Improving downtown and transportation are key issues for those seeking the two-year seat on South San Francisco City Council.
The three seeking office — current Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto, Collin Post and Carlos Martin — spoke with the Daily Journal for endorsement interviews this week. The two-year seat is the completion of Kevin Mullin’s term necessitated when he was elected to the Assembly. Pradeep Gupta, who was appointed to the seat, is running for one of the three open four-year seats, one of which is currently held by Matsumoto. Employee pensions were also of importance to the candidates.
Loss of redevelopment agency funds prevented some of the economic improvements that could have come from the money, the candidates agreed.
“The city was hamstringed with the loss of redevelopment funds,” Martin said. “There’s more we can do with a downtown advocacy commission.”
The city had assembled properties under redevelopment to for a downtown-specific plan, Matsumoto said.
“We were piggybacking off of those funds,” Matsumoto said.
Further, she said that since sex offenders can’t be near parks, schools or playgrounds, they are coming downtown since there are none of those in the area.
Still, Post believes the city has not been aggressive enough in their business plans, but doesn’t support adding high-density housing to downtown.
“A lot of things we’re doing are backfiring,” Post said. “We’re not getting the retail we deserve. I’m for Walmart and Kmart for people with four to five kids. We should have built a casino.”
Coming out of the recession takes time, Matsumoto said.
“We weren’t just sitting on our hands, we were building a foundation,” she said.
Getting better lighting in downtown, along with having police drive around the area frequently would help improve Grand Avenue, Post said. He’d also like to see more events in downtown, such as automobile shows and food festivals. It’s important not to build high-density housing near downtown because schools would also be needed and sex offenders are in the city, Post said.
Making sure to continue drawing in biotech companies is important too, Martin said, since there is more competition from other cities to take in these companies. South San Francisco is still the biotech capital of the world, but the city still has to show the companies there’s a good quality of life in South San Francisco, Matsumoto said.
South San Francisco has about $80 million in unfunded pension liability funds, which is of concern to the candidates.
The city is fully cognizant of the situation, Matsumoto said.
“We now have a two-tier system for new employees,” she said. “We’re looking at something similar to a 401(k) and are working to mitigate it [the $80 million].”
The pensions have been killer for all cities, Post said.
“There’s not an easy solution,” Post said. “When contracts are up, renegotiations need to be done. We do need to do something with it.”
Martin agreed with Matsumoto in that he believes the city made the proper steps to dealing with worker pensions.
“If the city has made commitments, they need to honor them,” Martin said.
Improving transportation is important for improving the town as a whole, the candidates agreed. Bringing foot traffic to downtown will make Caltrain more motivated to have a new downtown stop, Martin said.
“It’s easier to build a child than to fix an adult,” Martin said.
The Oyster Point Ferry Terminal’s lack of ridership was of interest to the candidates, who emphasized the city does not operate the ferry service.
The city has done extensive outreach through the Chamber of Commerce and made every effort to use its resources to get the word out there, Matsumoto said.
No transportation sustains itself very well, Post said. He would like to add more SamTrans service to the area, but Matsumoto countered that service doesn’t go to that area since it’s not economically viable east of Highway 101.
“If we add nice restaurants it would bring people down there,” Post said. “Something other than just a parking lot when you get off the ferry.”
Oyster Point could be the next Fisherman’s Wharf, Post said.
There needs to be a data analysis to see if the ferry pricing is prohibitive, Martin said.
“We need to make sure there’s an awareness for the terminal and enough bike pathways,” he said. “There needs to be work to make sure there’s enough service to the city.”
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