Urban Land Institute Consults on San Mateo’s Downtown

San Mateo’s Downtown Engagement Process kicked off in March with the City’s first Future Forum, a talk and discussion series to assist in updating the city’s Downtown Area Plan — a comprehensive planning document addressing a variety of components such as zoning and land use policies.

As part of the process, the national think-tank the Urban Land Institute provided an intensive consultation for the downtown plan through its Technical Assistance Panel (TAP). The professional discussion centered around two former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) sites in Downtown San Mateo, adjacent to the downtown rail corridor.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.19.04 PM

The panel, consisting of architects, developers, planners, economists, and consultants, was assigned to brainstorm and provide input on what types of development would be most appropriate for the Study Area and how future use of the RDA sites would fit into its context. Discussions considered various scenarios, demographic and market trends, and existing zoning controls and land uses.

Zooming out of discussion on the specific sites, the panel was impressed by the area’s current key ingredients for a vibrant downtown:

  • Transit
  • Central Park
  • Restaurants and Movie Theater
  • Small, locally-owned businesses
  • Small, walkable blocks and paseos

Panelists also agreed that today, while Downtown San Mateo has numerous great dining spots, they are drive-to destinations. The Downtown’s future challenge will be to encourage pedestrians to linger beyond dinner and a movie. Panelists see the San Mateo Downtown of tomorrow could include:

  • A diversity of great restaurants, plus more local shops
  • Beautiful, vibrant streets with outdoor dining and ‘parklets’
  • A mix of active places and quiet places to sit and relax
  • A walking place where people park their cars and walk, or even arrive by bike or on foot!
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.15.24 PM

Great downtowns are a “Place for People.”

Another key piece of context that panelists discussed was the Millennial market:

  • Millennials account for more than 20% of the county’s population
  • Young singles prefer “walkable,” mixed-use neighborhoods and downtown areas
  • Millennials are much more likely to rent than own
  • Millennials are driving less than previous generations

In summary, the ULI TAP believed that City Staff and City Council are well suited to respond to and address a changing social/environmental landscape. They cautioned that the City should not let short-term market or property specific demands determine the path. Panelists noted that “nothing is stationary; all things change and evolve.”

Download a complete PDF of the ULI TAP’s presentation here >

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.13.01 PM

Walkscore.com rates Bay Meadows high on the list for walkable locations to live on the San Francisco Peninsula and for good reason! Bay Meadows has a high Walkscore because it is steps from shopping, groceries, parks, Caltrain, a farmer’s market and a few short miles from downtown San Mateo with its bourgeoning restaurant scene. Check out our Mosey suggestions for more places to explore on foot!