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More input for Millbrae station plan
Residents, advocacy groups envision upgrades for gateway development

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Suggestions to improve a massive mixed-use development proposed near the Millbrae train station is slated to be bandied by residents, bicyclists, health officials, environmental advocates and others.

Concerned parties will host a discussion Tuesday, July 21, regarding the project which targets building a combined nearly 400,000 square feet of office space, about 80,000 square feet of retail and more than 800 residential units, as well as a hotel, near the intersection of El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue.

The event, hosted at the Millbrae Recreation Center, 477 Lincoln Circle, begins at 6:30 p.m., will offer another opportunity for those affected by developments to voice their concerns and make suggestions for the way the projects may take shape.

“There are concerns that the plans aren’t as good as they could be,” said Ann Schneider, a Millbrae resident who has declared her interest in running for City Council. Schneider is also helping to organize the meeting.

The members of the groups expected to turn out to the meeting are generally in favor of the proposal to develop the 116-acre site near the city’s Bay Area Rapid Transit and Caltrain station, but would like to ensure the projects are managed in a responsible and holistic fashion, she said.

“Instead of it being a bad thing, let’s try to find all the good things that can come out of it,” she said.

Concepts such as how the projects will impact bike routes, safety for pedestrians along El Camino Real, traffic on Millbrae Avenue, affordable housing, senior living opportunities and other issues will be addressed by various agencies during the meeting, said Schneider.

Residents and members of various advocacy groups spoke to developers who have submitted project proposals regarding similar concerns during a community meeting Thursday, July 16.

The meeting, hosted by Millbrae officials, provided the public a chance to offer input on the draft environmental report for two developments on, and near, train station property.

BART has hired Republic Urban Properties to develop a project offering 164,000 square feet of office space, nearly 47,000 square feet for shops, more than 300 residential units as well as a hotel, on property owned by the transit agency which is currently a parking lot.

And Vincent Muzzi, owner of Serra Convalescent Hospital, has proposed to build a project that would contain 267,000 square feet of office space, 32,000 feet of retail space, and 500 high- to medium-density residential units.

Sal Ariganello, owner of CCM West building company who represented Muzzi at the meeting, touted the virtue of his client’s development.

“We are very excited about this project,” he said.

But some members of the public were unsettled by potential impacts of the projects, such as the lack of a cohesive vision connecting the developments to the rest of Millbrae.

“I really hope this plan would find a balance that would really improve the quality of life for people who already live and work here,” said Tracy Choi, of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.

Jasneet Sharma, a community health planner with the San Mateo County Health System, encouraged the developers to make the projects more pedestrian-oriented and easily accessible for Millbrae residents.

She also noted the need for more reasonably priced homes to be built locally.

“There are serious affordability issues going on in this county right now,” she said.

Under a specific plan for the region that would need to be approved by city officials to pave the way for building the projects, 15 percent of all residential units built in the area would need to be set aside for those who earn very low to moderate amounts of the average regional income, according to a city report.

Gina Papan, a resident who is also running for City Council, said she believed the project should be built in a similar vision of Grand Central Station in New York.

“We need to think bigger,” she said. “We need to expand our vision.”

Schneider said Millbrae residents should look to embrace the proposed projects, in an attempt to shape a healthier future for Millbrae.

“There are good things that could happen,” he said. “ But it’s going to be a change, and change is hard.”

The meeting, hosted by the Friends of Future Millbrae, will begin 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 21, at the Millbrae Recreation Center, 477 Lincoln Circle. The meeting has not been sanctioned by the city of Millbrae.

austin@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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