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Developers and real estate brokers working in Burlingame and property owners looking to invest in or sell property should use the General Plan to gain an understanding of the various opportunities and limitations related to land use and economic development in the city. This includes guidance on land uses, investment in public facilities and services, and responses to climate change and safety concerns. Ultimately, the City's other regulatory documents and processes, such as the Zoning Ordinance, Specific Plans, Area Plans, and Permits are required by State law to be consistent with the General Plan. City staff will also use the General Plan to make findings of consistency for new development projects, whether they are private (buildings, homes) or public (roads, parks, schools).

The General Plan includes a new land use plan that corresponds to what the community identified as areas of change and areas of stability. The land use plan focuses growth in the areas of change and preserves the existing fabric in areas of stability.

For many neighborhoods in Burlingame, particularly single family residential neighborhoods, the land use designation did not change. However in areas where the property’s land use designation did change, such as the northern portions of El Camino Real and Rollins Road, the underlying zoning district may also change to maintain consistency with the General Plan.

The General Plan also includes an implementation program that says the City will prepare a comprehensive update to the Burlingame Zoning Ordinance to be consistent with the goals, policies, and programs of the new General Plan. Changes to the Zoning Ordinance may change what an individual can do to their property.

The General Plan, other City plans, and the Zoning Ordinance all differ in the level of detail they include. The General Plan has a long-term outlook. It identifies the types of development that will be allowed, the spatial relationships among land uses, and the general pattern of future development. Other City plans and the City’s Zoning Ordinance implement General Plan policies through more detailed development regulations, such as specific use types and building standards or infrastructure improvements and financing. State law requires that all City plans and zoning be consistent with diagrams and policies in the General Plan. Development must not only meet the specific requirements of adopted City plans and the Zoning Ordinance, but also be found to be consistent with the broader policies set forth in the General Plan.

The Housing Element includes maps indicating vacant and underutilized parcels in Burlingame. The General Plan has been updated more recently than the Housing Element, so additional housing opportunities presented by the General Plan have not been fully reflected in the Housing Element. Housing Elements are updated on 8-year cycles determined by the State; municipalities in the Bay Area including Burlingame are required to adopt updated Housing Elements by the end of 2023.

The Housing Element contains policies and implementation programs that describe the incentives the City provides for building lower-income housing. The City’s Density Bonus Ordinance allows developers to build at higher densities if the project includes a certain amount of affordable housing. In the North Rollins Road and North Burlingame Mixed Use areas the City also encourages affordable housing by allowing greater residential densities and building heights in conjunction with community benefits such as open space.

Most of the residential neighborhoods in Burlingame will not see significant new growth; those neighborhoods will be preserved and enhanced. New growth will be directed to areas that will decrease dependency on the automobile and allow more people to walk, bike, or take transit. Most of the new growth in Burlingame will take place in the following areas:

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

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 long‐term 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.

Over the course of urbanization in the Bay Area, the region has experienced periods of both abundant rainfall and severe drought. Residential water consumption rises and falls depending on current water availability, but with the region’s population continuing to grow and water resources being somewhat finite, consistent water conservation practices in Burlingame will moderate impacts when the next drought occurs. Goal HP-6 includes a number of policies to protect local and regional water resources through conservation, preservation, and sustainable management practices. These include promoting best practices for water conservation throughout the city, supporting water recycling, and requiring water conservation in new development projects.

Historic preservation ensures a community’s built heritage is passed on from one generation to the next. Historic preservation efforts can also produce local jobs, promote heritage tourism, and increase local property values. Furthermore, restoration of an existing building can have less impact on the environment than demolishing the building and replacing with new construction. The Community Character Element Goal CC-3 outlines a range of policies intended to protect the character and quality of Burlingame’s historical buildings, tree groves, open spaces, neighborhoods, and districts.

Burlingame first addressed greenhouse gas emission in its 2009 Climate Action Plan (CAP), and an updated Climate Action Plan was adopted in conjunction with the General Plan Update. The CAP sets a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the City has made considerable progress over the years in climate actions and sustainability. The General Plan is built upon a strong sustainable development foundation that will move Burlingame forward in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meet updated reduction targets. The CAP compiles all the climate action related goals and policies found throughout these chapters into a one-stop climate action plan.

The overall objectives of these policies and implementation programs are to reduce Burlingame’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 80% by 2050.