Newly Approved Life Science Development Exacerbates Housing Imbalance in South San Francisco


Artist rendering of 100 E Grand Ave

October 28th, 2022 – South San Francisco, CA by ESC Correspondent, Allie Saults

The picture to the right is an artist’s rendering of another new development approved and planned for 100 E. Grand Ave. at Sylvester Road, which includes two research and development buildings, eight- and 10-stories each, to be built in a design inspired by the DNA strands of a double helix. The development calls for a whopping 541,284 square feet of office, research and development space.

In cohesion with the city’s plan, the design firm, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca intends to develop Sylvester Road into a “pedestrian corridor,” connecting to the Caltrain Station, and a connecting tunnel to Grand Avenue. There are additional plans for an 8 story parking structure, as well as parking spaces. We should note that the ratio of “1.44 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space” is actually a decrease from the zoning requirements that currently stand at 2 parking space per 1,000 square feet.

Dubbed to be a gateway to the sprawling biotech developments across highway 101 from our historic downtown, the design for landscaping this monstrosity includes, seating areas, gardens, plants, paths and a water feature to drown out the noise from the highway. Who is going to enjoy these green spaces? Employees on their lunch breaks?

While all of this sounds wonderful, the continued approval by the city for such grand developments doesn’t seem to mention where all these new employees are going to live?

We are witnessing the building of high density, high end housing units, along with new multiple million dollar mansions popping up across town, many of which are occupied by those who receive company assistance in the form of supplemental housing benefits. This, while current residents scurry to build a backyard home for family members who cannot afford the ‘affordable units’ that have been approved, nor are there any provisions in place to give priority to those who are already residents of South City.

In response to these actions, we have to point to this letter to the editor voicing similar concerns.

“Due to the high demand for housing caused by the excessive/ successful job creation done by South San Francisco, many locals are concerned there is no priority list for those already living, or working, in South San Francisco, for these new developments which impact them directly with congestion, noise pollution.”

Current residents continue to complain about the reduction of the quality of life that brought them to call South City home; that small town feeling which is being eaten up by high density, traffic, general congestion, along with noise and light pollution and other problems larger Cities are forced to deal with including crime. To see the disconnect between City Hall and the residents one has to look no further then the controversy from the push back by neighbors over the proposed high density development slated for the PUC location. Residents en mass protested the planned residential 12-story development that borders the established neighborhood of Sunshine Gardens, and were reassured, by then Mayor Normandy, the project would move forward with 3-5-stories, as she instructed to the developers during the public meeting (CLICK HERE for the video).  The following year, under the new administration, it appears the City has ignored the agreements previously made.

No matter where new employees would actually live, this development increases what our City is required to provide in housing per RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation). As of this date, our housing needs reflect a deficit of over 4,500 housing ‘units’. At this point it feels as though we are trying to bail out a sinking boat without fixing the hole, it is not sustainable and it is unreasonable to think we will ever resolve the imbalance of business and housing needs by continuing to approve commercial developments. When do we decide our commercial development is complete, or needs to slow down? And who makes that decision?

All this said, this new development would benefit our City with ‘impact fees’ to include $1M allocated for public safety impact, $18.9M citywide transportation, $9.4M for commercial linkage, and $75K for our libraries. In addition, $817K is to be directed towards childcare yet it is unknown if this would include all children in South City, or only those of employees working at this location.


What are your thoughts on this new development? What are your suggestions on finding a balance between new business and residential housing? Do you think we are maxed out on what our City can provide? How do you see the quality of life in South San Francisco, has the extensive commercial building helped or has it hurt what is important to you in your daily life?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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steve m
steve m
1 year ago

you want my thought? f-ing disaster. our elected leaders don’t care . all should be tossed out of office and replaced.
maybe it’s time for me to throw my hat in the ring ! problem is I have zero tolerance for moron’s . maybe not a good idea.

Mary Lou Froese
Mary Lou Froese
1 year ago

It seems to me that the residents of SSF have absolutely no say in the developments popping up all over the city. What next areas will be demolished only to provide more housing? Do we need more housing or is this just another way to enrich the City’s coffers? We have been in a drought year that sees not much rain in the future. Where are new water resources coming from? Will I, a resident in my home since 1965, have to cut down my water usage so that newcomers can have their supply? What about electricity which is another dwindling resource? With all this construction, I don’t see any improvements made to our city streets at all! Has the City even thought about congestion on the streets? What will happen when Tanforan goes away? Does anyone in the City Council even care about SSF’s future? With more people coming our response teams will need to be beefed up. Has this occurred to anyone? Yes, our city has been impacted, and not for what’s best for us living here.

Cory Alan David
Cory Alan David
1 year ago

This is what happens when a mix of elected “political hobbyists” and ambitious public servants forget who they are working for. Their sole motivation is their own self interest, not the quality of life of the residents they represent.
South San Francisco was once a city of people first, a city of industry second. No more. Now it is just a large plot of dirt to be exploited by the highest bidder. It is clear who is to blame for this.

Cory Alan David
Cory Alan David
1 year ago

Apparently the city officials, who compose our SSF city government, believe they have been given a mandate to sell and develop every square inch of vacant property in what is left of our city. The question that needs to be answered is, just who gave them that mandate?
I had discussions with two council members pointing out to them that the creation of a small number of housing units while approving a seemingly endless number of commercial projects, with thousands of related jobs, can not possibly be a formula to satisfy our growing RHNA numbers. Their response to me was to dance around the issue as they likely would not have an answer that would dispel my concerns. They know this housing to job ratio is unworkable so the backup plan will be to bury some of that vacant land with high density, high rise housing, likely without adequate parking. In fact, as developers lose interest in this housing because it doesn’t “pencil out,” one of our opportunistic, ambitious city council members decided to make a name for himself by volunteering SSF to be an example to all of California in the creation of city owned, acquired, constructed, maintained and managed low rent housing. He did this with unanimous support from his four colleagues even though a commissioned study indicated deficits ranging from tens of millions to over a billion dollars depending on how zealous they get with taxpayer money. And yes, this is who ultimately will bear responsibility for the debt. This is Ballot Measure AA.

Our city officials have taken it upon themselves to trade the quality of life of our residents for tax revenues and impact fees that have proven to benefit a select few. It is not their decision, it never was meant to be, it is the decision of the majority of the residents they were elected to represent. If it isn’t clear enough for them, there should be a moratorium on any development of any kind in SSF as the progress is unsustainable. The problem is, as this city government has approved every project put in front of them, there may be nothing left to stop, with one exception. We need to stop our city government “gone wild” and remind them that this is a city of people first, a city of industry second.

1 year ago

This square footage will be great for the residents of SSF when Measure DD passes. About time the corporations and the biotech that have invaded our beloved city are forced to give back.