Downtown, the city’s finances and the ferry system are top concerns for those seeking the seat for a four-year term on the South San Francisco City Council.
There are eight seeking three open seats. Incumbent Mark Addiego is running for re-election. Appointed incumbent Pradeep Gupta is opting out of running for his two-year seat created by Kevin Mullin’s election to the Assembly and is now seeking one of three four-year seats, along with William (Bill) Lock, Rick Ochsenhirt, John Harry Prouty, Kate MacKay, Liza Normandy and Maurice Goodman. Both Normandy and Goodman serve on the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees.
Interviews were held last week to help the Daily Journal determine endorsements. To allow each candidate a forum to express their opinions on the issues discussed, candidates were given the same questions and asked to answer each in around 50 words. Answers are arranged alphabetically by the candidate’s last name.
What measures should the city take to better downtown?
Mark Addiego: The city must encourage new residential options downtown. The amenities and services available, within easy walking distance, are attractive features for those wishing to free themselves from the automobile. Future improvements to Caltrain will provide a mass transit link to San Francisco and the South Bay.
Maurice Goodman: The city should hold absentee property owners responsible for the proper maintenance and upkeep of their property. In addition, the city should work to bring in a small to midsized retail chain to anchor and drive foot traffic in addition to holding “Off the Grid” events.
Pradeep Gupta: Involve all residents of South San Francisco in the renovation of downtown. Entice fresh new small but upscale businesses. Bring people to downtown by civic functions and cultural festivals. Improve ambiance — walking spaces, signage, attractive shop fronts and friendly parking. Improve security, better lighting. Create new transportation linkages — tunnel to Caltrain station.
Bill Lock: Four Part Program: Attract new businesses to fill empty storefronts and buildings. Attract developers and investors to develop empty lots and buildings. City Council should co-lead the effort to attract new businesses, developers and investors. Support our local businesses — patronize and shop local program.
Rick Ochsenhirt: Attracting citizens to come downtown to shop and eat, one must provide an attractive and safe environment. We need the downtown police bike patrol to work all year long. I want to make the downtown sidewalks wider with parallel parking and will make Grand Avenue a friendlier area.
John Harry Prouty: Bringing increased retail foot traffic downtown is critical, make it easier to get from the east side of the freeway. Better public transit connections, schedules and services. Lot mergers allowing for the larger retail spaces. Working with our business and property owners to revitalize blighted buildings.
Kate MacKay: First: Move the soup kitchen off Grand Avenue, across the freeway, into the industrial park, where businesses are not reliant upon walk-up business to remain viable. Second: Change the zoning in the area to limit hotels to limited-stay, tourist-oriented facilities. Third: Court upscale shops/boutiques to open in the area.
Liza Normandy: The city must continue to provide incentives for businesses to locate downtown by offering clear and streamlined permitting processes, identify sites for mixed residential and commercial development and redevelopment and continue working with the county to provide assistance to people in need who live and receive services downtown.
What can the city do to encourage use of the ferry terminal?
Mark Addiego: The ferry service was designed to move East Bay residents to their jobs in the South San Francisco area. Eliminating these peak time commute trips from the Bay Bridge and Highway 101 has a positive impact regionally. Our major employers must buy into the ferry service as an alternate to the car. Their employees need to receive incentives to embrace and utilize this transit option.
Maurice Goodman: City leadership dropped the ball in its ferry terminal planning. After all of the work put in getting the terminal here it seems like a community disservice to have not created a contingency. Work with local businesses and create an incentive program beneficial to workers and businesses. Possibly even consider a hotel development near the terminal.
Pradeep Gupta: Improve transport links to and from the ferry terminal to other parts of South San Francisco. Create interests/picnic spots/sports near the terminal. Broaden the objectives to include recreation travel. Review and adjust schedule.
Bill Lock: Modify the San Francisco service: Add Saturday and Sunday (to enable South San Francisco residents to enjoy a ferry service). Introduce family pricing (enable the ferry to compete against SamTrans, BART and Caltrain). Develop a holiday service plan (Thanksgiving/Black Friday, Christmas and New Year’s).
Rick Ochsenhirt: Offering businesses incentives to have their employees use the system. Shuttles aimed at proper connective areas with good timing. A ferry schedule conducive to companies’ work day. Outreach not only to companies but to all our citizens. Encouragement to get out of their cars and ride the waves of the Bay.
John Harry Prouty: We need to make connections with our ferry, BART, SamTrans and Caltrain more direct, simpler and easier. A comprehensive study with MTC to maximize our investment in the new ferry service. Partnering with business, transit agencies and the public to devise an plan that works and that we can afford.
Kate MacKay: Marketing and expanded service: Focus on recreation will bring commuters. Add a Saturday service every four hours from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., once a month, to promote shopping, dining and entertainment until it catches on. Promote it on cable, at BART stations and on billboards.
Liza Normandy: City leaders, ferry transit agency staff, local businesses and other stakeholders are working in collaboration to promote the service. Generate media and reach out to businesses as potential partners. The effort has yielded some success but will require a focused, long-term effort to ensure the viability of the service.
Do you think the city has taken the right approach to development throughout the city?
Mark Addiego: Our focus has been on the continuing expansion of the biotech life science sector. These new R and D developments have strong positive impacts on the city’s revenue picture. Job growth has a great economic impact on the region and here. Our residential efforts on the El Camino corridor have been met with mixed reviews. We need to be sensitive to the impacts on existing neighborhoods.
Maurice Goodman: Yes, however, with new tenants like K-1 speed in the east of Grand area and the closure of Malibu in Redwood City, that area can be a site for a family entertainment and recreation destination with a movie theater, miniature golf, indoor soccer and other recreational activities that our region travels to Fremont and further to enjoy.
Pradeep Gupta: Mostly yes. Some areas like El Camino Redevelopment Area and Downtown Redevelopment Area have been delayed due to RDA demise. We want to expand housing for our growing work force, commercial office spaces for business growth and open spaces to keep up our quality of life.
Bill Lock: The city has had notable development success stories — biotechnology and housing. At the same time, there are opportunities to improve and strengthen our city. We need to focus on small businesses in downtown, high-density housing along El Camino and 101 corridors and mixed use commercial development in select areas.
Rick Ochsenhirt: The city bought property in our redevelopment areas and then went out and got developers to do the projects on the land. Now this is gone. The rezoning of the city we did two years ago will allow us to gauge the land use we need in the city. The right approach will be moving our planning goals to fit the process that will best suit today’s economy.
John Harry Prouty: The city is doing a good job managing development, encouraging sustainable growth. The city needs a plan for job growth and more housing near transportation corridors to create alternatives to automobiles to go to work, home, school or play. Planning will evolve with input from all stakeholders in South San Francisco.
Kate MacKay: No. The industrial park is the only area in which the city has created an improving environment. Places, such as Westborough, have had newer residential projects that don’t match the existing neighborhoods nor do they complement them. There are distinct patches of one style here and another there.
Liza Normandy: The city has undertaken a thoughtful approach to development to meet many needs including affordable and attainable housing near transit, commercial development to promote local jobs and to benefit the local tax base. Community benefits such as a fire station and our linear park are results of such thoughtful development.
What is one ordinance or fee you would like to see repealed?
Mark Addiego: The red light camera program should be repealed; the fine is excessive. While the city does not set the amount of the fine, we did facilitate the program by signing a contract and agreeing to the placement of cameras. Red light cameras were presented to us as a way to increase safety at key intersections, but that hasn’t been validated.
Maurice Goodman: The red light cameras ... from the millions of dollars lost due to poor oversight, not ratifying the contract to the number of tickets that are overturned daily and the lopsided amount of elderly and poor that are stuck pay the fines while those with the means to fight the ticket are not.
Pradeep Gupta: Ordinances have been put in place after very thorough review, and are repealed only under very special circumstances. An ordinance requiring sewer lateral inspections at point of sale or transfer of the property was recently repealed. The ordinance was the result of a mandate within the Federal Consent Decree entered into by the city. The decree has now been removed so we repealed the requirement.
Bill Lock: For existing residential building, I would repeal/modify building permit fees. I would like to encourage owners to invest in their properties. Residential home investment would create job opportunities for small businesses and individuals. It would increase the property tax revenues on a sustainable basis.
Rick Ochsenhirt: Many leaders will use these as an easy solution to an issue but I want to take a longer and slower process before deciding on them. One ordinance with a fee that recently was removed is the sewer lateral ordinance as a point of sales policy. The burden on the homeowner was enormous and made the home selling and buying process tedious and unfair.
John Harry Prouty: The city has already repealed an ordinance that was troublesome: the sewer lateral inspection and fee prior to selling your personal residence.
Kate MacKay: The fireworks ban isn’t working. All it does is reduce the fun of law-abiding citizens. I would like to bring back “safe and sane” fireworks. The traditionally illegal ones are all over the place on Independence Day, so why not legalize the usually legal ones?
Liza Normandy: Last year, the City Council adopted a development fee for new construction. While there is some malleability to the levy I remain concerned that the fee may prove to be a barrier to new development particularly during economic downturns. I would like some additional flexibility built.
Do you think the city has made fiscally responsible decisions?
Mark Addiego: South San Francisco has been cautious with its finances currently and in the past. City councils have agreed for many years to maintain healthy cash reserves. These reserves enabled us to weather the recent financial meltdown. Unlike others, South San Francisco did not need layoffs or furloughs. Savings were secured through attrition and today we can begin replacing needed personnel and services.
Maurice Goodman: Yes, despite the issues raised in my previous responses I believe with the administrative leadership our city has, we are poised to thrive and capitalize on our city’s workforce, proximity to San Francisco and our great school system.
Pradeep Gupta: Yes, our City Council has had the foresight to keep reasonable reserves to maintain ﬁscal stability during economic downturns. The recent demise of RDA tested that resilience of our city. But we need to be vigilant, because there are signiﬁcant ﬁnancial future obligations to fund pensions and other post retirements beneﬁts.
Bill Lock: Yes, the city maintains a solid financial base in light of the recession and a structural deficit (unfunded retiree health obligations). With signs of an economic recovery, we need to strengthen the city’s financial base by reducing underutilized real estate — empty storefronts, buildings and lots.
Rick Ochsenhirt: The city has done the best it could during difficult years. However, the city has a great built-in general fund stream with the biotech, hotel and big box retail base. I want to continue providing services for safety and high standard of living. Also, providing services for our seniors and having open spaces and activities for our youth.
John Harry Prouty: The city has done an excellent job managing our finances in these difficult economic times. If elected, I will pledge to work with our community partners to keep city spending within our means and building reserves for the next economic downturn.
Kate MacKay: Absolutely not and I cannot cover this in less than 50 words. Our massive reserve is currently in short-term treasuries at 0.5 percent interest, compounded twice annually. We are losing ~1.5 percent in wealth, per year, to inflation. We have no CFA on staff and, with almost $100 million invested, we should.
Liza Normandy: The city has been well managed and the evidence of that is the lack of employee layoffs and maintenance of services despite a recession. The needs of our community and the challenges facing municipalities are ever changing and the city is well positioned to meet those challenges.
Education: Public administration courses, University of San Francisco
Experience: Councilman 1980-1989 and 2005-present; mayor 1983, 1984, 1987 and 2009
Residence: 48 years in South San Francisco
Education: B.S. criminal justice, California State University, East Bay
Experience: South San Francisco Unified School District, trustee; American Red Cross, volunteer; former business owner and teacher
Family: Family of seven
Residence: South San Francisco
Education: B.S. in electrical engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, India B.S.; M.S. in electrical engineering, Purdue University; Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Purdue University
Experience: South San Francisco councilman; member of South San Francisco Housing Subcommittee
Family: Married, two children
Residence: South San Francisco, 15 years; 43 years in California
Education: B.S. in business, University of California, Berkeley; M.S. Tax, Golden Gate University
Experience: Wells Fargo — strategy, finance, operations and real estate; citizen advisor, SamTrans and San Mateo County Office of Education
Family: Married, three children
Residence: 22 plus years in South San Francisco
Education: B.A. from San Francisco State University
Experience: Chair, South San Francisco Planning Commission; board member, South San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
Residence: 28 years in South San Francisco
John Harry Prouty
Education: A.A. degree, College of San Mateo Aeronautical Operations; B.S in business management, San Jose State University
Experience: Broker associate with Prudential California Realty
Family: Married, one child
Residence: South San Francisco for most of life except for education and time in Air Force Reserves
Education: Graduating in May 2014 with a B.S. in business management; A.A. in social studies from CSM
Experience: Current Public Housing Authority commissioner
Family: Husband, four children, two stepchildren
Residence: South San Francisco, Peninsula resident for more than 40 years
Education: Attending Skyline College to pursue a degree in political science
Experience: Trustee, South San Francisco Unified School District since 2006; director of sales, Green Hills Country Club
Family: Married, two children
Residence: 21 years in South San Francisco