By Jacob Bourne
Following a Request for Proposals period that ended last July, the San Mateo City Council awarded a contract to Perkins & Will in late November to fill the role of primary consultant for the Downtown Specific Plan update planning process. The Plan, originally adopted in 2009 to guide development for San Mateo’s main neighborhood, is due for a major refresh for today’s bustling Peninsula economy. The overarching goal of the update is to create a vision for Downtown that will carry the community 30 years into the future while incorporating flexibility to accommodate social and economic change.[contextly_sidebar id=”YHvJHSn7vroiQDDWgFX7vsIXVLUlPyw3″]“One hundred years ago we were just a stop on the railroad and today we have a great Downtown that’s also our main business district, and the train is still a vitally important mode of transportation,” said Joe Goethals, San Mateo Councilman and former Mayor. “We want a Downtown that’s for people, not for cars — that’s one of the core visions of the Plan. We’ve seen communities up and down the Peninsula make their downtowns places where people can enjoy beautiful scenery, food and shopping. That’s what our Downtown is about and we want to make it even better.”
The official start date for the planning process was January 23 when a kick-off event was held at the San Mateo Library to show findings from the two-year outreach and engagement effort conducted with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and to launch the project’s website, engagedowntownsanmateo.org. The next community meeting is a Taste & Talk forum on February 8 to discuss what characteristics define a vibrant Downtown that contributes to a high quality of life, as well as explore planning specifics like housing density, mix of uses and mobility. Egon Terplan, regional planning director at SPUR; Kelly Kline, City of Fremont’s economic development director; and Karen Alschuler, principal at Perkins & Will are scheduled to make presentations at the forum.
According to Julia Klein, principal planner, the entire project is completely funded by the City of San Mateo with a total of $925,000 allotted for consulting and sub-consulting services, technical studies, and other associated expenditures. The extensive outreach effort conducted from 2014 to 2016 including several community pop-up meetings was funded through a grant from MTC.
A slew of planning activity for the Downtown update is scheduled for 2017 such as neighborhood meetings, workshop forums and a possible City Council study session in July. A draft of the Plan is anticipated to be released in October. One of the goals of the process is to weave elements from other City projects that are happening concurrently in the Downtown area, including the Central Park Master Plan, Downtown Parking Management Plan and explorations regarding the reuse of City-owned RDA sites at Fourth and Fifth Avenues. An RFQ has been released to determine a preferred developer for the two RDA properties that are currently being used as parking lots. The City has envisioned housing and some additional parking as future uses for the lots as they are in close proximity to transit and businesses.
“Downtown San Mateo has to work for everybody,” added Goethals. “We’re not building a Downtown just for Millennials or just for seniors — it has to work for families with small children and businesses as well. It needs to support people who walk, take SamTrans, Caltrain, bike and drive — residents, workers and shoppers alike. We’re still seeking input from the community. Now is the time for people who want to influence the look and feel of Downtown for the next few generations to speak up and voice opinions about what the area needs.”