South San Francisco’s population could grow by 44,000 and the local employment base could double in the next 20 years, according to the guiding principles of a master planning update recently approved by city officials.
Planning officers unanimously voted during a meeting on Thursday, October 22nd, to recommend that South San Francisco City Council adopt revised development standards for downtown, the El Camino Real corridor, the Lindenville neighborhood and areas east of Highway 101.
Politics could cause the city to expand from 64,000 to 108,000 residents. This emerges from a presentation in which the total number of jobs in the city also increased from 57,000 to 104,000 by 2040. The vote sets an important decision by the council members to approve the preferred development alternatives for the update of the general plan, the requirements for an upcoming environmental review and the expected adoption of a master development policy in the next year.
Planning Commissioner Robert Bernardo praised the vision promoted by the plan, which he believed positioned South San Francisco for healthy growth for years to come.
“I appreciate the balancing act these preferred land use alternatives are trying to do,” he said. “There will always be competing interests when it comes to zoning design.”
The main forces driving the diverse interests are opportunities for residential and business growth, as recognized by officials, who hope the new general plan will address the city’s growing imbalance between available jobs and housing.
To that end, the city currently has 64,000 residents living in 22,000 housing units, while South San Francisco has 57,000 jobs, which equates to roughly 2.6 jobs for each housing unit. The current general plan would allow the city’s population to grow to 85,000 residents in 26,000 units with 96,000 jobs, increasing the imbalance to 3.7 jobs per unit.
The revised plan allows the population to grow to 108,000 residents and 40,000 units with 104,000 jobs, while maintaining the balance between 2.6 jobs and housing.
“This plan reflects the exciting development of our city,” said Bernardo, who broadened his perspective by asking planners to allow flexibility to accommodate additional, unexpected changes in the future.
Commissioner Norm Faria agreed to support the growth vision while calling for the plan to remain malleable.
“You need to have that flexibility because we know how much has changed in South City in the last 20 years,” he said. “What do we expect for the next 20 years?”
According to Faria, officials must also ensure that adequate amenities are in place to support the expected development.
“We need to really look into the infrastructure that is needed to support this growth,” he said. “And I think that’s something we should really get into.”
To that end, Faria said the Bayshore area east of Highway 101 is a critical area for transportation and other capital projects to focus on.
The updated master plan targets much of the city’s significant development in the area east of Highway 101 to support expected growth in the biotech sector and also to enable residential development near the Caltrain line.
Housing construction in the area, usually reserved for industrial and life science companies, marks a new direction for South San Francisco. However, the officials worked to ensure that residential construction does not hinder the expansion of the life science industry or displace existing industrial companies.
In Lindenville, officials see an opportunity to move from industrial companies in the southeastern part of the city to the burgeoning residential core of the inner city. Looking ahead, officials hope to step up housing development and introduce more diverse businesses while leaving room for current residents.
For the city center and the El Camino Real corridor, the plan offers space for more dense residential development – an ongoing trend towards the construction of mixed-use projects around public transport hubs such as the Caltrain and BART stations.
Commission chair Alan Wong noted that additional outreach will be included as the plan goes through the public planning process and expressed appreciation for the direction the city is headed as part of the new vision.
“I think this is a good first step,” he said.