STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
The annual state of the city address was given today by our Mayor Pedro Gonzalez. This event was a luncheon held at the South San Francisco Conference Center and was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
“Good afternoon and thank you for attending the annual State of the City hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. It is always an honor to address our Chamber members, especially this year since the Chamber is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
In 1913, the post office began parcel post delivery, the first “prize” was inserted into a Cracker Jack box, the 16th amendment was passed and federal income tax went into effect, Henry Ford instituted the first assembly line and Woodrow Wilson was President.
Over the past 100 years, South San Francisco has been known as the Industrial City, in large part due to the installation of the letters on what is now known as Sign Hill, by none other than the Chamber of Commerce. We are now also known as the Birthplace of Biotechnology and the Biotech Capital of the World, but for many of us, it is simply home.
I had the opportunity to deliver the State of the City in 2008 and we have all met a variety of challenges since then; primarily as a result of the economic downturn. Fortunately we have started to see the economy improve and as a result, vacant office space is filling up, the real estate market shows signs of life and unemployment numbers are moving slightly lower.
From a financial standpoint, our projected general fund revenues are running slightly ahead of original projections in some areas, including: property taxes, sales taxes and TOT taxes, which we are pleased to see. Especially since our total revenues dropped 7% in fiscal year 2009-10. The current fiscal year is in line with pre-recession levels, but not back to our peak and some of the gains are due to one time revenues such as property tax refunds.
We have also been dealing with the elimination of redevelopment. This process was created 67 years ago to assist city government in eliminating blight from a designated area and to achieve desired development, reconstruction and rehabilitation, including but not limited to: residential, commercial, industrial and retail.
Now that Redevelopment no longer exists, revenue from the property taxes in redevelopment areas is now split between the county, school district, other special districts and the City. While the City’s General Fund will come out ahead in terms of total property taxes, the City has lost a valuable tool to pay for infrastructure improvements and affordable housing.
We are pleased that 636 El Camino has been completed. All 108 units are filled, providing individuals and families with an affordable housing option. The ground floor retail tenant spaces are also generating interest. This project was recognized by Sustainable San Mateo County for its green construction.
The renovation of Westborough Square continues and Phase 1 is complete, with tenants in the process of applying for tenant improvements. Phase 2 of this 95,000 square foot project is underway.
Centennial Towers tenant SuccessFactors plans to occupy another three floors of the building, giving them a total of five floors of this 12-story building. The San Francisco Business Times recognized the lease for Success Factors as one of the top deals for 2012.
They anticipate additional tenants for this building in the fall.
Onyx Pharmaceuticals has plans to begin construction on their third building and is in the process of preparing plans to construct their fourth building. By the end of 2013, they anticipate adding another 200 employees, making them the second largest biotech employer in SSF.
Staff is also working with the Hanhai Group, headquartered in Beijing, China, regarding the possible location of a life science incubator in South San Francisco, providing lab and office space for startup biotech companies. The Hanhai Group currently operates a high technology incubator in San Jose.
Life Technologies, a biotech Research and Development and manufacturing firm is expanding to northern California and will lease two buildings on Oyster Point Blvd. This company is identified as one of the 50 fastest growing companies in the industry.
In an effort to better prepare the next generation for employment in this industry; our Library and Parks and Recreation Departments applied for and were awarded a second year of STEM grant funding. This Science, Technology, Engineering and Math grant from the County of San Mateo, provides science and engineering workshops for students attending afterschool homework programs at the Community Learning Center, Martin Elementary School and Los Cerritos Elementary School. As a Council, we are extremely fortunate to have an innovative staff, committed to help prepare our children for the future.
We are pleased to have Federal Express begin construction on a new regional logistics center on San Mateo Avenue, due to be completed in May of 2014.
In addition to the new biotechnology and life science companies, many other projects; including a variety of bakeries are in various stages of the planning and approval process, bringing jobs and stability to our tax base.
Our efforts in the area of sustainability continue as we enter the final stages of our Climate Action Plan and Pedestrian Master Plan. Once completed, these plans will help the City achieve its goal of reducing our carbon footprint by 2020.
Staff has submitted an Urban Greening Project grant application to fund new street trees, rain garden stormwater features and median landscaping along El Camino Real from Arroyo Drive to Kaiser Way.
We are collaborating with San Mateo County’s Energy Watch and PG&E to develop a second round of energy-efficient upgrades to City facilities, allowing us to lower our energy use and increase our cost savings in this area.
Staff also continues to meet with companies to discuss the financing opportunities available through the PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) to finance the purchase and installation of solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems and other energy-efficient upgrades.
Our Water Quality Control Plant began a project that will install 150 kilowatt solar panels increasing on-site energy generation and reducing the plant’s electrical demand on the grid.
We resurfaced and rehabilitated 2.2 miles of local streets, filled over 250 potholes and resurfaced pathways and disabled parking at City Hall and the City Hall Annex, improving ADA accessibility. The Miller Avenue Parking Garage tenant improvements are complete and currently houses our Engineering Division and a Police substation.
Our Fire Department hosted a portion of the Urban Shield event in October of last year in cooperation with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. This was a planned exercise, involving local, national and international first responder agencies. This exercise provided law enforcement personnel, fire and emergency medical service providers, civilian volunteers and many others with the opportunity to strengthen their preparedness to respond to both threats and actual disasters. Special thanks to all of the local businesses who provided space for this important training exercise. I am sure we will all reap the benefits from having members of our department plan and respond to this drill.
Our Police Department continues their efforts to reduce violence in our community. The Neighborhood Response Team works in all parts of the City to keep our residents and businesses as safe as possible. Whether they are working diligently to solve the case related to the 2010 homicides, investigating and going the extra mile to deal with credit card fraud or saving the life of an infant who had stopped breathing, our officers are constantly looking for ways to get the job done.
Our Parks and Recreation Department continues to provide our residents with top notch programs and facilities. We have upgraded Westborough Park’s playgrounds, basketball court, picnic shelter, tennis courts and restrooms and also renovated Paradise Valley Pocket Park. Our first Movie in the Park event at Orange Memorial Park was very popular and will be repeated again this year. Our Junior Giant’s program has been extremely successful and we had the good fortune to host the World Series trophy again this year as a result of having a Junior Giant’s team.
We are happy to have the new ferry service up and running. If you haven’t tried the ferry as part of your commute, we encourage you to give it a try. There is morning and afternoon commute service Monday – Friday and mid-day excursion service on Wednesday and Friday from South San Francisco to the Ferry Building and Pier 41 in San Francisco. The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance is working with WETA on an outreach event taking place tomorrow (May 17th) and the Chamber is hosting an event with Bay Bio on June 20th to help familiarize our employees and our residents with the positive aspects of taking the ferry to work. This is a great way to relieve traffic congestion and your stress level.
The City of South San Francisco has a reputation for being progressive and innovative. The City Council and staff are committed to our business community and our residents, always striving to make South San Francisco a great place to live, work and play. I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues and our staff for their ongoing efforts to achieve and maintain our high level of success.
Much of our success can be attributed to the involvement of all five Council members in local and regional boards. It is to our advantage to have Council member Addiego serving on the Bay Conservation and Development Committee and San Mateo County Emergency Services Council, Council member Garbarino is the City’s Representative on the Board of Directors for the League of CA Cities and Vice President of the Peninsula Division of the League of California Cities, Council member Gupta on the Airport Land Use Committee and the Airport Community Round Table , Mayor Pro Tem Matsumoto on the City/County Association of Governments and the Transportation Authority, currently serving as Vice-Chair and I serve on and the Executive Board of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust.
Thank you all for being here today and for your roll in making South San Francisco the best it can be.
And a special thank you to the South San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for producing this annual event.