Alexandria Presents Proposal for 3MM SQFT Tanforan Mall Redevelopment to San Bruno City Council

San Bruno, The Shops at Tanforan, San Bruno City Council, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Strada Investment Group, MidPen Housing, BART, Caltrain, Target

By Kate Snyder

Faced with a housing obligation from the state that needs to be fulfilled and a decline in retail tax revenue, the city of San Bruno is hoping to solve two problems at once with the proposed redevelopment of The Shops at Tanforan. The proposal includes turning the 45-acre retail site into nearly three million square feet of life science, office, residential and retail space.

The owner of the site, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, submitted an application for the proposed redevelopment to city officials in early October. Alexandria is partnering with Strada Investment Group and MidPen Housing on the project and presented an overview of their proposal during San Bruno City Council’s meeting on Tuesday. The plan calls for turning Tanforan into a modern mixed-use development that includes nearly two million square feet of life science and office space, approximately 1.1 million square feet of residential space that would support about 1,002 units and about 331,200 square feet of retail space.

Terezia Nemeth, executive vice president and regional market director in San Francisco for Alexandria, said the firm knew that the city wanted a mixed-use development for the site but noted that Alexandria doesn’t typically work on residential or large-scale retail projects, which is why they’ve partnered with Strada and MidPen. The site itself, she said, is also particularly well-located to support the kind of large mixed-use development that is being proposed.

“We looked at this site and realized that it is indeed a magnificent location to put a mixed-use community at,” she said. “It is at the crossroads of three major highways, it has BART, it has walkability to Caltrain and it is a very easy place to get into and out of without having to traverse the rest of your community. So it creates a real benefit to anyone who wants to locate there and to the surrounding community.”

Additionally, the proposal includes approximately 400,500 square feet of open spaces for the public in courtyards, plazas and more. The proposal shows a design where the life science and office space would lie on the southern portion of the site in one zone and the mixed-use residential and retail space would be set in a second zone on the northern portion. The plan for retail space also includes the already-existing Target and movie theater.

Public comments on the proposal were generally positive but many shared concerns about the planned housing. Specifically, commenters cited the ongoing drought and the belief that there should be more public parks if more housing is going to be established in the city. Also, several commenters asserted that part of the proposed residential space should include affordable housing and housing designed for people with special needs.

No action was taken on the proposal by council members during the meeting, but several officials shared their enthusiasm for getting the process started to get this project off the ground. Jovan Grogan, San Bruno city manager, highlighted the fact that every year city council adopts priority focus areas to set the tone and direction for what projects city staff works on, and the proposal for Tanforan hits on two of those focus areas in particular – to grow city revenue and assure ongoing fiscal stability and economic vitality and to continue proactive planning for the future of San Bruno.

“We are here to provide the city council and the community with an overview of the preliminary application,” Grogan said, “but also equally important, we’re here tonight before we begin the entitlement process to review the preliminary application, really to give the community an overview of this process that we’re about to embark and walk together on as we review that application and make sure that the future of Tanforan really benefits the entire San Bruno community.”

He also highlighted the city’s obligation under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which is a stipulation under California’s housing law that gives municipalities  a target amount of housing to establish by a certain deadline. Grogan said the Tanforan proposal would help the city meet its current housing obligation.

“As we all know, we are in a housing crisis, and it is important that we do our part to develop housing for the region and for our residents,” Grogan said. “In January of last year the city received our allocation. It is just over 3,600 units, in fact 3,640 units that we need to plan for by 2031…Tanforan is a big part of that vision.”

Councilman Tom Hamilton said since the preliminary plan was released, he has been talking to lots of residents and “there is a palpable excitement percolating through the community.” However, he encouraged both his fellow local officials to continue sharing details about the project as the process moves forward and the city’s residents to keep up to date on what’s going on and make their opinions heard.

“I really want to encourage the public and our residents here of San Bruno to participate in this process,” he said. “It’s going to be a long process, as we go through this and [you] really have an opportunity to have a voice in what’s going to happen here at Tanforan.”

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