A long-awaited Safeway, biotech campus and housing development in south San Francisco is poised to move forward after the city council voted this week to overrule a decision by the airport board that found the site too noisy for housing was.
The project, which will include 184 apartments, the grocery and other retail businesses, and three six-story life science buildings, is the latest proposal for a long-vacant 14-acre lot at 180 El Camino Real.
The site was previously occupied by a Safeway, which closed in 2014 ahead of expected redevelopment. The city had approved a project that would include 284 new homes and 220,000 square feet of retail that the previous owner was unable to move forward.
The latest plans came in 2021 from SteelWave, a Foster City developer who has since bought the site. The proposed new Safeway would be 64,000 square feet — a flagship facility open 24 hours a day, complete with a pharmacy, a grocer representative told planning commissioners last year.
SteelWave has provided the latest plans for the development of 180 El Camino Real in South San Francisco
An additional 10,000 square feet for other businesses would also be included, and the apartments would be in a seven-story building on the northeast corner of the property, with parking in a separate garage.
However, the proposal hit a potential snag earlier this month when the Airport Land Use Committee, along with the City/County Association of Governments for the county, determined that the site receives too much noise from aircraft to be suitable for housing.
The City Council this week unanimously voted to overrule the decision, noting other advantages the location offers, including proximity to the San Bruno BART station, which is less than half a mile away, and the grocery store Place that improves walkability.
“We’re really developing a new neighborhood that will have great connectivity with public transport,” said Councilor Mark Addiego.
He also pointed to a 338-unit housing development planned in 2020 for 410 Noor Ave. approved, a site adjacent to the Safeway project closer to the airport. The city council at the time also overruled the airport committee’s decision.
“It’s not my favorite committee, let’s put it that way,” Mayor Mark Nagales said. “In terms of the projects we keep putting them before it, that’s a pretty strict definition and if it doesn’t meet their definition, that’s an automatic no.”
In 2021, a Foster City developer who has since bought the site. The city council unanimously voted this week to overrule a decision by the airport’s land use committee, which found the site receives too much noise from aircraft to be suitable for housing and pointed to other benefits the site offers .
If the project faced Huntington Avenue, it would be cleared according to the committee’s criteria, said Billy Gross, the city’s chief planner. He said the site is reportedly exposed to 70 decibels and the developer’s intention is to reduce indoor noise from residential buildings to 45 decibels or less.
The Shops at Tanforan is also about a half mile away, closer to San Francisco International Airport. There are plans to convert it into a biotech space and 1,000 housing units or more. Existing neighborhoods of single-family homes are even closer.
Prosecutor Sky Woodruff said repealing the council would not open the city to potential litigation.
The Council’s action informs both the Airports Commission and the Caltrans Division of Aeronautics of its intention. A formal vote on the matter will take place sometime in September, Gross said. The Planning Commission is also due to review the project next month.
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