South San Francisco officials are considering a redesign of the city’s downtown Civic Center, including a new City Hall annex building to replace the existing aging structure.
The City Council discussed the proposal this week, indicating support for the undertaking that would address safety issues and lack of space in current facilities. The annex building at 315 Maple Ave. comprises roughly 8,800 square feet and was built in 1949, originally as a police station.
“We are suffering from some major life-safety and function issues within the building,” said Director of Capital Projects Jacob Gilchrist. “The idea here with the project would basically be to begin again.”
Gilchrist said a new building could be two or three stories and three times the size of the existing structure. The two other buildings on the block, the city’s historic City Hall and Library, would be retained. A redesign could also include a revamp of the park area on Maple Avenue.
Among key concerns with existing facilities are Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues with connections between the three buildings and parking lot. The block is on a hill and there are several staircases. Gilchrist also said the annex building has “significant water infiltration problems,” and “all of the mechanical systems are in poor condition.”
He said because the building was designed as a bunker with 15-inch-thick concrete walls, modernizing or making repairs was nearly impossible.
“As you start to pierce the structure the walls just start to crumble,” he said, adding that a building inspector had told him “the best thing to do with it is just blow it up and start over.”
A rough timeline proposal indicated a project completion date of 2027, with an estimated cost of $30 million to $40 million. Gilchrist said the next big steps will be hiring design staff and collecting historical documents. A finalized proposal will go before the council for approval.
As a possible addition, the council is also considering adding a child care center to the site, to be incorporated into the new building to serve 80-120 children.
City Manager Mike Futrell said the city would seek rental office space nearby for employees to use during construction. The building is home to the city’s building, planning and engineering departments.
“As we move along in this process we need to give our staff better facilities to do what they need to do,” said Mayor Mark Nagales, who said the city needs to “do better,” and it was unacceptable that some employees were using closets as office space due to lack of room.
“This is a building that has obviously outlived its lifespan,” said Vice Mayor Buenaflor Nicolas. “This area is also not ADA compliant, and that is something we need to think about because there’s a lot of elderly or disabled people who need to access the area.”
The project is separate from the city’s community civic campus, a development currently under construction to replace the city’s municipal services building at 33 Arroyo Drive. The new building, across the street on El Camino Real between Chestnut Avenue and Arroyo Drive, will house City Council chambers and the Library and Parks and Recreation departments. A new police station was completed nearby in 2020 and a new fire station is also planned for the area.