This is an exciting time for South San Francisco with the very first drafting of a Downtown Station Area Plan for a more vibrant, walkable, and transit-oriented neighborhood. The Station Area Plan includes the ¼ mile area surrounding the Caltrain station.
The city has taken on this project in an effort to revitalize their downtown and to improve the east-west connectivity by connecting the Caltrain station to new development east of 101 and to Grand Ave west of 101 by building a pedestrian/bike underpass.
The city is in the draft planning stage which included a series of community workshops held throughout 2012 to provide information on the plan as well as to get the feedback from local community members.
At the December 8, 2012 Workshop the planning staff presented two alternatives for the plan.
Alternate Plan A: Housing will be on the southeast side of 101 in higher building(s). The first two blocks north and south of Grand Ave will be Downtown Commercial Core with possible mixed-use.
Alternate Plan B: Increase height limit within 1/4 mile of the transit station (except for Grand Ave) to allow for higher buildings while containing housing in the area west of 101 with the southeast side of 101 zoned for office/R&D.
Following the consensus of past workshops, both alternative plans protect the Grand Ave area including preserving the historic feel and lowering the height limit. The General Plan imposes a maximum height limit of 50 feet. While the tallest building downtown is 4 stories, many of the buildings are only one to two stories. At this time new height limits have not been recommended.
The city also envisions changing the diagonal parking to parallel parking which would allow widening of the sidewalks from 10’ to 15’ wide and the inclusion of a bike lane. This improvement would encourage a more equal modal split between pedestrians, bikes and cars. Another concept within the plan is to incorporate green space and landscaping throughout the downtown. The only current landscaping is around the City Hall which is not designed for public use.
After careful review of the plan and its two alternatives the Sierra Club suggested the following:
- Housing east of 101 from Alternative Plan A as well as the higher density housing west of 101 around the train station from Alternative Plan B.
- Transfer of development rights from small parcels that might be used for pocket parks or open space plazas to other lots that might be used for greater height or density.
At the end of the Workshop a vote by the residents resulted in a split between those favoring Alternate A and those favoring Alternative B. In addition, some concerns were expressed by the residents such as the potential loss of affordable housing in the neighborhood as it undergoes changes. The residents were also concerned about Walmart possibly moving into the old Loews building along 101 next to the station. The residents would prefer that a big box store not open in order to preserve the small businesses in downtown.The planning staff has a lot to consider as they prepare for the next community meeting.
Stay tuned for the next Community meeting that will be scheduled this coming April 2013. The agenda for the meeting is still in the works while the planning staff undergoes several technical meetings to determine the next steps.