About the Plan
Long-range planning allows a community to envision and articulate how it will adapt to change over time. In California, every city is required to prepare a general plan to guide growth and change. The City of Burlingame last comprehensively updated its general plan in 1969, and while that plan has significantly influenced how the community looks and functions today, local and regional changes, as well as societal changes over the past several years have affected how people live, work, and traverse the community. In 2015 the City of Burlingame commenced a three-year endeavor that updates the community’s vision for the future and sets forth policies to implement this vision.The new general plan is the result of extensive community input, including the work of a Community Advisory Committee that met 18 (!) times. It is with great pleasure that the City announces that the draft Burlingame General Plan is now ready for public review and discussion.
The General Plan articulates the shared vision for maintaining community character, while providing for incremental change in our community. It will guide decision-making and establish the “ground rules” for the design and development of new projects, as well as decisions regarding resource conservation, economic development, mobility and infrastructure improvements, and provision of public services and community amenities. As the blueprint for our future, this General Plan directs how Burlingame will look—and how residents, business owners, and visitors will experience our City—today and into the future.
The new General Plan recognizes that our neighborhoods and business districts are well established, and that our key priority is to preserve those qualities that distinguish Burlingame: the diverse neighborhoods, great parks, a thriving downtown, the quaint character of the Broadway commercial district, a well-functioning street network, and diverse jobs centers along Rollins Road and in the Bayfront. Ideas for incremental change focus on creating opportunities for new housing at the north end of town (i.e. North El Camino Real and North Rollins Road), diversifying the business base, and providing a more robust multi-modal transportation network. Over time, land use policy will allow new homes to be built and new jobs created. Circulation policy will optimize traffic flow and produce a comprehensive biking system. The modest and “right-sized” growth planned will accommodate local and regional demand over the next 20 to 25 years, but only in a manner that retains and respects the character-defining elements that form the Burlingame of today.
State law allows a general plan to cover a variety of issues based on a community’s specific needs, but at a minimum the plan must address: 1) Land Use, 2) Circulation/Transportation, 3) Housing, 4) Conservation, 5) Open Space, 6) Noise, and 7) Safety. Burlingame’s new General Plan includes the following elements (i.e. chapters):
- Community Character: Neighborhoods, business districts, sustainability, the urban forest, and historic resources
- Economic Development: Business retention and attraction
- Mobility: Cars, bicycles, pedestrian, transit, and transportation of the future
- Infrastructure: Utility systems, solid waste and recycling, energy, and telecommunications
- Community Safety: Police services, fire prevention and protection, emergency preparedness, sea level rise, seismic and geologic hazards, and the airport
- Healthy People and Healthy Places: Public health, air quality, parks, natural open spaces, recreation, biological resources, water resources, and scenic views and corridors
- Engagement and Enrichment: Education and lifelong learning, arts and culture, and civic engagement
(In 2015, the City adopted an updated Housing Element of the General Plan in accordance with State law, which requires regular updates of the element. The Housing Element will be incorporated into this new plan without change.)
The new General Plan includes an extensive Implementation Program that identifies time frames for achieving the goals and implementing the policies set forth in each of the Plan’s elements. This program will be used by all City departments as part of their annual budgeting process to ensure progress is being made. And the public can use the Implementation Program to monitor City initiatives.
City staff invites you to read the draft General Plan and affirm that it reflects the community aspirations shared during the past two years of community outreach. Also, let us know if anything is missing. Thank you for interest in ensuring Burlingame’s vitality into the future!
If you own property, want to remodel a house, or wish to develop a project in Burlingame, you will want to know about the Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance is the primary regulatory document for the use of property; it defines specific standards and requirements.
The Zoning Ordinance is different from the General Plan. The General Plan establishes the policy framework that guides decisions, whereas the Zoning Ordinance identifies the regulations that implement those policies.
Burlingame is divided into mapped “zones” which define the specific use, form, design, and compatibility requirements for development within that zone. The Zoning Ordinance also establishes permitting requirements for development, often specifying when the public can weigh in on development proposals.
The current City of Burlingame Zoning Ordinance is included as Chapter 25 of the Municipal Code, and is available online.
Another way cities implement General Plan policy is by preparing specific plans. Specific plans provide detailed guidance for defined neighborhoods or districts. For example, as described below, Burlingame most recently adopted a specific plan for Downtown. This specific plan guided the streetscape improvements recently completed and set standards for new development that will occur. Other specific plans that currently exist (see below) will be updated in the future to be consistent with the adopted General Plan.
Burlingame Downtown Specific Plan
Adopted in 2010, the plan guides development of Burlingame’s downtown district centered on Burlingame and Howard Avenues. Plan goals include incentivizing additional business growth along Howard Avenue and the side streets, re-examining Downtown parking requirements, and protecting and preserving Downtown’s historic character.
Bayfront Specific Plan
Adopted in 2004 (with amendments in 2006 and 2012), this plan provides guidance for development of the Bayfront area to maximize its advantage of proximity to US 101 and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Primary land uses allowed include offices, hotels, restaurants and, in certain areas, commercial recreation and light industrial businesses. The plan encourages a retail node along the shoreline and other economic activity that bolsters revenues.
Burlingame/Rollins Road Specific Plan
Adopted in 2004 (with amendments in 2007), the plan provides land use changes and design improvements for the northwest area of Burlingame. A key issue addressed in the plan includes Burlingame’s proximity to SFO , which has greatly affected the use and character of industrial buildings and other Rollins Road properties. In addition, the plan includes the potential to add multifamily residential uses to parts of this area.
The existing specific plans are available online.