seriously, the city council position is practically a volunteer job, so really, stop acting like 8 year olds and throwing tantrums in the public space. You're not getting paid for it and not really helping anyone except your eggshell egos. It makes you look bad, and quite frankly explains quite a few things about the decision making, or lack thereof, of those council members. Leave the intra-council bickering for your own time and allow the community to have a voice on the over-priced community rec area and stop wasting our time on senseless debate, put on your big boy pants and start critiquing the architecture that everybody hates. Bruce Dickinson needs to lecture you on how to behave then maybe you can graduate from diapers to big boy (or girl) pants. I may be an old man, but I know a thing or two about being successful and how to cultivate consumer opinions. Let me give you a hint: what you're doing isn't the secret sauce, ya know what I mean? The community's voices are ones you should be embracing and if you have meaningful content to contribute, then join that group and demonstrate some talent.

Guys, seriously, grow up!!

HMB

Anything would be better than that crap building that's there now. The room that is used for piano lessons has got to have walls full of mold -- it absolutely reeks of mildew. And it's amazing the building hasn't blown up -- from the smell there's clearly a gas leak in the kitchen. I'm surprised the folks that work in that building haven't started suing for health problems from being exposed to all the noxious smells. I could care less whether the building is distinguished or not, but there needs to be some serious work done.

Laura

You are so right HMB. The current rec center has portions that are structurally unsound, has employees packed into every possible space and the smell of gas from the kitchen is strong. This is suppose to be our number one evacuation center in case of a disaster. If there is a dance, wedding or something else going on at that time, it may well be our number one rescue sight! We desperately need a new center and one just has to walk through the building to realize that!

I find it laughable that certain Councilmen/women state that the lack of vision they see in this project, comes from too much community input. Are you kidding me? Yes, the CAC did go to the Community to get their thoughts and input on the Center. They held meeting after meeting, went to every possible group or event being held in Burlingame and tried to get as much input as possible when coming up with the design. From that input, the architects came up with five different designs which were narrowed down to four, then three and then two. All with community input and not with just the members of the CAC. They took into consideration the parking concerns of the neighbors, the concerns of mother's with children playing in the park, the tennis players, senior citizens and the list goes on and on. I find it laughable that Council feels this way and laughable that they'd rather have their vision in the Community Center than the Communities!

Peter Garrison

Power to the People! Allez mes enfants!

Lorne

Still remain unconvinced as to whether we need a tear-down, as opposed to making improvements to what we already have (analogous to a lot of well-functioning, older homes in Burlingame, to which improvements have been made over time). Either way, my biggest concern with this project is how the tax structure will play out for residents. If this is paid for via general obligation bonds, newer home/property owners will get totally hosed - as they'll end up paying the majority of the cost/tax (due to the assessed value tax structure inherent with general obligation bonds).

Lorne

And just as a quick add on, I don't believe the link to the SM Daily Journal article in Joe's original post above works. Here's the correct link:

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2015-08-24/officials-scrutinize-community-center-plan-financial-and-design-concerns-plague-proposed-project-in-burlingame/1776425148944.html

Jennifer

Lorne, three years ago, I was with you, 300%. Then I got "the tour". Have you had one? The building is a hodge podge of add-ons and make-dos and it has served this community really, really well for a long, long time. BUT we are so short on rental space in this city for large and small functions, and could be offering many more (and different) types of classes to the community. To do that by retrofitting this structure would probably be good money after bad, and I'm the type who would save a nice, old house, because the substance is often very good. However, this is not the case with the Recreation Center.

Living nearby, I can tell you that parking is really an issue and it overflows into all the neighboring streets, so a garage of some sort is a necessary part of the project. If you see how the classes function (and many teachers and other volunteer class leaders have been there for decades) you can see how constrained they are in a number of ways, down to bare-bone basics like heat and air conditioning not functioning properly. The kitchen smells of gas most of the time. Yes, almost everything can be fixed but for how long do you patch stuff together?

There will surely be watchful community eyes with regard to staff offices, etc., because if these are over the top, this community will lose faith in the whole project, and it will never garner enough support and necessary funding, no matter what that mechanism will be.

Joe

Thanks for the heads up on the link. It is now fixed.

j. mir

My requirements for the new rec center.
1) make it attractive
2) make it look like an asset to the community
3) give it 15 rooms. 10 small 5 large
4) 50 parking spaces

That's it. That's all needed. What is so complicated about it.

We spent 10 years building a grocery store. Please please PLEASE people, let us not spend another 10 years building a new (and badly needed) rec center.

Jennifer

We spent maybe 4 years (tops) building a grocery store, and 6 years waiting around for Safeway, with several breaks in between.

Russ

No need for a bond to fund the rec center. With all the new development going on, all the council needs to do is ask those developers for "public benefits." Other cities do this as a matter of routine. If each developer kicked in a few million dollars apiece for every project, we would have this thing funded in no time with no tax payer dollars.

Here's another way, "Teardown Tax." For every house that's torn down, institute a fee of $25K that goes directly into the rec center enterprise fund. Again, no tax payer dollars, but rather private funds.

Here's another: Sell naming rights: Call it the Benioff, Ellison, Zuckerberg, Gates, Tesla, Twitter, VirginAmerica, fill in the blank, Center for Recreation and community Excellence."

And the last one: The Bruce Dickenson writes Burlingame a big check.

Balance is everything.

Most buildings are not built to last forever, especially not with ever changing building codes, and especially not in our neck of the woods with the potential for large earthquakes.

So, if one of the main rationales for addressing the community center is for seismic and hazardous materials issues (and lots of public schools and other gov't buildings still have asbestos ceiling tiles, etc simply painted over) - then tearing down the community center and starting over definitely makes the most sense.

And gov't buildings like the community center were built to be utilitarian, just like our particular downtown Post Office (unlike San Mateo's, Palo Alto's, etc)...

"Bond, James Bond" ahh the intrigue and mystery and 'politics' of running a small city. Not really.

Actually, it should be common sense to use fiscal responsibility in running an organization and a community that intends to be fiscally healthy...forever, right?

Do we really need a "sustainability manager", or should we just try to keep sustainability in mind and save on the salary and the forever benefits? Really, who thinks that this was a good hire?

A new community center is probably the MOST worthy capital expenditure project, but no family, no organization, no company can do all of its ideal capital projects, all at once, can they?

Why are we talking about city hall and Howard Ave Streetscape expansion and the community center?

Some regimes just believe that its OK to spend-spend-spend, build-build-build now-now-now to fuel construction and labor contracts (who really only care about themselves), and disregard the position it will put the community in, in the future - let alone if a major earthquake does eventually strike our area - then Burlingame would be sunk.

Russ, mix used projects that include significant retail and apartments can fund community centers as part of the project (like the Post Office project offering a public grassy park on the roof). Here's a great example being considered in Cupertino: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150828005630/en/Complete-Transformation-Mixed-Use-Town-Center-30-Acre-Park

Naming rights can help to boost BCEs annual funds for schools, if only we had the 49ners or Giants considering the Bayshore area.

My friends and frienemies who own Burlingame Ave won't like me saying this (again), but ultimately California needs both much more fiscal responsibility and also to re-work Prop 13, so that commercial property owners who get a new lease that's...double...the former value then get reassessed and have to pay more property tax off the *leased value*, not off the value from 20-30-40 years ago with Prop 13 limitation escalations.

No question, the Dems know how to come up with new taxes everywhere (they'll pushing to introduce a Prop 13 re-do in 2018,

http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-prop-13-20150610-story.html

...it's the fiscal responsibility that they ditch during their annual (or perhaps weekly) Burning Man LSD/Ecstasy trips.

Balance is everything.

hollyroller@hotwire.com

How about increasing Green Space, instead of car space?
I recall people wanting to tear down the Rec Center, and the Park Dept. Yard, and improve/expand Washington Park.
There is plenty of room for both facilities in other parts of Burlingame.
Neither should be in a "setting" such as it is.
That is a NO Brainer to me.

Joe

In the interest of keeping this post up to date, especially with specific costs, I am reposting Lorne's comment from another thread here:

I submitted the following letter which appeared in the Daily Post earlier this week:

Dear Editor:

A major issue facing Burlingame is how to address approximately $100 million of unfunded infrastructure projects, including a possible new community center.

Indeed, the question of how to fund a new community center was posed during a recent City Council candidates forum.
However, different cost estimates — $15 million and $40 million — were cited by two council candidates.

I subsequently confirmed the estimated cost with Burlingame Parks and Recreation Director Margaret Glomstad. She confirmed $15 million refers to the current estimated cost of the new building, itself. However, the new building cannot be constructed without necessary site work, which includes relocation of the current playground and creating dedicated parking.

The current estimated cost of this site work is between $8.9 million to $10.5 million.

Additionally, estimated “soft costs” for the project total between $7.7 million to $8.2 million. Thus, the total current estimated cost of the new community center is approximately $32 million to $34 million.

However, the parks and recreation director also indicated these estimates do not include the cost of a temporary facility while the new building is being constructed.

And should the city need to issue voter-approved bonds to finance the entire project, these estimates do not include bond interest, which a new tax would also need to cover.

Assuming an average 20-year bond maturity and 4% interest rate, interest could conceivably add another $15 million to $20 million to the cost.

Thus, the total cost could be closer to $50 million.

Lorne

Looks like the city is aiming for a bond/tax ballot measure in November, given the Council study session this coming Monday:

https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http%3A%2F%2Fburlingameca.legistar1.com%2Fburlingameca%2Fmeetings%2F2016%2F2%2F1040_A_City_Council_16-02-29_Meeting_Agenda.pdf&embedded=true

Lorne

Daily Post (Palo Alto, CA)

City considering rec center bonds
Published: March 1, 2016

Burlingame City Council is looking at a plan to use bonds to renovate the city’s antiquated recreational center, Councilman Ricardo Ortiz told the Post. Ortiz said the overall cost of rebuilding the rec center, located at 850 Burlingame Ave., will be between $37 million and $47 million. The bond proposal could go before the city’s voters this year or next, he said.

City Council held a study session yesterday to look at when and how the council should propose a series of financial measures to the center, Ortiz told said.

“It was not a discussion about if, but about when and how we will do this,” he said, adding that the council had over the past couple of years looked at a number of potential projects to work on before making the rec center the top priority. Ortiz said the center was seismically unsafe.

The city will use bonds in order to fund the project and will take the proposal to the voters either this year or next year, but Ortiz was not sure exactly when that would happen.

“We haven’t decided yet,” he said. “The study session was looking at the strategy of how to do this.”

If the council chooses to take the proposal for bonds to the voters next year, it would mean a smaller voter turnout and the council needs to weigh the benefits of waiting until 2017 or bring it to the ballot this year, a presidential election, when the voter turnout will be at its largest.

Joe

Thanks, Lorne. I saw the article in print. Where did you find it online?

Lorne

Here you go, Joe: http://nl.newsbank.com/sites/sfdb/

Here's another article which appeared in today's SM Daily Journal in case anyone missed it:

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2016-03-02/burlingame-officials-examine-a-variety-of-potential-tax-measures-initiative-could-be-spent-toward-large-capital-improvement-projects/1776425159370.html

I realize things are constantly in flux (which now includes adding Hoover School vicinity street safety as a major priority, obviously), but I'm a bit confounded as to why there doesn't appear to be more consensus of the Council's priorities beyond the rec center - particularly given the 2014 survey based on the public's input; the public's "very critical" top 5 priorities were (in descending order):

1) Downtown Parking Garage
2) Bayview Park
3) Downtown Streetscape (I guess this can be now be removed from the list)
4) Community Center
5) Fire Station Improvements

Here's the corresponding staff report, with the rest of the rankings, for reference; see the table starting on page 2:
https://www.scribd.com/doc/239538682/Burlingame-Unfunded-Infrastructure-Funding-and-Tax-Options

Also, with regard to the rec center, aren't we still in the process of working on a final design (and my understanding is it will still not have a gym, like the current rec center)? Furthermore, exactly how much extra revenue is expected to be generated from event rentals? And what would be the incremental ongoing expenses of operating the new center (above and beyond the current rec center's operating expenses)?

Lorne

FYI, it appears the current estimate for a new rec center, as currently envisioned/designed, has risen to $51.5-$56.7 million (see link below to staff report for this coming Monday's Council study session). The city is exploring two options/modifications to bring the overall project cost down; this would entail additional consulting/design work costing between $50,000-$100,000.

https://www.scribd.com/document/374064940/Burlingame-Community-Center-Updated-Cost-Estimates

Cassandra

B-Game’s HSR.

Bruce Dickinson

As the poster above mentioned, Bruce Dickinson thinks this Rec Center is spiraling out of control as I presciently predicted when the first discussions were held on this a few years back. We are now up to $2,200 per square foot for a new rec center!!!

Why do you need all this wrangling, debate and committees? Even under the various options, the most obvious and easy decision isn't even highlighted. Just keep the existing playground footprint, the existing tennis courts, keep the existing parking, the existing rec center footprint but make it larger by going two stories? As mentioned many times before, this comes out to $20-25 million dollars tops.

No need to reinvent the wheel. We know the Rec Center is seismically unsafe, so replace it and make it larger by building up. There is no need to build a whole new town here.

Finally what people don't even mention is that the existing space is rather inefficient in usage such the courtyard that is rendered redundant by having all this outdoor space in the park. Make more efficient use of the footprint and building up will increase the space and everything can function pretty much as it already does, which is fine even if you have to walk a block away to park your car.

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