Burlingame and The Metamorphosis of Cities

Commercial Rents Too High and Parking Too Scarce

The San Mateo Daily Journal carried an article last Friday noting that many of the small specialty stores that give Burlingame its distinct character and make the city a shopping destination for Bay Area residents are closing or moving elsewhere.  And “…in the wake of businesses departing Burlingame Avenue due to frustrations over high rents and parking problems, a recent uptick in vacant storefronts is concerning local merchants and officials.”

Gymboree, along with J. Crew, Anthropologie, Kara's Cupcakes, Baby Couture, and Aida Opera Candies have left Burlingame.

Gymboree, along with J. Crew, Anthropologie, Kara's Cupcakes, Baby Couture, and Aida Opera Candies have left Burlingame.

Mayor Michael Brownrigg says he understands the affordability challenges.  He notes that Burlingame is also a destination for “corporations seeking to fill bigger storefronts, creating a disadvantage for smaller or independent companies.”  Presumably, Mayor Brownrigg is stating the obvious – larger corporations are able to pay the high rents along Burlingame Avenue and other main shopping corridors.  He suggests that smaller local merchants locate their stores on side streets, rather than vie with larger corporations for prime shopping spaces.

Mayor Brownrigg and other city officials also understand the parking problem.  He notes that councilmembers recently approved shorter time limits in downtown parking meters -- “The idea is to promote more frequent turnover of the spaces closer to most of the shops and restaurants, while encouraging merchants and employees to take the spaces further away.”  

It appears form this article that Burlingame is changing, and will continue to change if or when the planned construction of “Village at Burlingame” starts.  This planned development is a 5-story workforce (78 units) and senior (54 units) housing complex, and a parking garage, on what is now Parking Lots F and N downtown.  Mayor is Brownrigg says it is too early to decide what gets built first, housing or parking.

It remains to be seen whether Burlingame retains its present charm, as well as its high-end shoppers that look for unique items in the city’s locally-owned boutiques.  Or in the absence of their favorite shops along Burlingame Avenue, these shoppers will vote with their feet and shop elsewhere.  The latter seems the more likely scenario.  City officials hope that old-time shoppers will be replaced by foodies looking for yet another unique dining experience.

Additional View on the Subject:  The Burlingame Voice

The Burlingame Voice blog has some pretty good stuff.  A take on the merchant flight from Burlingame:
“I'll bet there are more than a few business owners who also think adding a big chunk of new housing will only exacerbate the business-available parking.  They may be feeling the political-correctness pressure to not say so, but I bet they are thinking it.”

We at the Nine-County Coalition suspect those business owners know high-end shoppers don’t take the bus.