South San Francisco, CA June 23, 2016 by Brendan P. Bartholomew SF Examiner
A major redevelopment project in South San Francisco’s Oyster Point industrial area that changed hands earlier this month continues to evoke concerns over possible impacts to the town, despite reassurances the project will ultimately benefit the area.
At issue is the Oyster Point Business Park, a proposed development that, when complete, will contain 2.25 million square feet of office and laboratory space, which will presumably be leased by local biotechnology companies.
Civic leaders, including City Manager Mike Futrell, say South San Francisco’s biotech companies desperately need the development. While the sector continues to grow, there are virtually no vacancies in the town’s existing commercial spaces.
Under an agreement approved by the City Council on June 1, real estate firm Shorenstein, which originally won approval for the development in 2011, sold the project to the Greenland Group, an international developer based in China.
But while San Mateo County Harbor District Commissioner Sabrina Brennan supports the project, she continues to raise concerns about possible impacts to the environment, residents, and commuters.
The Harbor District is involved because it operates the area’s Oyster Point Marina under a joint power agreement with the city.
Brennan’s concerns stem from Oyster Point’s landfill status. The Oyster Point district, which sits east of U.S. Highway 101, was built at the site of a former municipal garbage dump.
Greenland will be legally required to excavate the buried waste and place a new cap on the landfill, a move Brennan is concerned with because the marina has about 45 permanent residents or households living on boats who could be impacted by potential health hazards from the excavation.
Because the marina is located on a mini-peninsula, with few alternate access routes, the harbor commissioner said the planned construction could disrupt commutes, both for the marina’s live-aboard tenants and for workers traveling to South San Francisco via the commuter ferry that docks at the Marina.
Brennan noted if construction-related commute snarls or environmental hazards make the marina unlivable for its tenants, they could have few options for relocating. The Bay Area’s housing crisis, along with the recent closure of Pete’s Harbor in Redwood City, has created a shortage of live-aboard spaces throughout the region, Brennan explained.
Only 10 percent of Oyster Point Marina’s 455 slips can legally be rented to live-aboard residents.
Futrell, the city manager, said the project’s environmental impact report predicted little or no disruption to the Marina, and he promised town hall-style meetings prior to the work so residents can question the developer and city officials.
Futrell noted Greenland is going to recap all of the landfill, including in places where no construction is planned. The city manager characterized the existing cap as “old, but safe,” but said getting a new cap is a major environmental benefit.
“In the big picture, this is exactly what you want to have happen at old landfill sites,” Futrell said.
The developer has also agreed to various other upgrades, which will benefit the general public, Futrell added. Those include rebuilding Oyster Point’s roads and other infrastructure, along with improving the beach and park areas that locals use for recreation.
Despite her misgivings, Brennan said she fully supports the project and recognizes the benefits of upgrading the area’s recreation amenities and roads.
“All these things require a lot of extra effort because they’re taking place at the site of a landfill,” Brennan said. “It’s great that there’s a developer who’s up for it.”