Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal
The South San Francisco Planning Commission approved a proposal to open a Planned Parenthood despite protests from many who attended the meeting last night.
Green and pink signs showed the split nature of the opinions of those at the South San Francisco Planning Commission last night when a proposal to open a Planned Parenthood in downtown was approved.
After more than two hours of comments, a majority of the 67 speakers opposed the plan but not necessarily for the same reasons. Many cited religious reasons while others pointed to disapproving of the organization’s offering of abortions. Others stood up to point out the discussion was not one of morality but rather of city regulations and staff said the proposal met city requirements.
However, the opinions from the audience of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte weren’t the issue. Instead the application to allow Planned Parenthood Mar Monte to open at 435 Grand Ave. — an application which staff is recommending be approved — was about land use. Since it met land use requirements, the proposed three-story clinic was approved in a 6-1 split vote with Commission Vice Chair Carlos Martin dissenting. There is a 15-day appeal period.
“It’s not a moral issue. It’s not a belief issue. It’s a land use issue,” said Commission Chair Rick Ochsenhirt adding that means concerns about protests, traffic or who the applicant is are not pertinent.
Martin, who had many questions about possible consumer fraud to the applicant, described a personal vision for revitalizing Grand Avenue before turning down the application. He added that the clinic failed to meet standards by not submitting proof of the original use of the building, a caveat of the code.
Martin’s view was the minority for the commission and staff disagreed.
Moving forward, Liz Figueroa, vice president of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte for public affairs, said it welcomes the opportunity to offer health care services in South San Francisco. During a 13-minute presentation, the team presenting the plan said it would work with law enforcement and partner with the community.
Figueroa’s plan wasn’t welcomed by all.
Abortion was a main point of contention for those in attendance. As proposed, the facility is considering offering medication abortion but not surgical, in-clinic procedures.
Ross Foti, for example, is a 20-year pro-lifer who is well-known for protesting abortions in San Mateo. He said approval of Planned Parenthood would bring division and tension to downtown South San Francisco. Foti also promised it would “bring hatred to the area through the killing of innocent babies.” If opened, Foti promised to bring protests that include photos and video of abortions.
“Do you want this in your city? The presence of evil?” Foti asked.
On the other hand, resident John Ruiz didn’t dispute that there are underserved people who could use health services. However, he noted the location is near schools and downtown. Ruiz worried the graphic protests in San Mateo — which Foti is known for — would become a staple in downtown South San Francisco. He requested it simply be located elsewhere within the city. Ruiz suggested the other side of Grand Avenue or in the Oyster Point neighborhood where it wouldn’t take up downtown parking or be exposed to as many children.
Lifelong South City resident Janet Ingersoll said education and health services are needed for this community. Ingersoll said she believed Planned Parenthood could offer people the skills needed to care for themselves. She described the services proposed to be offered as critical to the community, particularly those not lucky enough to have health care.
Opening a clinic downtown is an allowable use for the area. If approved, the clinic would be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Interior improvements are proposed but the building will not be expanded, according to the staff report.
Patients would enter the site from a secured foyer area on Grand Avenue. The building would have a security system in place and the organization hopes to work with law enforcement early to build a relationship in case difficult situations arise, Lynn Salazar, director of facilities for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, wrote in an April 22 letter to the Planning Department.
Services that are planned to be offered on the site include: primary annual exams, contraception and family planning services, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection screening and treatment, HIV screening, male services, adolescent services, mid-life services, pregnancy testing and options counseling and education services. There is consideration to provide pediatric care, prenatal care, medication abortion and colonoscopy, Salazar wrote.
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