San Mateo’s Central Park Plans Come to Light

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By Michele Chandler

San Mateo is looking to revamp its iconic, 16-acre Central Park, and recently opened a public comment period so residents can weigh in on its proposed future plans for the popular city landmark.

A public hearing before the Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in Conference Room C of San Mateo City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

The city will accept public input on its plan from Oct. 30 through Dec. 1. Information gathered through that review and comment process will help city officials tailor plans to upgrade the park to accommodate future uses as well as user growth. Residents can view the city’s Central Park Master Plan online.

An overhaul of the park is needed as San Mateo’s population continues to rise. In 2010, the community logged just over 97,000 residents. By 2015, the city was home to roughly 103,500 residents. That means the current Central Park plan, which was adopted in 1982, is no longer meeting the city’s needs, officials said.

“As our community grows, our plans need to be updated to service the community,” said Julia Klein, the city’s project planner, about Central Park, which is located at 50 East 5th Ave. and borders downtown.

For example, she said, the park’s recreation building is dated, as are restrooms and a parking garage. “We do have more people visiting the park and a garage that may be too small to accommodate the need. The way that the buildings were designed back then, it doesn’t quite meet the current needs today,” she said.

The city’s plan would demolish the garage and replace it with a central plaza along 5th Avenue. That decision came after a tally of residents found they supported removing “barriers” in order to better connect Central Park with the city’s downtown, making the park “more of a gathering place” and an area that can be used “more flexibly,” Klein said.

The city’s Preferred Plan says that it will “replace the existing number of parking stalls in a configuration that best fits with the overall Master Plan objectives.”

Other features to be added include a memorial to fallen heroes, a new community event building, new tennis courts with lighting and a new picnic pavilion. An existing playground, picnic areas and ball field will be expanded as part of the plan.

Under the city’s plan, several popular amenities—including the Japanese Tea Garden, the Great Lawn, the historic Kohl Pumphouse area and the Rose Garden—all will remain.

The City of San Mateo Parks and Recreation Department, which also owns the land, is the applicant for the project. Neither a developer nor an architect has been selected. The project site is zoned Open Space and has a Land Use designation of Parks/Open Space.

The project site is bounded by Laurel Avenue to the north, 9th Avenue to the east, South El Camino Real to the south and 5th Avenue and downtown to the west. Uses surrounding Central Park include residential single- and multi-family housing, as well as commercial and office locations.

The park now contains picnic areas, play spaces, a children’s train and a well-known Japanese Tea Garden that was designed by landscape architect, Nagao Sakurai of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo. Each summer, Central Park hosts a popular weekly music in the park series.

“Both the millennial and Baby Boomer generations are looking for places that they can gather and hang out” and are coming to Central Park, Klein said. The pubic park is particularly popular with residents of the various senior citizen high-rise buildings that are located downtown, she said.

And younger families are coming in as well. Those parents are “looking for places that they can bring their children and looking for activities with their kids,” Klein said.

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