Blog San Bruno rejects El Camino condos – what next?

July 21, 2019

We were disappointed that the San Bruno Mills Park project failed to pass due to a single “no” vote at City Council last week, and now may not be built.

The development, as we covered last week, was under thoughtful review for three years and was slated to provide:

  • 425 condos
    • Including 64 deeply affordable units for households well under the Area Median Income
  • A new grocery store for the neighborhood

All right within close proximity to SamTrans, Caltrain, and BART, enabling residents to enjoy a true transit-first lifestyle and reducing traffic and emissions on area roads.  

Mills Park’s plans complied with local code and regulations, delivering what 68% of voters had asked for by approving 2014’s Measure N, the “Downtown and Transit Corridors Economic Enhancement Initiative”.  This initiative allows for moderately taller buildings in the downtown area — enabling more people to have homes near transit, stores, and jobs. The Mills Park site is also part of the Transit Corridors Specific Plan area, approved by San Bruno City Council in 2013.

Architect’s rendering of the Mills Park development

San Bruno’s planning commission had unanimously approved the plans.  However, a few residents of nearby areas opposed the new homes and spoke at this Council meeting.  The City Council held a smaller than usual vote on the project, with only 3 council members able to participate (as 2 others owned property near the site).  This meant the project required unanimous consent from the remaining council members to pass, and ultimately failed due to just one of the three council members, Marty Medina, voting against the project.

The failure of Mills Park is only the latest example of why local government leaders who emphasize local control over housing decisions have ultimately failed to act in the best interests of local residents, workers, and the Peninsula region.  San Bruno City Council recently sent a letter in opposition of SB-50 (the MoreHOMES Act) to the bill’s author, State Sen. Scott Wiener.  But the city stated that it is already working to increase housing supply via its existing procedures and does not need state intervention:

“SB 50 disrespects local values and penalizes communities that have adopted thoughtful approaches to increasing housing supply”
– San Bruno City Council, April 24, 2019

However, the failure of projects like Mills Park is not uncommon in our region these days.  Projects that confirm to city code and voters’ wishes should not be able to fail at a late stage due to a small group persuading a single councilmember to vote against the much-needed homes.  

The city may not be legally allowed to turn this development down under state law – the Housing Accountability Act prohibits cities from denying housing that fits local rules unless there is a major risk to health and safety.  Cities’ lack of self-regulation reinforces the needs for state standards to solve our region’s housing crisis.  

What can you do to help?

  • If you’re a San Bruno resident and would like to explore action against the city for potential violations of the HAA — please contact
  • Call CA State Senator Jerry Hill (who represents this region) at (650) 212-3313 to express support for state housing legislation, including SB330 (Housing Crisis Act of 2019) and SB50 (the MoreHOMES Act)
  • Contact the San Bruno City Council to encourage the building of more much-needed housing: Links to message council members are here, or, call the City Manager Jovan Grogan: (650) 616-7056 
  • Join Peninsula for Everyone to help spread the word