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April 06, 2019


Charles Magnuson

You sound exactly like one of the British nut-jobs declaring that the people in Brussels control all of the laws in the UK, except in this case your Brussels is SF.

Amount of housing creating in Burlingame since I moved here in 2012: None.

Amount of housing planned for Burlingame in the next 2 years: ~10 condo units on Oak Grove. That's it.

Complain all you want about SF and what their elected officials say, when it comes to efforts to address the severe housing crisis affecting Burlingame, the city of Burlingame has done absolutely nothing to even think about the issue, let alone take action. Burlingame is beyond pathetic when it comes to housing efforts. If anyone makes a joke about adding housing in the Bay Area, the punchline ends with Burlingame.

I'd have more sympathy for posts like these if Burlingame made even a half-hearted attempt to think about the housing crisis, but the city isn't even putting neurons on the task. I listened to every city council meeting for over a year and I did not once hear the subject of housing come up for meaningful discussion. Eventually I unsubscribed because it was a waste of my time.


You must have a hard time hearing your TV or Granicus feed. You might want to see someone about that:

The Burlingame Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposal to begin construction on 290 apartments and condominiums at Carolan Avenue in 2018, according to video of its meeting Monday, May 8. https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/huge-housing-project-still-awaiting-construction-burlingame-approves-groundbreaking-delay/article_9260c1d3-6356-5492-92cf-397742681555.html




Bruce Dickinson

Looks like old man Chuckie is off his rocker again! The amount of new multifamily housing approved and built over the past few years has been far greater than at any other period in the last 30.

Where do people come up with these "fake facts"?

Bruce Dickinson believes the opposite should happen, that is we need to resist State prescriptions for running our city, especially when based on false premises, already-obsolete transit that so few people use (Buses) and for a high-speed rail system that may not be built.

With driverless vehicles around the corner, all this transit infrastructure as well as the transit-oriented development will be a stranded cost and not have much usefulness for people who need to park their driverless vehicles. As far as the housing "crisis" it's really brought about by the hyper-valuations of tech companies. Same thing happened in 2000 and when the bubble popped, that housing crisis, traffic problems, etc was "solved". We need to take a full-cycle view on these things, especially as the State of California is highly levered to Tech Stocks and Real Estate. At every recession/crash, we're running gigantic deficits because of the boom-bust nature of relying on capital gains taxes on assets.

Finally, while I appreciate the op-eds done by the City Council members, I'd rather see some very tangible action and deliverables in defending Burlingame, which I haven't seen very much of coming from this body. I'm afraid these op-eds are just political cover to nominally placate Burlingame residents. Watch the votes, not the notes, if you know what I mean?

Joe's brilliant litigation reserve fund idea is spot-on and can be funded with the development fees that we are now levying (expected to be a few million dollars on proposed development, which Chuckie doesn't believe exists). Much better use than $60 million dollar rec centers and endless High School pool disputes where the only certainty in the matters are ever escalating costs.

The quality of life in Burlingame is the reason why the real estate is so valuable here. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my assets devalued due to over-development and the wrong type of development (for ridiculous transit projects), and Bruce Dickinson has a lot of assets, of which my Burlingame residence is one very, very, very small part. I would imagine, you should care a LOT more about your property in Burlingame than I do!

Fugit All

"It might also be time to reconsider whether SamTrans should be allowed to operate on our section of El Camino Real."

This is a little Marie Antionette of you, Joe. What of all the poor slobs who rely on public transportation to move up and down the peninsula and through the enclaves their jobs don't afford them to live in? Or the disabled? Not to mention the environmental benefit of reducing single vehicle traffic (and its associated headaches)?

Let them drive Teslas!

Bruce Dickinson

Think Joe's point is that we already have a transportation corridor that actually directly links 3 train stations, 3 downtowns, an industrial/hotel district and a high school, which is called California Ave/San Mateo Ave. All the bike lanes are already there and for good reason, because it makes a lot more sense to access these points.

Removing the buses from El Camino will help traffic flow a ton and will greatly improve safety on our portion of El Camino due to the very poor lines of site and narrow roads. California is designed far better for buses as for the most part, it is wider than ECR. Once the buses move north past the Millbrae Station, then they can use El Camino, as all the major access points in San Bruno and up North actually are more along El Camino (vs. California in Burlingame) and there does not exist the beautiful historical Eucalyptus trees that Burlingame was so prescient to preserve.

Don't you guys love it when Bruce Dickinson injects a dose of common sense around here?

 It Don't Come Easy

More parks, less housing! Please move out of our city if it doesn't meet your high standards for livability.
SF looks like a 3rd world country in many parts. B-game pols, please ignore anything that comes out of SF, especially Scott Weiner!


Fugit All has really missed the boat (le bateau) on this one. The Marie Antionettes in this discussion are Weiner, Chiu and Brown who are telling us peons what to do and where to do it. Shoving cake down our throats. My position is much more akin to the Yellow Vests taking to the streets in Paris and elsewhere to protest their mistreatment at the hands of the politicians. Maybe we show up in Sacramento on the steps of the capitol in yellow vests??

Bruce, you are giving me too much credit for trying to engineer a solution when all I was really suggesting is that if we are forced to allow anything within a quarter mile of a bus stop, we should get rid of the bus stops. No stops = no blue Drop Zone. It's an old-fashioned stick in the eye and tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes you need to make a point pointedly. Especially when dealing with those who just don't get what makes B'game B'game.

L. Field

Let's not forget about the 128 unit apartment project at 920 Bayswater which was approved last summer & which should be under construction soon.


What do we do about the train zone? If they ever open up the Broadway station, that's pretty much it for lower Burlingame. There is a joint City Council - Planning Commission meeting on SB50 on Saturday, April 27th at 9am in the Lane Room in the Library. They are looking for direction from residents.


Who is this clueless Magnuson clown?

Jennifer Pfaff

Well, for all the swipes at Beverly Hills, it appears we share a very high percentage of renters as well as density of residents per square mile...' Agree with this statement by Mayor Mirisch, Beverly Hills:

"Punitive, one-size-fits-all measures concocted by Sacramento politicians to enrich wealthy for-profit developers are not the solution to our state's housing affordability issues....we proudly stand with our diverse communities throughout our state in strongly opposing this crony capitalist giveaway." https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Letter-to-the-Editor-Beverly-Hills-mayor-13754657.php?cmpid=gsa-sfgate-result


We might be seeing the beginnings of a city council election challenge as Mike Dunham has written a Guest Perspective piece for the Daily Journal titled "The jobs/housing imbalance in Burlingame". Dunham has taken out the first bit of paperwork to run in the November election and these Guest Perspectives are a typical way to start getting one's name out there. He starts:

As a Burlingame resident for the last four years, I have seen firsthand the deteriorating quality of life that follows when cities, including my own, continue creating far more jobs than they do homes: increased traffic, strained parking and rising rents that limit opportunity for young people and families and displace longtime residents. Our cities have to drastically improve how they manage the jobs/housing balance, or they only have themselves to blame for the state stepping in to manage it for them.


The piece is light on what to do about the imbalance aside from a more mixed use development, but at least he is highlighting the problem.

Just Visiting

Dollars to donuts his solution is to build a lot more high-density housing.

Jennifer Pfaff

Regarding Mike’s SMDJ Op Ed observations, just a note of caution:

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the General Plan made some assumptions using various “build”scenarios, as outlined by Council.

Based on the land-use scheme that had been adopted in 2016, and using a "moderate" growth scenario, 2,951 dwelling units and 1,547 jobs were projected. This outcome was discussed at a Council Study Session in December 2016.

After an explanation by the consultants (MIG) of how the environmental documents work to guide the planning process, the Council asked that the data be re-run assuming a more aggressive growth scenario (as in, fully built-out) so that, pending outcome, a more informed decision could be made about impacts the city could, or could not handle, without surpassing parameters already set forth when assuming the less aggressive growth projections.

And so, the consultants studied a much more aggressive model that would take the preferred zoning scheme, and “realize” the maximum built-out capacity for each area, to the year 2040.

From one year to the next, there was a big change on paper-- not so much in the dwelling units produced (which, in itself, is very interesting), as those increased only slightly from 2,951 to 3000 units—but in the jobs category:

Using maximum at capacity build-out, the production of jobs jumped (on paper) from 1,550 to 9,700 jobs. That’s about 8000 jobs. It seemed very peculiar to a number of us, but apparently, that is how these environmental projections work. The Draft EIR (August 2017) therefore contained the higher numbers for purposes of planning--however unrealistic they may be.

One last comment on the housing production end of it, I remember additional adjustments (upward) were made to the zoning on the Northend and Rollins, late last year. Council doubled the density of units per acre : from 70 units per acre to 140.

I, too, am very concerned about how increased growth and density will effect the quality of Burlingame life. That said, I sure do favor the current, locally administered system of government where we all have the ability (and opportunity) to give direct input that can help tailor decisions for our own city, rather than the heavy-handed overreach I'm seeing coming from California lawmakers and politicians. It is arrogant beyond belief.

Bruce Dickinson

If that's how environmental projections work, time to throw them in the garbage and hire a new consultant!!!

This is like mini-HSR type planning where nothing makes logical sense. And the City like most cities ends up paying these consultants millions of dollars to "help us" with our General Plan. Now that is a waste of money!

Shame on the City of Burlingame for not adequately questioning such ridiculous assumptions and outcomes.

Bruce Dickinson suggests that everyone needs to take a deep breath, relax and either get in the common sense business or go home!

Jennifer Pfaff

This one actually deserves a posting all of its own...

"As power of California Senate leader grows, so does her Spouse's Consulting Business"-

(Bravo to the LA Times for daylighting this issue--incl. Jennifer Lear and her work on CASA COMPACT)

Toni Atkins is one of California’s most powerful lawmakers, ascending to leadership roles in the Assembly and Senate the last five years.

As Atkins’ clout has soared, so too has the consulting businesses of her spouse, Jennifer Lear.

In 2018, the year that Atkins’ colleagues elevated her to Senate president pro tem, her spouse’s firms had contracts with 86 public agencies, developers, nonprofits and other clients, the forms indicate, which was more than in any previous year.

The year before, LeSar had received a lucrative contract from a Bay Area agency without going through a competitive bidding process — a rare step allowed in emergencies, when a company offers a unique service or when the agency can justify a compelling reason to do so...

In the last three years, LeSar’s firms have received $1.3 million from state agencies alone, including contracts to implement one of the state’s largest low-income housing programs, which Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, supports. Additionally, over the last 18 months, LeSar worked on a plan that calls for a package of state legislation that would rewrite major California housing policies. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a Bay Area public agency, is paying LeSar’s firm more than half a million dollars for the effort, through the no-bid contract...

LeSar’s firm researched prior studies on the region’s housing problems and planned and attended the group’s meetings...

The result of the effort was a proposal, known as the CASA Compact, which said the Bay Area could fix its housing problems only through a suite of state legislation...(read more...) https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-toni-atkins-spouse-housing-contracts-20190404-story.html?outputType=amp

Gary Wesley

The SF Chronicle is one of the chief advocates for SB 50 and the like. But so are other newspapers including the LA Times. Mayors of the largest cities were "sold" on state preemption before Senator Wiener introduced SB 50 on December 3. Most City Councils are deer in headlights. The corporations behind SB 50 appear to have enough state legislators lined up. If Governor Newsom signs SB 50 (or like bill), California voters will have only 90 days to collect on a referendum petition hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to suspend the law pending a vote. See, Article 2, section 9, California Constitution. Are there local politicians ready to carry that campaign? How about the Burlingame Councilmember already running for State Senate in 2020?


Just a reminder that there will be a very important city presentation this Saturday in the Lane Room of the Public Library, from 9-10 am as part of the annual joint meeting of the Council and Planning Commission--the only time these to bodies co-convene.

It will be to introduce SB 50 to the public. Many neighborhoods and Burlingame properties fall into what we are calling the “drop zone” (see above original post). In these zones, multi-unit dense housing will be permitted by right, between 45-55 ft. tall, in some cases up to 75 ft. tall. That means they can be built right next to single family homes that are located between 1/4 and 1/2 mile from some form of public transpiration, and/or a “jobs rich center’.

A Jobs Rich area could be any of our downtown areas, or even Facebook across the freeway. State law will supersede any local zoning for all California cities. It will be particularly grave for smaller cities that have transit routes historically running right through them. To add insult to injury, parking requirements will be either completely eliminated in these zones, or reduced substantially, as if we in Lyon & Hoag, and other neighborhoods close in, hadn’t suffered enough congestion.


Looking at the detailed text of SB50 (first link below)- is it clear that the ECR SamTrans bus route qualifies as a "high quality bus corrifor?" As the bill stands in its present form this requires average service intervals of 15 minutes or less during commute hours- the existing schedule is one bus every 20 minutes in each direction- would this be considered a service interval of 10 minutes or 20?

Similarly, the train/rail stop definition (second and third links) includes only stops with frequency of service 15 minutes or less during commute hours- Caltrain only has 2 trains per hour in each direction at Burlingame Station during peak commute- does this qualify?

My hunch is that if there is room to question developers will exploit it, but if these are clarified it may resolve some concerns.





Those are excellent observations, Valdivian, especially the last one! We'll keep an eye out for the interpretations.

Jennifer Pfaff

I think the definitions they will use are also the easiest to alter any time they please. What is to keep the definition of a "high-quality" transit stop to being just a few stops a day, with a one stroke of a pen? Nothing. They are defining all of this for us, and you can bet none of it is "fixed" for eternity. It is all just gobbly goop. Developers can always exploit a "loophole" but a legislature can far more easily manipulate verbiage with simple amendments.

Jennifer Pfaff

SB 50 language as of April 24, 2019:

Cathy Baylock

Some last minute lobbying produced some exemptions yesterday (Wiener knows how to count votes, if nothing else). Counties with fewer than 600,000 residents i.e. Marin and Sonoma counties will now be excused from the long arm reach of the law. There is also an exemption carved out for historic districts. El Camino Real is on the National Register of Historic places and our downtown and train station have historic inventories which include dozens of sites. Time to finally take advantage of our "history" and save our town by officially creating an historic district with the many benefits that entails...

Just Visiting

As Ms. Pfaff says above, the "projected growth" of 9700 jobs is not especially likely, but must be included in the Environmental Impact Report state law required for the approval of the general plan. What the high-density housing people don't want you to pay attention to is that (1) because of state law, that number is likely dramatically inflated (as Pfaff points out); (2) the changes to the zoning in the general plan REMOVED potential commercial growth in favor of additional high-density housing; and (3) the projected "job growth" comes from PRIVATELY OWNED and already commercially zoned property. When people talk about stopping job growth, the only way to achieve that is to effectively confiscate private property, which is generally not how zoning/planning laws work. In other words, it was a balanced effort to address a real issue--one that Sacramento is now trying to address with a hatchet rather than the local scalpel.

Jennifer Pfaff

Thank you JV. This methodology leads to exactly the same kind of manipulation that was used to justify (and fund) the auto infrastructure and improvements 60-80 years ago. The population growth was drastically exaggerated on paper in most studies to make the case for funding (and taxation).

Are we smarter, now? Apparently, not. How about this time around, we figure out how to fund our so-called Public Transit Systems, and their infrastructure, first? Then the growth will follow naturally where it belongs, and not in other places, where it doesn't.

The last line of the bill, tellingly, has remained the same - it shoves ALL of the responsibility (costs for staffing, legal, etc.) onto the cities while removing their local decision-making rights- and making them look like the bad guys (or gals):

"SEC. 3. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code."

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