Downtown Proposed Plans Set Before Council & Planning: Minutes of Mtg

South San Francisco, CA   November 5 2014

Draft rendering of proposed downtown

Draft rendering of proposed downtown

We have been following the development plans for the downtown area and below we are sharing the minutes of the joint meeting between the City Council and the Planning Commission. This meeting was held last month on October 15, 2014. For more information including draft drawings please CLICK HERE


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2014 6:30pm


  1. 2. Roll PRESENT:

Councilmembers Addiego, Gupta and Normandy, Vice Mayor Garbarino and Mayor Matsumoto

Planning Commissioners Khalfin, Ochsenhirt, Ruiz and Zemke, and Vice Chair Wong


Planning Commissioner Giusti and Chair Martin

Public Comments – comments are limited to items on the Special Meeting

 Mayor Matsumoto explained that public comments would be taken at the beginning of the meeting and, if time allowed, at the end. Additional opportunities for public comment would be available at subsequent meetings of the Planning Commission and the City Council. She reminded speakers to please limit their comments to the Downtown Station Plan.


Rev. Kirsten Spalding of the San Mateo County Union Community Alliance Housing spoke of the need for housing at all income levels, good quality jobs in both the creation of the development and in the buildings that are part of the plan, and public transportation options that are affordable and efficient. Additionally, she spoke on the need for more active transportation


in efforts to improve the health of the community. She wanted to acknowledge and corrunend staff s response about how some of the things proposed were already done in the City, but she also wanted to ensure they was captured in the plan document rather than being things done deal by deal.


William Nack of the San Mateo County Building Trades Council commented specifically on labor standards, stating that the plan should provide jobs that pay area standard wages. Employment opportunities should be available for youth through apprenticeships, and local sources should be used in regards to the workforce and building materials. Language in the plan should encourages amix of uses and activities that would lay out the City’s vision and requirements for the downtown area so potential developers have an understanding of what needs to be brought in a proposal .


Tracy Choi, resident and representative of the Housing Leadership Council emphasized the risk of displacement that residents in the downtown would be facing with due to the planned development. The risk was very high, as was the preservation of affordability. She acknowledged the City’s anti­ displacement strategy and that development was occurring on vacant sites, however, the external pressure of the market would have significant effects. Ms. Choi requested the City monitor actions, rent increases and rates of evictions in order to be responsive to the community’s needs.


Clarissa Cabansagan, Community Planner with Transform, commended staff for the attention paid to bicycle/pedestrian, traffic calming and dynamic parking strategies. She encouraged a continued effort to increase ridership of the Caltrain, as well as biking and walking in the downtown . She also encouraged the City to explore additional avenues that could help, like the growing car sharing industry.


Adina Levin of the nonprofit Friends of Caltrain provided follow up comments to transportation related issues. The corridor was seeing growing cooperation and improvements that would go a long way towards the efforts of improving the station and increasing its use. She noted the possibility of public/private partnerships and mentioned another current trend of using transportation management associations. While large companies like Genentech were able to provide ridership programs to their employees, smaller businesses and start-ups would be able to get pooled funding through associations like this. A market change in the acceptance and value of public transportation was noticeable, so she encouraged taking a second look at these benefits.


Mayor Matsumoto asked how associations compared to the SamTrans “Way to Go” and “Go Pass” programs.


Ms. Levin stated larger employers were receiving a large portion of those benefits, so the deepest discounts were going to the most prosperous employees. They were looking for a way to provide discounts that would work by area rather than employer.


Danny Campbell, resident and representative from the Sheet Metal Workers Union, sat as amember of the Downtown Station Plan Citizens Advisory Committee. While he was pleased to see commitment to affordable housing, he hoped the plan would include language that encouraged the development of workforce housing in the downtown. This would allow our police officers, firefighters, teachers, civil servants and construction workers to reinvest their incomes in the community they serve. He encouraged continued work on the plan.


Gustavo Lopez of Coalition for South City expressed concern over the plan’s lack of services to that address the needs of youth and families in the downtown. He failed to see how this plan was unlike the plans in other urban areas such as New York and San Francisco, and saw a particular concern in the threat of the displacement occurring in this City as it had in others. He noted the adverse effects this would have on the City’s schools and minority population and requested that Council go beyond studies by incorporating stronger language in the plan that spoke to these concerns.


Downtown resident, Alondra Aragon expressed a deep concern about the plan placing accommodations for potential residents over accommodations for current residents. She feared the practice of gentrification would soon take over, effects of which she had already felt due to the fact that her family’s rent has already been raised by $200. She wanted to know if Council was concerned about the displacement of families and what they intended to do when this happens.


  1. Study Session: Downtown Station Area Specific (Alex Greenwood, Director of Economic and Community Development)


Chief Planner Susy Kalkin outlined the process that had been gone through thus far and provided a timeline on the remainder of the process. Public comment has been received and staff response had been provided. Public hearings were scheduled to begin in December with the Planning Commission and in the beginning of 2015 with Council.


Consultant Barbara Maloney of BMS design reviewed the Downtown Station Area Plan, touching on the highlights in lieu of a full review. Review included information on the project background, plan study area, the vision for the downtown station area, the project process to date, upcoming events, Caltrain station improvements, station area land use plan, design standards, downtown development guidelines, street and accessibility improvements, bicycle improvements,streetscape improvements, eastern neighborhood development and open space, and new public plazas at City Hall and Linden neighborhood center.


Meeting recessed at 8:04 p.m. Meeting resumed at 8:15 p.m.


Council and the Planning Commission expressed support for the plan.


Councilmember Addiego did not see the need to delineate between Grand Avenue and Linden Avenue, as both would serve well for this type of development.


Mayor Matsumoto questioned the level of noise and impacts on safety once high speed rail arrived.


Consultant Maloney acknowledged there may be some reverberation, but safety concerns were addressed by the undercrossing.

Commissioners Ochsenhirt and Khalfin had questions related Caltrain’s involvement thus far, platform extension and electrification.


Mayor Matsumoto advised not to look for platform extension per information she has heard through her involvement with Caltrain Modernization Program (“Cal Mod”).


Chief Planner Kalkin stated that some Caltrain staff sat on the Technical Advisory Committee but were not otherwise engaged. The station planning has all been done, construction was still needed and this is where efforts were focused.


Mayor Matsumoto requested that City Manager Futrell contact Caltrain and ask them to present at a future Council meeting.


Councilmembers Addiego and Gupta liked the new parking dimensions for Grand Avenue and mentioned Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park and Castro Street in Mountain View as including further designs they would like to see considered. Specifically they noted the green medians that prevented illegal U-turns while improving the look and feel of the environment.


Councilmember Gupta also expressed concern with the new three-foot buffer law for cyclists recently enacted by the state.


Consultant Maloney acknowledged that cyclists and parking always presented a challenge, and further study could be conducted.


Commissioner Ochsenhirt felt the distinction between Linden and Grand Avenues needed to remain, as he and other residents consider Grand to be the downtown and Linden to be more residential/neighborhood. He also questioned whether the order in which the plan was following was correct, as he has always seen business/retail development occur before residential. Lastly, he thought there was plenty of open space that could be found in areas other than east of 101.


Vice Chair Wong stated his preference to travel down less crowded streets when biking in the City. He appreciated the plan’s inclusion of additional greenery in the downtown and particularly liked the idea of the plazas. He saw great opportunity to host screenings of sports events and other important regional events.


Commissioner Zemke liked the plan and complimented staff and the consultant. He appreciated the public comments and thought they brought up important issues for which, unfortunately, he did not have a solution. Speaking as an avid biker, he used Grand and felt the parallel parking would be much safer. Whatever could be done to improve bike safety was good.


Commissioner Ruiz stated consideration should be paid to existing floor elevations if outdoor dining was to be pursued. He also noted an ongoing parking issue on Grand when stores have freight delivered and suggested those be restricted to the alley side or only occur at certain times of the day.


Consultant Maloney stated it was likely the whole sidewalk would be rebuilt to be made level and ADA compliant.


Chief Planner Kalkin recommended a study of truck routes in the downtown, recognizing that the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Grand Avenue as troublesome for pedestrians.


Mayor Matsumoto wanted to explore prohibiting deliveries on Grand altogether. Ifthat could not be done, than restricting deliveries to certain times should be looked at.


Vice Mayor Garbarino clarified that what was presented was a plan, not a project. He thanked the public for their comments. He agreed that something needed to be done to address the City’s affordable housing needs and was certain the remainder of Council agreed. In regards to comments from the Labor Council, he stated that while he currently makes the request of developers to hire local, pay prevailing wage, etc., he could not demand it of them. He asked the Assistant City Attorney iflanguage encouraging developers to adhere to certain labor standards and practicescould be added to the plan. The Vice Mayor also made comment about the bike lane on Airport Boulevard not being workable towards the northern end, around the underpass prior to the freeway entrance. Overall, he liked the concepts included in the plan and thanked all that had a part in putting it together.


Attorney Rosenberg reviewed the language that was included in Land Use – 1 policy (“LU-1”). He explained that the City could also consider separate Citywide recommendations or support in theory Citywide, but could not require unless City funds were being used for the project. Attorney Rosenberg would keep LU-1 in the plan and continue to look at additional language.


Mayor Matsumoto requested that Commissioners and Council look at the language used in the matrix and confer with staff on what was agreeable.


Councilmember Gupta noted his appreciation for staff and their efforts in gathering input and creating the plan. Through the process, he felt that knowledge had been greatly improved and people understood the options better than they had previously. The plan was a critical step in the City’s evolution and he cautioned that it would cost a considerable amount to accomplish. Attention should be paid to the money part of it at all times. Councilmember Gupta also commented on the risk of displacement, noting this as an issue that the ABAG Executive Board was currently dealing with. He did not want to ignore the issue but at the same time, he did not want to see the plan stalled. Lastly, he commented that when we have concentrated development like this, attention must be paid to providing adequate green spaces and playgrounds for the neighborhoods.


Councilmember Addiego expressed excitement for the plan and felt that it was coming at the right time. He was in agreement with Commissioner Zemke’s and Councilmember Gupta’s comments about the fact the 79 percent of renters may be in harm’s way and that the ultimate success of the project puts them at greater risk. He felt perhaps the City was not looking hard enough for the answers. He wanted to follow Ms. Choi’s suggestion on monitoring the situation to better understand what was happening in the community. While there were families in South San Francisco with long-time property interests who tended to be gentler with their residents, there were still a lot of unknowns about current circumstances. What he found particularly troubling was the fact that the City could not place its own residents in the affordable units that it does develop. Give this fact, the reality was that the I 000 units did not really address the situation. He felt the issue should be put into the light of day, as a lot of landlords move silently in the community. He requested staff look at see what other communities are doing.


The rest of Council was in agreement with Councilmember Addiego and suggested perhaps the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust (“HEART”) could provide information and numbers. It was also asked if there was a way to ensure more residents could be selected for affordable housing units.


City Manager Futrell commented that city funds could be used to hire a consultant to run the data.


Attorney Rosenberg stated he would provide Council with a memo on how those issues could possibly be addressed.


Mayor Matsumoto commented that the City would need to look into funding of the Caltrain station relocation and the expense of that would easily reach $20 million. Regarding displacement, she asked Attorney Rosenberg to determine what could be done in cases where the City contributes property in lieu of money towards a development. Would a Development Agreement allow for the relocation of City residents into properties that met these criteria? Lastly, the Mayor noted a development in downtown Redwood City done by Larry Tarter of Pinnacle DB as an example of something she would like to see in the downtown.


City Manager Futrell summarized Council’s direction and stated staff would provide follow up on specific items, make revisions and generally follow recommendations. Ongoing communications would be through email and Friday packets as the plan continues to move forward towards the next sess10n.


Being no further business Mayor Matsumoto and Vice Chair Wong adjourned thejoint meeting at 9:15 p.m.


Submitted by:


Anna M. Brown

Deputy City Clerk, City of South San Francisco


Approved by:



Karyl Matsumoto

Mayor, City of South San Francisco





Alan Wong

Planning Commission Vice Chair


2 comments for “Downtown Proposed Plans Set Before Council & Planning: Minutes of Mtg

  1. Greg Costigan
    January 31, 2015 at 7:14 am

    I think it’s a great idea and commend the city leaders for moving forward with this.

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