Letter to the Editor: NEW SSF CIVIC CENTER by Mark Johnson

South San Francisco, CA    August 22, 2016  by Mark Johnson readers letters

I read today’s Austin Walsh Daily Journal article about the proposed SSF Civic Center with the same fascination as I would watch a Vine of a car-crash.

The SFPUC site along El Camino is now ticketed to be ‘revitalized’ (was it ever vital?) with new library, recreation, and municipal services facilities. Also some parking (which I suppose will be for the exclusive use of the hundreds of SSF employees, just as at the current downtown Civic Center lot off of Miller). The current Arroyo municipal center has been in that neighborhood for decades without becoming a true civic center in any way. What makes “SSF.gov” feel that new buildings are going to change the situation?

Since the area is now mostly automobile-focused commercial activity, I wonder who will benefit from the $170+ million to be spent on the proposed facilities? Certainly not foot-traffic (there is virtually none due to a dearth of nearby housing). Probably not those of us who live here; with a plan already in the works, why bother asking what we need and want – only to tell us ‘no’? Perhaps real-estate developers are slavering in anticipation over the old Price Motors and redundant Pacific Super properties even as I write….

Also, the new magnet municipal center – which most residents can only access by car – runs up against South City’s extraordinary commitment to “traffic-calming”. It’s one of the most incredibly traffic-rich spots in the North Peninsula; an intersection where folks notoriously run red lights because the wait-penalty for missing the green is so enormous. A spot where the lights are controlled by different agencies. Where we can regularly see hundreds of vehicles waiting on El Camino, Westborough, and Chestnut (all the way to Mission Road). It’s one of SSF’s 2-3 worst traffic problems (I’d also include the long-term Spruce/Canal/Mayfair mess and the recurring Mission Rd/BART/ECHS road-work).

That Measure W money is burning a hole in the “successor-agency’s” pockets. Now they just have to get a community rubber-stamp on this ill-concieved fantasy. Perhaps putting the muni-center (and parking) in the city-owned fields behind Orange Park near the old Cal Water office, and spending some money improving both auto and foot access (as well as parking) could be a partial alternative. Then the SFPUC property can become added recreation facilities!”

Mark Johnson


South City civic center plans solidify: Officials move forward with vision for redeveloping former SFPUC property August 22, 2016, 05:00 AM By Austin Walsh Daily
The effort to build a new civic center in South San Francisco near the intersection of El Camino Real and Chestnut Avenue is pushing ahead, under a decision by city officials.

The successor board responsible for managing land acquired by the city’s defunct redevelopment agency approved a proposal to transfer properties targeted for construction of the project to full control of the city.

The move made Tuesday, Aug. 16 effectively green lights officials moving forward with potential construction of a new library, recreation center, police and fire station and other public amenities in a facility to be built using proceeds from the city’s recently passed sales tax increase.

Vice Mayor Pradeep Gupta said he expects the project slated to be built on land bought from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, or SFPUC, across El Camino Real from the city’s existing Municipal Services Building to be a landmark.

“That will make that corner of the city very much alive and certainly, in my view, raise the property values all around that and also provide citizens one single place to go to meet many needs at a single time,” he said.

Prior to floating Measure W, the half-cent sales tax hike approved by voters in the fall, officials identified the former SFPUC property as the ideal site to build the project.

But earlier this year, some interest was expressed in potentially purchasing the Pacific Supermarket property and developing a more vibrant facility near the existing Municipal Services Building, where the city’s recreation department, police department, a fire department and other amenities are housed.

Gupta though said officials have since moved away from their potential desire to acquire the supermarket site, 1015 El Camino Real, and go ahead with the initial plan for the SFPUC site.

With the target property identified, a series of community town hall meetings will be held in the coming months to further address potential design elements and receive feedback from residents regarding amenities to be featured at the site, said Gupta.

“The next step will be for us to get our residents involved in reviewing some of these options,” he said.

Plans for building a new civic center began developing in the wake of officials deeming the existing Municipal Services Building outdated, seismically unstable and unfit to address the needs of a modern community.

Officials established a source of financing for a new facility through the voter approval of Measure W, expected to generate $210 million over the next 30 years.

Earlier projections estimate the project on SFPUC property could cost in the ballpark of $150 million to $165 million. The size of the project and the amount of parking built into it are among the primary determining cost factors, according to previous city reports. Had officials pursued the supermarket site, initial projections showed the price could have jumped as high as $178 million, depending on size and scope.

An additional almost $20 million of the additional tax revenue should be set aside to address capital improvements postponed during the lean budget years suffered during the Great Recession, officials have said.

Some officials have acknowledged an opportunity to develop the underutilized former SFPUC land as a means of revitalizing central property in South San Francisco and in the process hopefully breathing new life into the surrounding area.

Gupta said he anticipates the future development of a project potentially housing a variety of core community services, combined with some open space for residents to enjoy.

“I’m looking forward to having this whole area together in a unified fashion to create the civic center,” he said.


(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

– See more at: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2016-08-22/south-city-civic-center-plans-solidify-officials-move-forward-with-vision-for-redeveloping-former-sfpuc-property/1776425167006.html#sthash.uRH4MBo2.1zm76R5s.dpuf

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Peggy Deras
Peggy Deras
6 years ago

Thank you ESC for publishing this great critique.

6 years ago

I thought about Mark’s letter and the new building as I sat at the signal light on Westborough and ECR looking toward Pet Club. I love the lowland view of the mountain, the strength of it on clear days and the softness of it on foggy days. I felt profound sadness that yet another peak of the mountain will be lost with the expanding construction on ECR. So if you’re at that intersection, give thanks now for the beauty you see across the way because that stretch of it won’t be visible after this needless building is constructed.

Jim the Cynic
Jim the Cynic
6 years ago
Reply to  Bonnie

Bonnie, many who rule the city don’t think you, me or anyone else counts.

your neighbor
your neighbor
6 years ago

The Measure W sales tax is supposed to pay for a new civic center that the City says we need at least what they told the community. The ordinance says the voters also authorizes the City to get financing for a loan to expedite the process, so we don’t know the true cost of a new civic center for the next 50 years probably,or however long it takes to pay off a loan, and we don’t know if the sales tax brings in the 7M as predicted by the City. No details. Measure W funds would bring in 7M according to the City estimates and the City can’t wait 20 years to build a new civic center.

At the town halls of last year, remember those? It was the City’s reason for bringing up ‘citizens wants’ for a sales tax increase, but they never had a town hall to discuss it. They were sparsely attended, nowhere near the number to adequately represent the size of So. City.

The community said it wants a swimming pool, but somehow the City said no; so much for what the community wants.

The wasteful spending continues. Look at the 2016 budget showing thousands of dollars in consultant fees and spending 532K in SMART meters for the downtown that are essentially timers with a computer chip. Do we need to spend that much for technology that becomes obsolete 1 or 2 years when a new generation comes out? The council takes junkets and gloats about how they take shuttles to their hotels but spend 140K on the conference. That is supposed to tell us they are being careful with taxpayer funds, yeah right!