Meeting Decorum

Guide for Understanding City Council Meeting Proceedings

Local Government

The City of Burlingame operates under a Council/Manager form of government. The Council, as the legislative body, represents the entire community, and is empowered by the State to formulate city-wide policy.

The five Councilmembers serve at large for four-year terms. The Council selects a Mayor from among the members each December for a one-year term.  The Council is guided by a Code of Conduct that emphasizes the principle of respect when dealing with one another, City staff, constituents, and others they interact with when representing the City of Burlingame.

The City Manager, appointed by the Council, serves as the chief executive officer and is responsible for the day-to-day administration of City affairs. The City Attorney, also appointed by the Council, advises and represents the City and Council in all legal matters.


The agenda is used as an official working guide from which the Council conducts its meetings.  The agenda, which is prepared by the City Clerk, includes current legislative and policy issues which must be reviewed by the Council.

While items are usually placed on the agenda at the request of the Council or staff members, citizens who would like the Council to review a particular item should send a formal written request to the Mayor and City Council, 501 Primrose Road, Burlingame, CA  94010.   The item will be reviewed to determine whether it should be handled administratively, referred to a board or commission, or added to an upcoming City Council agenda.

Agenda, staff reports, and other background material may be reviewed at the City Clerk's office commencing on the Thursday afternoon before a Council meeting.  Copies of the agenda are available at no charge.  Agendas, staff reports, and minutes are also available on the City's website.

Addressing the Council

 Anyone wishing to speak on either an item listed on the agenda or not on the agenda, should fill out a "Request to Speak" form and hand it to the City Clerk at the beginning of the meeting.  Requests to speak on items not listed on the agenda will be considered under "Public Comments". Council cannot take action on an item not listed on the agenda.

Speakers should speak directly into the microphone and state their name for the record.  Presentations should be clear and concise. Groups and organizations are asked to designate a spokesperson whenever possible. Repetition of ideas expressed by other speakers should be avoided.

Every effort will be made to ensure that citizens have ample opportunity to address the Council.

Agenda Format

  • Ceremonial Matters: Special presentations or announcements at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Public Comments: An opportunity for citizens to discuss items that are not on the agenda.  The Ralph M. Brown Act (the State local agency open meeting law) prohibits the City Council from acting on any matter that is not on the agenda.  
  • Consent Calendar: Composed of those items which only require routine review by the Council.  Only one motion is needed for the approval of all items listed on the Consent Calendar.  Any Councilmember, staff member, or citizen may request that a specific item be removed from the Consent Calendar for separate action.  
  • Public Hearings: Hearings on matters of important or legal requirement, including but not limited to appeals of Commission decisions and introduction of proposed ordinances/amendments. Held on dates announced at a commission meeting or by mailed notice and/or newspaper publication.
  • Staff Reports: These are items where Council discussion is needed.  

Council Actions

  • Motions:  The least formal of Council actions.  May be used to approve, deny or continue items, accept reports, or establish Council policy or procedures.
  • Resolutions:  Formalized Council actions which become effective upon adoption.
  • Ordinances: Legal instruments or laws used to affect general health, safety and welfare of the public.  Most become part of the Municipal Code.  With the exception of emergency ordinances, all ordinances are introduced at a previous meeting and become effective thirty days after adoption.

Types of Council Meetings

  • Regular Meetings: Held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.
  • Study Sessions: Held by the Council in Conference Room A.  Council may occasionally call a study session.  No formal action is taken at this time.  These sessions are open to the public; however, public comment is usually not appropriate since this is a meeting between city staff and Council.
  • Closed Sessions:  Held for the specific purpose of addressing a personnel or litigation matter.  For reasons of confidentiality, these sessions are closed to the general public.

Boards and Commissions 

An important component of the City’s policy-making structure is its various City Boards and Commissions, which recommend and advise the Council on vital policy issues.  Civic-minded volunteers are appointed by the City Council for a term of two, three, or four years.  Appointments are made each year to fill expiring terms. Applications can be obtained from the City Manager’s office. All meetings are open to the public.

  • Beautification Commission:  Meetings are held on the 1st Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m., Recreation Center, 850 Burlingame Ave.
  • Library Board:  Meetings are held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Main Library, 480 Primrose Road.
  • Park and Recreation Commission:  Meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m., Parks & Recreation, 850 Burlingame Avenue.
  • Planning Commission:  Meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.
  • Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission:  Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.