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Brentwood Bowl to Move, Expand

Brentwood Bowl's owner, Millard Tong, plans to take the iconic South San Francisco bowling alley to Noor and Huntington Avenues and more than double the lanes.

Millard Tong loves to bowl.

He started in 1966, as a hobby while he was growing up in San Francisco. As an adult, he had two lanes installed in his home in Pacifica. And in 2002, Tong bought , the iconic South San Francisco bowling alley that has been in operation since 1951.

Tong, whose professional background is in development and construction, can be found bowling the lanes at Brentwood Bowl at least a couple times a week. He says it's more fun than bowling alone at home.

"[Brentwood Bowl] is so small, people talk from lane to lane," he said.

Brentwood Bowl is a cozy local hangout with a lively bar and lanes named after the horses from Tong's Pacifica ranch. It's inviting to families as well as to skilled bowlers. It doesn't feel like a place that's seen a lot of changes, but within the next year, it's going to undergo its biggest change since it opened. It's moving.

As soon as remodeling can be completed, Brentwood Bowl will occupy the old Century Plaza theater at the corner of Noor and Huntington Avenues. The 47,000 square-foot space, which Tong said has been vacant for seven years, will contain an expanded Brentwood Bowl, with a whopping 40 lanes (compared to the current 16). In addition to a snack bar and restaurant, the Tong plans to create a bakery and coffee shop with wifi and seating for people to hang out.

Tong announced the move a few days ago with letters on the movie theater marquee: "New Brentwood Bowl Coming Soon."

But Brentwood Bowl's move wasn't primarily motivated by a desire to expand. Instead, Tong saw an investment opportunity.

The city of South San Francisco recently changed the zoning along El Camino Real to increase building height allowances from 50 feet to 120 feet for mixed-use buildings. Tong realized he could develop the existing Brentwood Bowl property, which he owns, into a condo building with retail on the ground floor. His current plans call for a nine- to 10-story building with 42 condos and a 15,000 square-foot retail space. He plans to call it Millwood Towers.

Tong is confident that an expanded Brentwood Bowl will succeed. With fewer bowling alleys in the Bay Area, and the recent news that Daly City's Serra Bowl will close, he thinks there's a market for more bowling lanes.

Even though Brentwood Bowl is moving, it's atmosphere won't change, Tong said. He's bringing his staff with him, and he expects customers will follow.

"We want to carry that type of homey atmosphere and neighborhood hangout," Tong said.

Gail Wilson March 09, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Congratulations and Thank You!! Love Brentwood bowl but how much better to be able to make it bigger and also to build it in a good location!! Hope you will still have the pool tables too!! Good Luck and so much looking forward to going to the new location. We need a nice place like this for our grandchildren to go to locally!!
Monica March 10, 2012 at 02:32 AM
I am excited about a new Brentwood Bowl. But, I am concerned about the plans for the old location. The New Family housing project is 5 stories tall. You can see this monster sized building from every part of South city and all the way up and down El Camino Real. I hope that now it is better to understand what 5 stories looks like. Will we have something even bigger less than a mile down the road. I personaly do a lot of walking and have noticed so many empty buildings. I am confused as to why people think we need to build more retail space. How much of the retail space is still vacant over by South City Bart? Mr. Tong, please think carefully about what is best for your current building and the current residents of South City.
Cory David March 10, 2012 at 03:16 PM
So the legacy of the South San Francisco City Council won't be limited to just the El Camino Real/Chestnut Avenue Area Plan. Looks like money's to be made a couple miles down the road with another bit of "high rise blight." The intentionally deaf Council appears to have sealed this City's fate. Hope no one profits "accidentally" from the rezoning efforts of a handful of people. Maybe no one's looking in to it. And yes, I still maintain that the Council acted without any knowledge of the wishes of a majority of the largely uninformed constituency. At least if Kevin Mullin achieves his aspirations for higher office, he can pack up and leave the city, that in my opinion, he helped to destroy. Voters pay attention!
J.L.D'Angelo March 10, 2012 at 04:38 PM
The El Camino Real is becoming a strip of Hi Rise buildings thanks to the SSF Planning Commission and City Council. Why would anyone put a massive apartment development right next to South City High School. There is no concern for the future of traffic problems it will bring, the problems around the high school, the type of people it will bring. Now thanks to the new building heights another person is thinking of building a huge complex right in a neighborhood area. Stop turning our city into a Strip.
John Baker March 10, 2012 at 06:58 PM
The whole point of putting retail on bottom floors is so the people living in those building or in the neighborhood can walk to stores instead of driving up to Serramonte or over to some giant megamart. That's a good thing.
John Baker March 10, 2012 at 07:05 PM
What a myopic comment. There *is* concern for traffic -- Look: if housing is not built here, it'll be built in the Central Valley or on hillsides (Terrabay, anyone?) and that traffic will clog roadways, increase smog and dependence on foreign oil. It seems like you don't care where the problem is, so long as it isn't HERE. I'm sorry South City isn't the row of single-family bungalows it once was, but this isn't the 1950s. I'd prefer people living here near the jobs and building on already built land rather than scouring a hillside or digging up farmland.
Christina Haas March 10, 2012 at 08:29 PM
It will be interesting to see a high rise bldg in that location. I've been living in and around Ssf for many yrs now and it's nice to see all the improvements / upgrades that have been made to this wonderful city.
Harry E. Smith March 10, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Well John, let's get into the name calling because some one actually sees the light, and not the MTC propaganda about bay area commutes! Do you really think the tenants of the new building are not going to have car(s) despite maybe walking to work? The ONLY way that parcel can have street access is onto El Camino, and within 500' of the intersection it should be fun trying to get to the left turn onto Spruce with all the traffic we have now! The El Camino intersections at Hickey, Costco, BART, Kaiser, and Westborough are already a NIGHTMARE, with the Ponderosa/SSF High soon to be with that EYESORE soon to open. Let's muck up the last remaining intersection so that El Camino can be a total parking lot the entire length. WHAT WILL THAT DO FOR POLLUTION & GASOLINE WASTE?
Dave M. March 11, 2012 at 12:11 AM
No more large housing buildings in South City.That one next to the high school will bring enough problems.Don`t we get a vote on these things,we live here.Getting in and out of Brentwood is bad enough now.
Monica March 11, 2012 at 12:41 AM
John, what kind of stores do you think will be in that retail space? Again I refer to the condos next to South City BART... Starbucks and a Verizon. And several empty and unfinished retail units.
John Baker March 11, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Monica -- Sure, not everyone buys a phone all the time. But Trader Joes, the Chase branch and, yes, Starbucks, all are hopping any time I visit one. (OK, my bank account is elsewhere, but I do see people in Chase.)
John Baker March 11, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Harry, I didn't mean to namecall the original poster -- just thought the comment was myopic (literally "shortsighted"). You and have obviously different opinions on the value of high-density on ECR, I accept that. But I'm not looking at "MTC propaganda" (although I've seen it, it's hard to miss) -- I'm looking at places locally where high-density downtown apartments and small towns have worked: downtown San Mateo; Mountain View; etc. It may work here, it may not. I do know forcing everyone to move to Tracy to get affordable, clean housing *doesn't* work.
Sam Chetcuti March 12, 2012 at 06:29 AM
I have lived in this city for over 40 years and it is definitely heading in the wrong direction. The present city council is trying to make South San Francisco into a little San Francisco. Just before the Costco on El Camino Real was built about 12 years ago there was a vote as to whether Costco or an apartment building should be built on the spot where Costco presently is. These fiasco's the last several years such as the apartments near the SSF BART, the apartments near South City High and now this proposed construction where the current Brentwood Bowl is have just popped up. Apparently we no longer live in a democracy where our vote is necessary. Has South San Francisco seceded from California?
Tim C March 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM
I don't know what you guys are talking about, you act like SSF is the Crown Jewel city of the state, the slogan is the Industrial City/Biotech city, not the emerald city of the pacific. Everything on El Camino is dated, cheesy and lame. One guy wants to take a shuttered movie theater left for dead, and develop it for a new family entertainment venue, and redevelop old dingy bentwood into a modern muti-dwelling unit. Don't be jealous because you can't afford or didn't think of it yourself. SSF will live on, there is plenty of old crap around to make you feel at home. Plus it will bring more tax base to the city, which is good, it means more jobs, and less cuts. If you want to worry about something, worry about the monstrosity on the mountain sitting completely empty called Centennial Tower(s), and how the conglomerate owners want to lease it for gazillions of dollars or not at all.
Cory David March 14, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Tim C. For the life of me, I can't see anyone commenting here objecting to the development of an unused multiplex into an entertainment facility. Seems that most people, myself included, are concerned with ten story buildings popping up at the end of streets lined with one and two story homes. I can only assume that those residents of Brentwood would not particularly enjoy stepping out of their doors daily to look down their street at a ten story building. Loss of property value and increased traffic also bears mentioning. Those of us who appeared to fight the rezoning efforts (120 feet) by the SSF Council last year were more concerned with how structures this tall would fit in our city. Silly us, we thought those rezoning efforts were limited to the El Camino/Chestnut Avenue Area Plan. Nice "slight of hand" Council. We weren't against responsible development. Your comments indicate you might not be as "invested" in this city as some of us "lifers." Bottom line, I respect your opinion on this matter but it is one of thousands. I would hope you are a fan of the democratic process that SHOULD have allowed a majority of South San Francisco's residents (at the very least those in direct proximity to this project) to dictate their vision of the future of this city, rather than a handful of political hobbyists and career politicians. The stakes are too great.
ds March 15, 2012 at 10:23 PM
The council and planning commission should look at scaling dowm a project of this size. A smaller project, maybe 5 stories, would still be cost effective for the owner without destroying a single family neighborhood. Yes sthe Industrial City needs some additional housing but not at the expense of a single family neighborhood that has supported the City since the 1940's
Drew Himmelstein (Editor) March 15, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Thanks so much everyone for these comments. I went to the planning department today, and there hasn't yet been an official application filed to develop the El Camino site, which would have to go through an approval process including design review, the planning commission and neighborhood meeting. I'll post an update on that soon.
Monica March 16, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Thanks Drew. Maybe you could do a story on the vacant shops and buildings in South City.
Heidi Beck March 16, 2012 at 03:27 AM
I can't imagine a 10-story building at the Brentwood Bowl site -- isn't that a little tall for a building that's so close to SFO and in the flight paths? Three-four stories seems a lot more reasonable.
Loli March 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Good news about Brentwood Bowl - it will be fun place to hang out!
Joshua DeVincenzi Melander May 07, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I just moved into the neighborhood and excited about the changes to the Brentwood Shopping center. I think that most people would agree that the center could use a facelift and I am sure that the development could move forward with a compromise to make it still fit into the adjacent neighborhood. Would be great to add a neighborhood market, deli, coffee shop, bakery etc and also add a Plaza type space for the community to gather and make this shopping area better for the neighborhood.
jlo June 09, 2012 at 04:21 AM
what type of restaurant would you like to see in the new bowling alley???
ron sanders June 16, 2012 at 07:06 AM
MR TONG YOU SHOULD NOT MOVE BRENTWOOD BOWL. IT WOULD NOT BE BRENTWOOD BOWL ANY MORE. THE PEPOPLE OF SOUTH CITY WANT IT NOT TO BE MOVED. WHY NOT PUT YOUR CONDOS AT THE MOVIE LAND AND LET BRENTWOOD BOWL STAND AT ITS HOME PLACE. WE NEED SOME THINGS IN SOUTH CITY TO STAY THE SAME AND THIS IS ONE OF THEM. RONALD SANDERS HOMETOWN SOUTH CITY.
Dianne L Nowak November 28, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Brentwood Bowl is awful, Old and run down, dark. They don't even give you a pitcher of water when you bowl in a Senior League. Parking is another question. I personally don't like it. I prefer Classic Bowl.
Dianne L Nowak December 02, 2012 at 06:47 AM
Coffee Shop! American Food!

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