Letter to Editor: My response to SF Chronicle’s November 12th misleading article by Dineen

South San Francisco, CA   November 13, 2019 by Corey David, SSF Resident

Dear ESC: Please publish my response to Mr Dineen’s article in the November 12th SF Chronicle, and note that this is my response, and the content is my opinion. Thank you.

– Corey David

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Mr. Dineen, I read with surprise your article on the pending vote on SSF’s PUC housing project, especially as I was quoted. I feel the need to point out some glaring inaccuracies.  I was not aware that you were in attendance at the Planning Commission Meeting but I would have welcomed a private discussion with you as unfortunately you trusted other interviewees with content included in your article.  I hold you blameless but there are some glaring inaccuracies in your article that need correction.
First of all, this community is anything but a NIMBY.  This city is building at a ravenous pace to ease the reckless over expansion of industry/workforce crisis, popularly known as the housing crisis.  This is largely created by a deaf city government who continue to invite thousands of workers to an already overcrowded community.  Even with that being the case, in cooperation with the last city administration, this community agreed to allow this project to be built with up to five story building heights and a lower unit density, not the three stories noted in the article.  This would still be ill fitting with the surrounding neighborhoods but it was a compromise.  You quote Jordan Grimes but you need to check the numbers on just how, unlike many other municipalities, SSF is doing more than its fair share of housing construction.
While speaking of Jordan Grimes, let’s talk about Evelyn Stivers, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.  She makes a veiled threat that SSF will fall victim to the same fate that might confront San Bruno when they rejected a large housing project.  This is a false equivalency, particularly when you consider the conduct of this developer and his failure to EVER engage the public in a serious dialogue about the negative impact of this project.  Also, SSF has a build rate far ahead of San Bruno.  Check it!  The developer did everything in their power to control the narrative including making false and misleading statements.  I would also note that most of the advocates for this project are outside special interests, some paid, who are all too eager to volunteer our city to satisfy their self-service.  This is done with absolutely no regard for the lives of existing residents.
You correctly noted the resistance by the biotech industry in building 1,200 homes at Oyster Point, “arguing that site was too close to their campuses.”  Just what is their argument?  Let me speculate, they want room to expand their operations and care little about burying residential neighborhoods with apartment rentals, not homes, to house their transient workforce.  That’s my explanation, perhaps someone has another answer.  Let’s find out.
You quote Eric Tao who I have actually met with privately to remind him he and his team were “guests in our house.”  While he is a nice individual, I explained to him that if I “were in his shoes,” I would be doing the same thing, maximizing profit, community be damned.  I also made it clear that I, in fact, did not wear his shoes but as a resident would work to preserve some of the quality of life that current residents have a right to enjoy.  No one told him “NO!”  He was asked to scale the project back to better fit the surrounding neighborhoods and mitigate the negative impacts, such as traffic and parking, which have yet to be seriously addressed.  To no surprise, he continued to be “blinded by greed.”
Mr. Dineen, in closing, I assure you that there are many moving parts to this situation worthy of your attention.  As I am preparing for tonight’s vote that you might attend, I invite you to give me a phone call at 650-xxx-xxxx to discuss this matter further.  I would be more than pleased to offer you further enlightenment.  Thank you for your time, Cory David. 
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The SF Chronicle Article was shared on our Facebook page as below:

Jaime Gonzálezto Everything South City
23 hrs

In midst of biotech boom, ‘all eyes’ on huge South San Francisco housing Project

Photo of J.K. Dineen
J.K. Dineen Nov. 12, 2019 Updated: Nov. 12, 2019 1 p.m

Over the last year, San Bruno and Cupertino, both high-flying tech boom-towns, have become notorious for trying to kill major housing developments.

Now proponents of residential development on the Peninsula are hoping South San Francisco — the home of fast-growing biotech giants — doesn’t become the newest member of the NIMBY club.

On Wednesday, the South San Francisco City Council will vote on a proposal to build 800 housing units on city-owned land located along Mission Road — a 5.9-acre site about a 10-minute walk south of the city’s BART station.

The development would include two buildings with 642 market-rate apartments and a third structure with 158 affordable homes. The biggest project South San Francisco has seen in recent decades, it would also have a public playground, a day care center and a market hall with space for local artisans.

Like in San Bruno and Cupertino — home to Apple and YouTube — job creation in South San Francisco has far outpaced housing production in recent years. Since 2010, South San Francisco has added 8,000 jobs and 750 housing units.

“South City has one of the more abysmal jobs-to-housing imbalances in San Mateo County,” said San Mateo resident and housing advocate Jordan Grimes. “This is very much a drop in the budget compared to what they actually need to be doing. You’ve got massive, massive job growth.”

South San Francisco, which has a population of 67,000, is home to Genentech, which has 15,000 employees at its Oyster Point campus. The city’s biotech giants plan to add 9 million square feet of new office and lab space over the next 20 years. Tech companies are showing interest in expanding in the city, too. Stripe recently announced it was moving 1,000 employees there from San Francisco.

While biotech companies say they generally support building more housing in their hometown, they recently blocked plans to build 1,200 homes at Oyster Point, arguing that site was too close to their campuses.

That means the Misison Road project is now the largest in the city’s pipeline.

“We feel we are on the cusp of approving a project that will achieve many of the city’s planning goals for the area,” said Greenwood.

But the vote could be close and the debate contentious. The group South San Francisco Residents for Smart Growth says that it opposes building higher than three stories on the site, arguing that the proposal would exacerbate “traffic congestion” and contribute to “a loss of quality of life and stress on infrastructure.”

It echoes the arguments made in San Bruno and Cupertino.

In August, the San Bruno City Council rejected a 425-unit development at Mills Park, a project that followed a voter-approved plan for the area. In Cupertino, a group of residents has sued to block the redevelopment of the Vallco shopping center — 2,400 homes and 2 million square feet of office space — and city officials have not opposed the lawsuit.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development has threatened to sue both cities for turning down housing, although lawsuits have not been filed.

At an October hearing on the South San Francisco project, Ed Swain, who lives near the project, said “traffic is horrendous here, especially at 5 o’clock.” Another resident, Corey David, said “the very character of the city is being destroyed block by block and the destruction is spreading.”

But other South City residents said they welcomed the new housing. Roderick Bovee said the he would be able to walk his child to the day care center from his house and he looked forward to small businesses locating in the market hall.

“It will be exciting to build up a community on the west side of South San Francisco that is not so car dependent,” he said.

School board member Pat Murray, a lifelong resident, said the town desperately needs the housing. She said her three working adult children live at home because they can’t afford a place of their own. She has looked into moving to Oregon, where a house costs one-third the price.

“I feel like I live in an area that will eventually split up my family,” she said.

The developers behind the project —AGI Avant, Kasa Partners and Bridge Housing — are trying to address concerns. AGI Avant Partner Eric Tao said the project would include traffic improvements and estimates that 35 percent of residents would commute by public transit. He said the site sits 30 feet below where Kaiser is located on El Camino Real, which will make the buildings appear shorter.

“This is an old, established bedroom community and nobody likes change, and (many are) afraid of traffic and congestion,” said Tao. “But I think those fears are unfounded.”

If the city council rejects the project, the developer can use the state density bonus program to propose a a bigger development, said Evelyn Stivers, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.

That’s what has happened in San Bruno. After the city council rejected the 425-home development, the developer is considering building a 600-unit project that would lack the grocery store and scaled-back design neighbors had preferred.

“It is important to keep in mind that the development that is in front of you might be the best you are going to get,” said Stivers.

Stivers said the South San Francisco outcome is important, particularly because it includes so many affordable units. She said after the fights in Cupertino and San Bruno, pro-housing advocates are closely watching the Mission Road project.

“Now all eyes are on South San Francisco to see what they will do,” she said.

J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jdineen@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @sfjkdineen

4 comments for “Letter to Editor: My response to SF Chronicle’s November 12th misleading article by Dineen

  1. Your Neighbor
    November 13, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    The canary in the coal mine has been dispatched. The Cadence project in Lindenville has a vacancy of 30% of market rate apartments. they have turned to Airbnb rentals. Down the street on Airport Blvd. the future of more market rate housing is being built; meaning they are UNAFFORDABLE to the people whose kids are still living at home due to UNAFFORDBLE HOUSING. Only a handful are affordable, meaning they’re roughly$ 1,000 below market rate, making them still UNAFFORDABLE even while the City raised the local wages to $15 ph. Will this become Airbnb rentals too?
    KASA said, we listened to your concerns, except the one main concern: that the community’s and the city council agreed that night on 3-5 stories –so we thought! It was typically what the city council has gotten away with here in SSF.
    NO TRANSPARENCY, they LIE to the community bigly. They’re out of touch, been there too long. One city council member has been there since 1976……..YES it is true.
    Will the fate of the Cadence project at 400 Cypress be the fate of the rest of new Market Rate apartments and the future of SSF, as an Airbnb town? It certainly looks that way if the council votes against the community wishes..

  2. Dolores Piper
    November 14, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Very well stated by Mr. Corey David

  3. Dolores Piper
    November 14, 2019 at 12:46 am

    We don’t need market rate housing – we need a lot more than 158 affordable homes out of 800 units.

  4. Matt Butler
    November 15, 2019 at 7:21 am

    The only hope for SSF is a ballot initiative to change the zoning ordinance to allow housing East of 101 and limit height in the El Camino corridor to 40 feet. It is clear the City Council won’t/can’t fight, it is up to the citizens.

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