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The General Plan lays out a long-term strategy for Burlingame’s vision for the future. In California, every city is required to prepare a general plan to guide how it will adapt to change over time, including deciding what things will change and what will stay the same. 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 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 variety of neighborhoods, great parks, a thriving downtown, the quaint character of the Broadway commercial district, a well-functioning street network, and the assortment of job 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. 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.

The Mobility Element of the General Plan outlines goals and approaches for making it easier for everyone to get around Burlingame. This includes focusing on safe and convenient pedestrian facilities, and bicycle facilities, as well as access to transit. There is also emphasis on ensuring streets are designed to provide safe, efficient, and convenient mobility for all users and modes of transportation.

The Healthy People and Healthy Places Element includes policies and programs to provide a diversity of City-owned parks, recreation facilities, natural open spaces, and public gathering places citywide. These are further described and put into action through the Parks and Master Plan.

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.

The General Plan is a high-level policy document, serving as the “blueprint” for growth and development in Burlingame. The policies and implementation programs do not specifically state the rules and regulations for the use of particular (individual) parcels in Burlingame. For answers to those questions, consult the Burlingame Zoning Code, or contact the Burlingame Planning Division or Building Division.

The General Plan Guiding 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.

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, 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

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 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.

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 furtherincludes a policy for “Safe Routes to School,” a program that improves walking and bicycling safety for kids on their way to school.

Burlingame is located in an area that is susceptible to a variety of potential disasters, including earthquakes, landslides, coastal flooding, sea level rise, and wildland fires. The Community Safety Element provides goals and policies that address the risks and responses to all of the potential hazards in Burlingame and its surroundings. This includes policies regarding disaster preparedness and the response of emergency service personnel.

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 Burlingame School District (BSD) services elementary and intermediate students in Burlingame. The BSD comprises six elementary schools and one intermediate school.

Burlingame High School (BHS), located in Burlingame is one of seven high schools in the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD).

New homes in Burlingame would be occupied by a variety of households, including those with school-aged children. Both the BSD and SMUHSD monitor growth in Burlingame and update their facilities plans as needed to identify new needs, including locations, timing, and funding for expanded or new classrooms and related operations. Both school districts collect development impact fees from new housing as provided for in State law to fund expanded facilities. Moreover, all new non-residential development is also required to pay appropriate impact fees established by the BSD and SMUHSD Boards.

While the City of Burlingame and the respective school districts are separate government entities with different roles and responsibilities, the General Plan Engagement and Enrichment Element includes a number of policies that encourage working with the districts as appropriate to ensure program and facility needs are met, including assisting districts in identifying potential school locations to serve enrollment.

The health of Burlingame community members is affected by land use policy, project design, and equitable access to health resources. The Healthy People and Healthy Places Element outlines policies and programs that will ensure the continued health of the community, both in terms of preventative measures such as promoting active lifestyles and healthy foods, as well as access to parks and other areas for physical activity.