How can I look up the zoning designation for a property in Burlingame?
To look up zoning and general plan designations for a property in Burlingame, please use our Land Use Look-Up Application or go to www.burlingame.org/zoningmap.  Should you have any additional questions, please contact the Planning Division at planningdept@burlingame.org for further assistance.
Why does the city allow so many "chain" stores and other "inappropriate" businesses within the downtown area?
State law in California, and judicial findings in response to court challenges, allow cities to only adopt zoning standards that provide guidance for the establishment and operation of specific uses within established zoning districts. These regulations may only be implemented irrespective of the ownership of the property or entity proposing to use the property.

The City cannot legally prohibit specific chain-type businesses (i.e., corporate entities that have a larger presence within the region, state or nation) from locating within downtown Burlingame as long as the particular business “type” (e.g., retail, service, or other type of commercial use) complies with the applicable zoning standards for the downtown district. The City is required to uniformly apply the zoning standards for the area to all uses irrespective of the ownership of the business entity.

Within downtown Burlingame, it has been observed that as the rental rate for commercial tenant spaces has increased, the presence of chain stores has increased as well. This is likely attributable to the deeper pockets of corporate entities that are better funded and can afford the higher rental rates within downtown Burlingame since that cost can be subsumed within the overall corporate operating costs, as opposed to small, independent business operators who cannot do the same. Unfortunately, these transactions are beyond the control of city government. The City of Burlingame cannot legally regulate the rental charges asked by property owners within its commercial districts. Therefore, as the area has become more expensive from a rental standpoint, corporate presence has increased.
Why is the city proposing a new Downtown Business District?
The creation of a business improvement district is a choice made by the local business community to self-fund activities and/or improvements that will directly benefit that business district.  The city does not set the assessment for member businesses, nor does it direct the use of funds collected by district members; these decisions are made by the member businesses.  The City's involvement in the Downtown Burlingame BID has been only to offer technical support to facilitate discussions.  Though assessment payments will be directed to the City, funds collected will be disbursed directly back to the BID for it's usage as it sees fit.
Why wasn't the Walgreen's store on Burlingame Avenue and El Camino required to provide free parking?
The developer of the Walgreen’s project chose not to provide on-site parking given the relatively small site area and the presence of a number of public parking lots within close proximity to the new store.
Additionally, re-development of the former “Chevron” site with the new store resulted in the creation of three new metered public parking spaces on the Burlingame Avenue frontage of the site, due to the elimination of driveways associated with the former service station.
As background, the City of Burlingame’s Zoning Regulations do not require on-site parking for ground floor retail uses on Burlingame Avenue; hence, no parking was required for the ground level of the new Walgreen’s store. However, construction of the mezzanine level of the store (used for administrative offices and storage) would normally require additional parking. It was the conscious decision of the developer of the project to seek approval of a variance from the requirement to provide parking for the mezzanine area given its limited usage.
Additionally, the developer paid in excess of $200,000 into the City’s parking fund to mitigate the lack of parking on the site. The City’s parking fund is a source of funding for parking improvements within the Downtown district, including the provision of additional parking facilities when enough funds are aggregated.
What are the allowed construction hours?

No person shall erect (including excavation and grading), demolish, alter or repair any building or structure other than between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, and 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays, except in the case of urgent necessity in the interest of public health and safety, and then only with written approval from the building official, which approval shall be granted for a period not to exceed three (3) days for projects including structures with a gross floor area of less than 40,000 square feet; and when reasonable to accomplish the erection, demolition, alteration or repair, not to exceed twenty (20) days for projects including structures with a gross floor area of 40,000 square feet or greater. No person shall erect (including excavation and grading), demolish, alter or repair any building or structure on Sundays or on holidays. For the purpose of this section, holidays are the days set forth in Section 13.04.100 of the Burlingame Municipal Code and are defined as:

  • January 1
  • The third Monday in January
  • The third Monday in February
  • The last Monday in May
  • July 4
  • The first Monday in September
  • The second Monday in October
  • November 11
  • The fourth Thursday in November
  • December 25

The restrictions stated in this section shall not apply to work that does not require a permit under any applicable law or regulation.

Sandblasting or similar external building cleaning shall be limited to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and prohibited on holidays on such days.

How do I locate my property lines?
The Planning Division can provide you with the dimensions of your lot.  The Public Works Department, Engineering Division, can provide you with the approximate location of your front property line in relation to the front of the curb.  Please be aware that the back of the sidewalk (edge closest to house or building) is not necessarily an indication of where your front property line is located.
The Planning Division cannot provide you with the locations of your property lines, nor can we settle property line disputes between neighbors. Property line disputes are considered a private matter and must be settled by the property owners through a private surveyor or in a court of law.
How high can I build a fence?
Please refer to Code Section 25.31.070 of the Burlingame Municipal Code for all fence regulations and more detailed information.

In residential districts, the maximum fence height allowed is 7'-0" tall on the sides and rear of your lot (6'-0" solid material + 1'-0" of open material such as lattice).  Within the front yard, that maximum allowed fence height is 3'-0" if it is of a solid design, or 4'-0" if it is of an open design freely allowing light and air to pass through (e.g., picket fence or wrought iron railing).

For corner lots, a clear sight triangle must be maintained to allow visibility around the corner.  Within this area, a fence may only be 3'-0" tall for 15'-0" in either direction of the external corner of the lot (the corner where the two streets intersect).
How much can I add on to my house?
The Planning Division uses two calculations to determine the amount of square footage (SF) allowed for a single-unit dwelling. 

The first measurement is Lot Coverage.  The maximum allowed lot coverage is 40% of the lot.  Lot coverage is the footprint of your house and any accessory structures. 

The second measurement is Floor Area Ratio (FAR). This calculation takes into account the total living area.  This measurement is taken from outside wall to outside wall and includes garages. The maximum allowed floor area is determined by one of the following formulas:

  • Interior lot with attached garage:  0.32 x lot area + 1,100 SF
  • Interior lot with detached garage:  0.32 x lot area + 1,100 SF plus up to an additional 400 SF for detached garage and other accessory structures
  • Corner lot with attached garage:  0.32 x lot area + 900 SF
  • Corner lot with detached garage:  0.32 x lot area plus up to an additional 350 SF for detached garage and other accessory structures
How many apartments/condominiums can be built on a lot?
Please refer to the Development Standards Table in each Zoning District for maximum allowed densities.
When are the requirements of CEQA applied to a property?
An evaluation of impacts pursuant to CEQA is required for any project requiring “discretionary” action by the permitting authority, in this instance the City of Burlingame. Generally speaking, a discretionary action is one requiring Planning Commission consideration as part of a formal public hearing process. Projects that fail to qualify as “discretionary” are considered to be “ministerial”; and differ in that actions to approve the project simply require verification of compliance with applicable code requirements. As an example, the issuance of building permits for construction of projects is considered to be “ministerial” and not subject to CEQA.
The City undertook a historical inventory of the 500 properties in the downtown district why hasn't an inventory been prepared for the rest of the City?
As a result of the historic inventory of the downtown properties, 23 properties were determined to be possibly eligible for historic designation. Any proposed demolition or significant reconstruction of those structures would require a full historic assessment, however for the rest of the 477 properties, unless new information is presented, an historic assessment will not be required to complete CEQA evaluation for any discretionary projects on those sites. The key public policy issue is this: should the City undertake the inventory to provide clarity for property owners, or should the City continue to deal with it on an ad hoc basis? This policy decision is one that must be made by the City Council.
As a realtor am I required to disclose the possibility that homes over 50 years of age may be deemed historical?
You should consult your own legal expert in connection with this question. It may well be beneficial for realtors to disclose this information, particularly in the context of other disclosures contained in the typical home sale disclosure packets.
Can the City Council do anything to exempt property owners from CEQA requirements relative to historic properties?
No, under State law cities are not allowed to waive the requirements of CEQA.
If I want to sell my home that is more than 50 years old do I need to disclose the fact that it could be determined eligible for designation as an historic resource?
Property owners should consult their own real estate and legal experts in connection with this question. That said it is conceivable that new property owners who bought a home with the intention of pursuing demolition or major reconstruction, and who later learn that the home is deemed eligible for designation as an historical property may feel compelled to pursue action against the previous owner for failure to disclose this information.
When is a property considered to be potentially historic?
Generally speaking, the State of California and Federal government consider “potentially” historic properties to be those that have reached a minimum age threshold of 50-years or greater. However, age alone is not the sole qualifier for determining historic significance. The historic significance of a property may relate to its architectural style, the individual that designed the home, its past ownership, its relationship to the historic development of the neighborhood and/or community, or any number of various factors.