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10-Acre Mixed Use Plan Near Millbrae BART Inches Toward End of Line

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It's time for areas other than SF to get their game on

If you think development in San Francisco takes its time, down in Millbrae they passed a plan to redevelop the area around the BART station in 1998 and were still discussing the particulars of it at yesterday's BART Board of Directors meeting.

"This project has a longer tenure than many members of this board, including me," one director quipped.

The 10-acre Gateway at Millbrae project is actually just a small part of the much larger 1998 area plan (updated this year. Note that the plan predates the station itself by five years), but has long been mired in its own right. BART owns the properties to the east and west of the station, where two new, large-scale, mixed-use developments are supposed to revitalize the city

Though not the busiest BART station, averaging only about 7,000 entries per day last year (Montgomery Station in San Francisco averaged nearly 43,000 in the same period), Millbrae is the system’s hookup to Caltrain, SamTrans, and several private shuttles that serves as ferries to Silicon Valley, making it something of a lynch pin for peninsula commuters.

(It’s also under obligation to be a high-speed rail stop, whenever such dreams become reality.)

But all of this commuting is a bit wasted on the area, which is surrounded by not much at all in terms of retail, services, or anything that would make the commuting public want to do anything in Millbrae except change trains.

San Jose developer Republic Urban, who came onto the project in 2013, updated the board on their latest plans this week: hundreds of units of new housing, hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and retail space, and now a 126-room Marriott hotel (seemingly a no-brainer for an area a stone’s throw from the airport).

RU reps were particularly keen to promote the 55 units of affordable housing for veterans included in their plan, aimed at the "low income" and "very-low income" strata of local vets, a detail which brought several community service members (some in uniform) in to throw their support behind the plan.

Twenty percent of all housing in the present design is below market rate, up quite a bit from the zero percent originally proposed.

Outspoken San Francisco judge and former supervisor Quentin Kopp also came to lend his distinctive, bass-heavy voice to the chorus of those in favor. "I plead guilty to grandiosity: In 43 years dealing with projects like this, Republic Urban [is] the most gracious project developer I have ever seen in the Bay Area," Kopp said.

But Millbrae City Council member Gina Papan (speaking on behalf of herself rather than the council) argued that the transit development plan was great for development but potentially terrible for transit, with all of this adjacent building potentially stymieing traffic and leaving no room for incoming high speed rail. Papan previously dissented from the renewal of the larger area plan on a 3-2 vote.

Is there light at the end of this tunnel? Or is that your Caltrain connection? We’ll see.