March 22 was an unusually sunny Saturday in South San Francisco – perfect weather for a walk around the City’s Downtown Plan Area. That morning a group of over 35 individuals put on their comfy shoes and threw on some shades to tour key sites around the City’s Caltrain Station.
The South San Francisco Coalition for Community Benefits organized the event in partnership with the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter as this year’s second Healthy Communities Experience event. The well-attended tour garnered attendance from all five City Council members, a number of City staff, commissioners, and residents.
The event was held in part to reinvigorate community participation in the process, and to highlight some of the challenges and opportunities for redeveloping the downtown as City staff puts the finishing touches on its Draft Downtown Station Area Plan. Attendees heard from a diverse set of speakers on various aspects of the Plan Area:
- Lawrence Henriquez, the City’s Associate Civil Engineer
- Dan Sherman, a member of the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and Genentech’s Bike Club
- Former California State Assemblymen and City Councilmember Gene Mullin
- Cathleen Baker, a Senior Community Health Planner from San Mateo County Health System
- Gita Dev from the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter
- Doren Martin, from The Latino Commission, a direct service nonprofit located in the heart of downtown
Read here to learn more about the specific details discussed on the walking tour.
We’re hoping that the walking tour has spurred conversation of our key asks to protect overburdened and overcrowded renter households, bring quality jobs and include labor standards. With very few affordable units in the downtown, many of the majority renter and overburdened households are at risk of getting priced out if property values increase due to anticipated development pressures.
The City’s vision for the Plan is to revitalize Grand Avenue, its iconic but dwindling downtown main street. However this vision is also hinged upon relocating the Caltrain Station from obscurity, up from underneath the Grand Avenue overpass and Highway 101 onramp.
The plan holds much promise to leverage a wealth of opportunity sites that support connections to and use of great public transit assets (BART, Caltrain, and ferry service) and create a neighborhood that can serve the needs of its current population, while creating an attractive downtown where eastside employees would want to live, shop and dine. The City’s proximity to San Francisco, its place as a growing major regional job center east of the 101, and its considerable wealth of underused parcels make this planning process one of our region’s greatest opportunities to facilitate a better jobs-housing balance and yield dramatic reductions in vehicle miles traveled.
Concurrently, the City is moving forward on an Economic Development Strategy that includes plans to divest affordable housing cash and property assets identified in the Long Range Property Management Plan in the downtown area. Housing development proposals on various City-owned parcels have been a huge topic of discussion at several special City Council meetings over the past few months.
Given what we’ve seen at these meetings, we expect the City to move forward in response to this interest, and even fast track negotiations to get revitalization happening sooner.
We’re glad the event has drawn attention from such key stakeholders and decision-makers while spurring discussion on some very important policy issues. Our hope is that the walking tour has provided a good reminder of the key challenges the City should address in the final plan.
Six months after the initially projected release date, the Coalition for Community Benefits is still waiting eagerly for the Draft Plan. The City is currently aiming for a draft release some time in the next few weeks. We hear that they’ve made good effort to incorporate many of our coalition’s detailed recommendations, and will continue to advocate for our platform asks.
If you are interested in participating in coalition efforts, contact Clarrissa Cabansagan.