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The General Plan is important to all City functions and provides policy and regulatory guidance that determines a range of Council, Board, and Commission decisions. This includes policy on allowed land uses, development intensities, public services and facilities, and many other City operations. Each Councilmember, Board Member, and Commissioner should become familiar with the General Plan's guiding principles, policies, and standards. While City decisions are required by State law to be consistent with the General Plan, the City Council has the authority to periodically amend the General Plan over time if so warranted (which requires a public hearing and often CEQA analysis). This is because the General Plan is envisioned to be a "living document" that adjusts to meet the changing needs of the City and community. 

The effort to update the General Plan was named “Envision Burlingame” because it represented the community’s opportunity to describe a vision for the future. When the City initiated the Envision Burlingame process in 2015, it had not comprehensively updated the General Plan in over 30 years. Envision Burlingame presented the unique opportunity to engage the entire Burlingame community and ask: “How do we want Burlingame to look, function, and feel 25 years from now?” The process had three broad objectives:

  1. Develop a vision for Burlingame in the context of an evolving and increasingly dense San Mateo County and Bay Area, with particular attention paid to opportunities for focused change that responds to local and regional needs.
  2. Update policies and regulations to ensure they address all applicable regional, state, and federal requirements.
  3. Create an updated and digital General Plan that is easily accessed, understood, and applied by residents, property and business owners, and decision makers.

Most neighborhoods in Burlingame will not see significant changes between now and 2040. The General Plan will maintain and enhance the qualities of Burlingame’s neighborhoods. Most of the new growth in Burlingame will take place in the following areas:

  • Downtown
  • The northern portion of El Camino Real, in the vicinity of the Peninsula Medical Center and Burlingame Plaza
  • The northern portion of Rollins Road, within proximity to the Millbrae BART/Caltrain station
  • The Bayfront area along Old Bayshore Highway and Airport Boulevard

Each of these areas has polices that describes the type and location of development allowed. For more information on these areas of the city and how they will develop and change in the future, see the Community Character Element.

The General Plan Principles establish the foundation for the entire plan. They address a multitude of issues and describe the future envisioned by the community. They are:

Principle 1: Balanced and Smart Growth – Recognizing the need to grow in a manner that supports inclusivity and access while protecting established neighborhoods and community assets.

Principle 2: Community Character/Urban Forest – Ensuring that Burlingame’s cherished tree groves and urban forest, distinct neighborhoods, business districts, and historic structures and resources are respected and enhanced.

Principle 3: Connectivity – Providing a well-defined multimodal transportation network that accommodates a range of travel choices, allowing residents and visitors to access the full range of services and amenities the City offers.

Principle 4: Economic Diversity and Vitality – Recognizing the importance of a diverse economic base to provide sustainable, reliable revenue to the City and access to economic opportunity for residents.

Principle 5: Healthy People, Healthy Places – Planning for community resilience, and the physical and social health of the community.

Principle 6: Great Schools and Life-long Learning – Fostering educational opportunity for all residents.

Principle 7: Civic Engagement – A commitment to healthy civic dialogue for all issues of public interest.

The City does not have direct control over school administration or curriculum, but by developing strategic partnerships it has the potential to support schools and educational opportunities for all residents. The Education and Enrichment Element establishes goals and policies aimed at solidifying and enhancing local educational, arts, and public engagement offerings focused on education and lifelong learning.

Ensuring the economic health of Burlingame is essential for maintaining and improving the quality of life of its residents. The Burlingame General Plan includes an Economic Development Element that includes policies and implementation programs to support maintaining a diversified economic base that provides a wide range of business and employment opportunities to ensure a healthy and prosperous economy.

Traffic is both a local and regional issue, and the General Plan contains policies and implementation programs to address traffic at both scales. At the local scale the General Plan introduces the concept of “Complete Streets,” which are streets designed and constructed to serve users of all modes, ages, and abilities. Complete streets policies can make it safer and easier for Burlingame residents to walk, bike, and take transit in addition to driving in order to reduce traffic congestion. See the policies and implementation programs of Goal M-1 for the range of policies set forth to achieve and maintain a citywide circulation network that provides safe, efficient, and convenient mobility for all users and modes of transportation.

Communities across the Bay Area contribute to traffic on state and federal highways, such as Highway 101 and Interstate 280. The General Plan contains several policies and implementation programs to reduce Burlingame’s contribution to regional traffic problems. Goal M-5 calls for the City to adopt strategies for reducing rush hour traffic by providing more options for both commutes and local trips. Policies M-5.1 and M-5.2 focus on creating different strategies in different parts of the community.

The Burlingame General Plan includes policies and implementation programs that specifically address the unique needs of residents of all stages of life. For example, the Engagement and Enrichment Element includes goals for early childhood development as well as goals for lifelong learning. The Healthy People and Healthy Places Element includes the policy of “Aging in Place” to support opportunities for Burlingame residents to remain in their community as they age, and further includes a policy for “Safe Routes to School,” a program that improves walking and bicycling safety for kids on their way to school.

Rising housing prices and the general lack of affordable housing is an issue in most Bay Area communities. To comply with California state law, Burlingame must identify enough available land within its boundaries to meet the housing needs of all income groups. The amount of affordable housing Burlingame is required to accommodate is assigned by the State and regional agencies every eight years. Currently, for the period from 2013 through 2022, Burlingame must accommodate 863 units across a range of income groups. Burlingame’s plan for accommodating more affordable housing is in the Burlingame General Plan’s Housing Element. The City of Burlingame does not ordinarily build housing, but the Plan helps encourage the construction and preservation of affordable housing by identifying appropriate sites, providing incentives to developers, and reducing regulatory barriers to housing development.

The City of Burlingame is required by State law to prepare an Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) every five years. The City Council adopted the most recent UWMP in 2016. The primary purpose of the UWMP is to support longterm water resource planning and determine the availability of water supplies to meet current and future demand. The City operates an extensive water distribution system using water largely supplied by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) via the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. According to the most recent UWMP, the SFPUC has enough water to supply its wholesale customers in typical years, but may need to rely on rationing or finding supplemental supply in dry years.