San Mateo Residents Will Be Looking for Answers

Tonight's planning commission meeting could be way to ease concerns of San Mateo Heights Neighborhood Association.


Was there something sinister going on among Portfolio Development Partners, the city of San Mateo Planning Committee and San Mateo councilman Jack Matthews in the sudden appearance of a 7-11 at 501 N. San Mateo Drive?

"I don't want to assume anything until we can get some answers," San Mateo Heights Neighborhood Association spokesman Peter Breining said Monday while local residents picketed in front of the store to draw attention to their cause. "I'm more upset at what seems like a subversion of the way things went down."

Indeed, there are twists in the plot, missing information, misleading comments and obscured information relating to building permits and zoning laws.

The public hearing planned for Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the city council chambers of San Mateo City Hall could involve lawyers,subpoenaed witnesses, supporting documents and, perhaps, cross examination as though it were a court case.

It could very well become a court case depending on the planning commission's recommendation to city council.

At stake may be the sanity of the neighborhood, which has banded together over the issue of
a threat of increased criminal activity in the area. A police report on the subject noted just such a possibility.

Portfolio Development Partners, which hired Matthews as an architect for the project, said it and 7-Eleven could lose as much as a combined $8 million.

The building at 501 N. San Mateo Drive has been vacant for two years, although owners Isaac Choy and Susan Lin made plans to convert the building into medical use. Under conditions of the city zoning laws, after six months the property was to revert back to its original use.

The property has in use as a small market since at least 1922, when Henry Asher opened Asher's Market.

Neighbors said they would have had no objection to a 7-11 had it occupied a building in a strip mall on the property.

Carpeting, installed in January, 2011, replaced the linoleum floor for 18 months as the pair began the process of a change in the zoning ordinance. It was ripped out during the summer of 2012.

Choy and Lin sold the property to Portfolio late last year, when it was listed commercially for medical use.

Matthews, apparently, abandoned the project after being told by San Mateo senior city planner Stephen Scott that there seemed to be no legal way to stop the property from reverting to its original designation as residential.

Matthews has stated he had nothing to do with any decision regarding the property or the project.

Breining indicated that records revealed a barrage of phone calls between Scott and Matthews during a critical time in February where the decision to allow the non-conforming use of the property to continue.

Neither the San Mateo planning commission nor the San Mateo city council has ever taken any action on the project. Continued opposition from the neighborhood forced the city to take another look.

"It seemed to us that the decision was made quickly, based on an e-mail from (assistant city attorney) Cecilia Quick," Breining said. "Apparently Lisa Ring was assigned to the project just two days before. The process seemed to be subverted. We're just asking the city to follow the law."

Breining, whose family has lived in the same San Mateo house since 1907, said the Neighborhood Association wants to hear from Matthews, Quick, real estate agent Stanley Lo, who listed the property, and Ring.

Interested parties can watch the proceedings on the following San Mateo cable stations:

    Channel 26 (Astound)

    Channel 27 (Comcast)

    Channel 99 (ATT U-Verse)

or online at the city of San Mateo website.

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CP December 18, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Thank you Rick for your article, this is of high interest to many of us in San Mateo and surrounding neighborhoods of Hillsborough and Burlingame. Note to all: PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING RE: THIS 7 ELEVEN SITE TONIGHT TUESDAY DECEMBER 18 AT 7:30PM, CITY HALL ON 20TH AVENUE, OPEN TO PUBLIC, PLEASE CONSIDER ATTENDING.


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