Letter to Editor: Designate and Renovate the MSB to Cultural Arts Center and Senior Center

South San Francisco, CA  November 28, 2022 by C MarcopulosA typewriter and a text beside it, “Letters to the Editor”

{Action requested, Attend Wednesday, November 30 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

at the Municipal Building concerning the 5-year General Plan}

 

I was invited to attend a focus group to discuss with the City of South San Francisco’s Cultural Arts staff a public art and cultural program in SSF which was in association with a consulting firm, Art Builds Community. It was to learn what local artists and the cultural community want to see happen in SSF. After introducing ourselves stating what our specialty was, we were asked what was our vision for the city?

 

After participating, it appears the idea is that in the future the developers will have to give back 1% (amount to be decided) to the Cultural Arts program in SSF.

 

Some mentioned they were sorry that the Orchard Supply Hardware didn’t become a community center instead of a Mercedes Dealership. Another stated she wanted the MSB to be for the community.

 

Frankly, I think this “fee” if it is passed by the City Council, which I have my doubts, will go into a fund that will be used for something else. You know, like the Community Civic Campus that we never approved or voted for – we voted for Measure W, it was earmarked for four things (increase PD/FD, services for seniors and the disabled, fix the streets/potholes, gang suppression) and the City Council at an Oyster Point retreat “just decided” (source: Marion Lee, Assistant City Manager) it was a better use of the funding to build a Community Civic Campus instead of retrofitting the MSB at a fraction of the cost.

 

Most of our city is built out with development on top of development. We have two libraries, Grand Avenue and the new Campus (Orange will be a daycare), and we have one Senior Center on Magnolia. There is another focus group on aging, paid for by our taxpayer dollars, as this art/cultural group was. We need another Senior Center for this part of the city for our aging community.

 

Although Councilman Coleman and the other council members with aspirations for a higher office outside of our city think seniors will ride their bikes with two bags of groceries or go to doctors’ appointments on their bikes – let alone the parent taking their child to school or after school activities will take public transportation that does not connect one side of the city to the other – these bizarre ideas for the future are an insult to our intelligence and the senior, aging population of our city, and the adjoining cities. Remember, seniors are on a fixed income so affording an Uber or Lyft ride for the necessities is out of the question.

 

I think we, as residents, should insist the MSB be designated as a cultural arts center and a senior center. The rooms could be rented to local artists here in SSF and on the Peninsula. The artists bungalows at Orange Park are going to be developed and our aging, robust seniors are not in need of Adult Daycare, but for a senior center combined with a cultural/arts center at the Municipal Building.

 

Remember, Council is as strong as we allow them to be. We have a great need for senior services and for children services. Our City captures fees from development projects. Now is the time. Be vocal and insist that the Municipal Services Building be a senior center and cultural arts center for this side of the city. The Rotary Club and the Historical Society could occupy this building as well as renting out studios to local artists and community groups.

 

It is a win-win if you participate as a resident and insist the Municipal Services Building serve our community and not become another density housing development. There is a meeting this Wednesday, November 30 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building concerning the 5-year General Plan. Let’s join together and take back our city.

 

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Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
1 month ago

South San Francisco (SSF) officials have total disregard for SSF residents.
Take the Lindenville Specific Plan for example. The wide range of increasingly exacerbated problems with SSF’s construction development planning operations goes full spectrum corrupt in the Lindenville Specific Plan resident “feedback” component with SSF deploying “influencer groups” to sway building and planning outcomes by diluting residents’ opinions disenfranchising resident input and underhandedly influencing building and development plan outcomes.

Under outgoing City Manager, this opens the door to questions about ethics, to credibility and quality of SSF leadership from the top down of elected and unelected officials, of internal decision making and decision makers’ adherence or lack thereof to regulatory requirements given the demonstrated disregard for and sabotage of SSF’s residents’ overall and inherent quality of life.

The fox is indeed guarding the henhouse and clowns are running city planning operations suppressing SSF residents’ concerns and voices about the rampant and chronically accelerated super high density and other developments in SSF encroaching on freedoms and liberties of its residents.
The demonstrated penchant of SSF officials to invite engage and involve influencer groups, who by their own testimony have been involved previously in “other” SSF planning meetings, is corrupt.

Moreover, these unreliable distrustful actions of SSF officials have materialized into a rigged process unethically orchestrated by SSF planning staff and calls into question retroactively approved projects and future development projects in South San Francisco.

As a decades long SSF resident who has attended recent meetings in SSF City Council chambers at the Municipal Services Building (MSB) and other locations for the Lindenville Specific Plan, having observed a sampling of public policy planning’s unlawful, unethical, corrupt, shenanigans, and having discussed with fellow neighbors also decades long SSF residents and meeting attendees, it is time for serious steps and action to be taken such as to indisputably reverse course. 

John Alberto Tuvo
2 months ago

Thanks Cyndi for your comments. We do need an place where people can meet, and do the more fun things in life such as the arts and political discussion. We can create the MSB into a modern day gathering place for people to discuss what is up not only in our community but in the world itself as what happens outside does influence what happens inside our city. The Art should be accessible to more people, and not just a few. Senior Center also sounds good.

Bret Salcony
Bret Salcony
2 months ago

LOL remember all that talk that this sales tax would not impact locals, but only those coming into our city to eat, etc.
Try ordering something online with our zip code vs another city – yeah, another BS sales pitch used by MF, same thing he did in LA. smh – shameful.

your neighbor
your neighbor
2 months ago

There was one significant difference from the local news headline: the Civic Campus WAS NOWHERE mentioned on the ballot language, a capital project requiring 66 2/3% pass not by simple majority as Measure W qualified.
Capital projects have a higher threshold pass of 66 2/3% and voters “overwhelming”(the CM word used on the website and in public) passed Meas. W by a little over 60%.
Legally “W” could only mention senior programs, etc. and by oblique reference the police station so it would qualify for simple majority. The other important feature on the ballot statement was it allowed the City to “incur debt”, it was the greenlight to where voters are now, in debt.
The importance of the passage percentage wouldn’t allow the City to issue the General Obligation (GO) lower interest rate bonds, but the higher Lease Revenue (LR) bonds.
Taxpayers are on the hook paying upwards of double what W estimated to earn based on the estimates for the 30 year obligation. It estimated a tax revenue of 7M or $210M. The LR bonds would at maturity double or more of debt.

Later the council voted itself the authority to incur more debt using the same tax to “mortgage” other city owned property, like the garage on Miller and Orange Park and Magnolia Center. This would allow the City to fund the Aquatic Park, which should go to voters to approve as they are capital projects.

your neighbor
your neighbor
2 months ago
Reply to  your neighbor

the recent agenda 11-30-22 passed by the council : Agenda Item 23: Report and resolution regarding the authorization of acceptance of $232,387.53 in fundraising via the South San Francisco Public Library Foundation, appropriating these new funds as well as funding in the amount of $9,361,310 previously accepted by City Council and amending the fiscal year 2022-23 budget in the amount of $9,593,697.53 via Budget Amendment 23.017 to support the capital improvement project for the new Library, Parks and Recreation Center. The City Council voted 5-0 to adopt the resolution.

CM Futrell speaks of an oversight committee, to defend his side of actions taken which is a running chuckle.He cannot claim transparency there.

He kept canceling the meetings so the public was unaware of expenses long enough to provide true oversight. The committee was chastised for asking questions on expenses, and had an attorney present, hostile environment?
The Finance Director who has since quit, would say: you’re not allowed to ask that question if a committee member posed a question.

The committee was supposed to have impartial members from the community but at least 2 members were on the ballot statement as supporters, hardly impartial.
The item above, a recent action by the city council speaks to the project appearing to bleed money.
The public is unaware of the different vehicles the city is using to finish the project.
7 years into the project. Has the project issued all the bonds allowed?

the CM has been resourceful however, and deployed staff to squeeze out more money from the Library board, after he formed a Library foundation with a memorandum of understanding to hand over funds raised for the new library, which is a secret as few from the community know what that beach whale of a building looks like on the inside.

However, another action on the same agenda, the city council reports to the community, that the Campus will have its own street name, changed from Antoinette Lane to Civic Campus Way.

Mike Futrell
2 months ago

Hello ESC Team. Thank you for starting this discussion about the Municipal Service Building (MSB). I anticipate a lot of public discussion in 2023 about the future of the MSB, as no decision has yet been made about the use of the MSB site when the building goes vacant. Allow me, however, to update a few facts about the decision by City Council to build a new Community Center and a few other items.

First, from the very beginning, building a new, advanced Civic Center housing a new Library and Parks & Recreation facility was a driving factor. I have attached a picture of the Daily Journal from March 25, 2015, with a headline reading “South City talks sales tax for new civic center – Proposal to build new police and fire facilities, along with library and recreation center.” The direction to build a Civic Center never changed from 2015 to the present, and in less than one year the new Civic Center will open, an amazing quality of life improvement for all the community to enjoy, featuring a larger, modern library, expanded Parks & Recreation facilities, a community theatre (doubling as the City Council chambers) plus a terrific new park in front of the building. The Civic Center project was put on the ballot in 2015 and approved by 60% of South City voters. And there is a citizens Oversight Board which meets regularly to ensure the City spends associated funds only in areas approved by the voters.

Second, an exhaustive study was conducted to determine if the MSB could be “fixed” and continued in use. It could not. The MSB, located at 33 Arroyo Drive, was built about 60 years ago and was a department store for many years before closing. Approximately 35 years ago the City bought the then-vacant department store and converted it into a police and fire station, 911 call center, plus a Parks & Recreation facility. The building is not seismically safe and making it safe was not feasible. Plus the building no longer served the needs for a larger, modern Police Department/911 Dispatch Center, and the Fire Department deserves better, frankly, than having to use the old department store automotive center as a fire station. All this was exhaustively discussed throughout 2015, with City Council concluding the MSB was not worth saving and a new facility was required, a decision South City voters agreed with by a 60% margin.

Third, the City Council has already imposed a Public Art Fee on new commercial development. All new commercial development must either install public art of a value equal to or greater than 1% of the project’s value, or pay .5% of the projects value into a designated city art fund which cannot be used for any other purpose. As a result, expect to see more public art and cultural programs in SSF, driven by public input (hence the focus group recently held to get public input).

Finally, I, too, was sad to see Orchard Supply close, part of a greater corporate downsizing by that company. The owner of the land (which was not Orchard Supply) then sold the vacant site to the Mercedes Dealership. The City is not part of private land sales and the site was already zoned commercial. I will say the new Mercedes Dealership did a good job of retrofitting the site into an attractive commercial center and it is a value add overall for the community.

The quality of life in South San Francisco is on the upswing, with the new Civic Campus nearing completion, a new baseball/soccer complex under construction, completion of a new Caltrain Station and Police Operations Center earlier this year, expanded parks and recreation and library programs, dedication of more open space, and construction of a new, larger Aquatic Center coming in Spring 2023, plus much more. All done through community input combined with the energy and passion of engaged City Councilmembers over the past nine years. It has been my honor of a lifetime to serve as South San Francisco’s City Manager for the last nine years and to play a small part of keeping South City a great place to live, work, learn and play.

Mike Futrell

Measure W newspaper article 2015.jpg
CYNTHIA MARCOPULOS
CYNTHIA MARCOPULOS
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Futrell

Actually, Mike, this is exactly what the ballot measure stated: Increase police/fire services, services for seniors and the disabled, fix potholes and streets, gang suppression.

Unfortunately for the residents of SSF, we were bamboozled into believing what we voted for printed in the voter’s ballot was what we were getting. The loophole none of us even thought would be put in the ballot information — and which gave the city the opening to pursue anything and everything with our increased sales tax, leaving us with an over-budgeted boondoggle — was that this collected sales tax was put into the “General Fund.”

Attached is the actual ballot measure we residents voted for at a “whopping!” almost 60% passage — and it did not include a new library, a new Park & Rec Dept. and a new council chambers.

Here’s the actual ballot language:

On November 3, 2015, South San Francisco residents approved a half-cent sales tax by an overwhelming majority. The adoption of Measure W ensures that the City of South San Francisco will be able to maintain and enhance locally controlled City services that the community cares about and has come to expect – including neighborhood police patrols, 911 response times, crime and gang suppression programs, street maintenance and pothole repair, and other essential services. The District tax went in to effect April 1, 2016.
s​ource: https://www.ssf.net/government/measure-w

The following question appeared on the ballot:[1]
To maintain South San Francisco services, including maintaining neighborhood police patrols/9-1-1 response, programs for seniors/disabled residents, crime/gang suppression programs, repairing potholes/streets, maintaining youth/teen educational/recreational programs, providing a police operations center that meets earthquake safety codes, and other city services; shall South San Francisco levy a 1/2 cent sales tax for 30 years, with authority to incur debt to accelerate projects, annual audits, citizens’ oversight, no funds for Sacramento and all funds for South San Francisco?[3]

https://ballotpedia.org/City_of_South_San_Francisco_Sales_Tax,_Measure_W_(November_2015)

Cory Alan David
Cory Alan David
2 months ago

Curious, Ms. Marcopulos, when it came to honoring the agreement with the community to limit the height of the PUC project to five stories, the late, but in my opinion, less than great, council member Matsumoto declared “it’s not in writing,” choosing not to honor it. Now you cite a ballot representation that IS in writing and our city government chose not to honor that written language as well. Would it be too much for me to suggest that when it comes to SSF city government, there is no “honor.”

M Watson
M Watson
2 months ago

Thank you Ms Marcopolos for sharing your information here, this is how I remember it to be but could not find it.
This appears to be further proof of the continued mis- truths, misinformation, and flat out lies that have been fed to voters here.

It also shows what was an independent news paper is now a cheer leader for politicians and big corporations and no longer a trusted independent voice.

Mr Futell continues his back patting in a passive approach bolster by the journals article which is not what was put before voters, as your information clearly shows.

There are some improvements the past few years with sewer drains and some streets but the best will come Jan 1st with a breath of fresh air, that will be the ‘upswing’ we really need.

Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
1 month ago

Based on these and other accounts, it appears there is a great deal more deception being conducted against South San Francisco citizens than voters imagine. There is absolute proof the deception is deep based on recent meetings, (live broadcast and others conducting citizen business) revealing hard facts. It is a serious conflict of interest to have policy makers voting on projects that benefit their benefactors. It is also inexcusable, unethical, and to be blunt corrupt. Citizens are being kept in the dark.

Mary Lou Froese
Mary Lou Froese
2 months ago

In Burlingame, there was the Peninsula Art Center which had to move. They set up a very small area in Tanforan. I don’t know if they are still there or not. Many of the studios I believe were shut down. Perhaps those artists might be the ones to move into the MSB?

CYNTHIA MARCOPULOS
CYNTHIA MARCOPULOS
2 months ago

A gentleman from the San Mateo County Fair attended this Arts/Cultural Forum I reference. He was interested in artists’ studios as he is renting Tanforan until it is developed. He said that they wanted $15,000 a month rent, but he negotiated for paying just the electricity monthly bill for the area he’s using.

M Watson
M Watson
2 months ago

Ms Marcopolus you seem to know a lot so maybe you are a long timer here and I am wondering if you might remember Art Rise, it was a mix of drama club and arts and craft studio. It was heavily used and it is a shame it did not continue after the death of the woman who was in charge, Maggie, I think was her name.
I like your ideas.

Cory Alan David
Cory Alan David
2 months ago

Mr. Futrell would you care to quantify that 60% voter margin you speak of? Is that representative of the entire electorate or just the few voters who have yet to have their spirits defeated by a city government that is deaf to the majority. Do you take a poor turnout as a mandate? And yes, that majority has been forced to trade their quality of life for a Civic Campus, libraries, an aquatic center, expanded parks and rec opportunities, open space, whatever. While I try not to be egocentric, and I am pleased when others can enjoy these benefits, the fact remains the benefit is disproportionate to a select few and yet everyone makes the sacrifice. It seems there is nothing in moderation in this city. Whether it be prioritizing the residents a distant second to the biotech/life science industries or telling a developer to scale back his project in consideration of surrounding neighborhoods and increased congestion. I’ve had the misfortune of witnessing the decline of our city government over the past forty years and my knowledge of its inner workings are not a comfort but a curse.

Bottom line, while you might take victory laps about what you see as accomplishments, forgotten, or perhaps ignored, existing longtime residents see them as the destruction of the history and soul of the OUR city, not what has become a city so readily handed over to industry and developers for unbridled exploitation. Somewhere in the formula, existing residents became afterthoughts.

I was so looking forward to tomorrow’s planning meeting as I am curious what will be bulldozed in our future. Unfortunately, as I am at the tail end of my bout with Covid and short of a miraculous negative test, I may not have the pleasure of gathering with my city officials and welcoming Ms. Arroyo as you depart. I sense there might be one or more opportunities for a face to face before your departure, but should that not be facilitated, I know your business with SSF is far from over.

Cory Alan David
Cory Alan David
2 months ago

I think re-purposing the existing MSB for arts and culture is a great idea Ms. Marcopulos. Sadly, as it is too late to have retro-fitted it for its current use, as you note, at great savings to SSF taxpayers, this would seem to be the next best idea. Unfortunately, as a handful of residents might know as it was only mentioned once publicly, our soon to be departed city manager had plans to create a 1000 unit community on the whole of Buri Buri Shopping Center. Mr. Coleman also generously saw to it that SSF taxpayers would pay for it. As Mr. Futrell’s desire to improve his own situation after making SSF virtually unrecognizable, his departure no longer necessitates pandering to developers and building trades who don’t live in SSF but only seek to exploit it. Maybe our future is brighter? I say this with skepticism as we are still governed by city officials who have little or no investment in the soul and history of SSF, but also only see it as a chunk of dirt for exploitation. Maybe it is time for the residents to take their city back? An arts and culture center at the existing MSB is a good start.