Development plans for Centennial Village, which would transform South San Francisco’s 1965-era shopping center at El Camino Real and South Spruce Avenue into a new mixed-use shopping, housing and office development was rejected by the City Council Wednesday night.
The South San Francisco City Council voted unanimously against the initial study and mitigated negative declaration, along with the planning project citing lack of prevailing wages for its construction and lack of guaranteed housing, which the council had recommended be added to the plan at its Sept. 25 meeting. The City Council will vote in the future on the status of a total buildout of the project, but since the developers has gotten past the hurdles of the Environmental Impact Report, the project could move forward as a remodel even without the council’s future approval.
“I have not seen any change in the proposal even though we have discussed changes we’d like to see,” said Councilman Pradeep Gupta. “I find this to be a very negative starting point. I don’t see any progress on the discussions we had on hiring the local workforce.”
The Centennial Village mixed-use project would be a transit-oriented development consisting of a 220,000-square-foot commercial area, with 42,400 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, 35,300 square feet of office space on the second floor and 284 residential units on the upper floors, all located at the corner of Spruce Road and El Camino Real in South San Francisco on a 14.5-acre site. The ground floor tenant spaces would include a 58,000-square-foot Safeway, 30,000 square feet of commercial retail space, a 36,000-square-foot health club and 21,000 square feet of smaller commercial tenant spaces. The plan states that housing will only be built when there’s an opportune market.
Some residents came to speak out against the project. One citizen called the plan “a colossal mistake,” citing potential contaminants from the buildings, overpriced housing and the destruction of already nice properties.
Additionally, William Nack, executive officer with the San Mateo County Building Trades Council, was concerned the plan doesn’t require workers make prevailing wages, and he opposes the plan.
The developer, William T. Mitchell of WT Mitchell Group Inc., said the plan is the culmination of six years of effort and that when Safeway opens, there will be a good deal of union workers being employed in the area.
“We’ve set aside money for union workers,” Mitchell said. “It is smart development. We hope it will become a catalyst to spark the redevelopment of El Camino Real.”
Things got heated when Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto questioned if the developers would pay prevailing wages.
“We’re willing to work with unions and ensure a greater number of union jobs,” Mitchell said, but didn’t guarantee that there would be prevailing wages.
Councilman Richard Garbarino said he sees promise in the development, but the current plan is not satisfactory. There is no commitment to senior housing or a recreational space, he said.
“We don’t need housing someday, we need it today,” Garbarino said at the meeting. “I hear promises and I don’t really see commitment to hire local labor. You can shrug your shoulders Mr. Mitchell, but I just don’t see it.”
The city wanted to have the land developed, but not under these conditions, said Mayor Pedro Gonzalez.
Councilman Mark Addiego said what the council looked at two meetings ago was the dream for this corner.
“I’m supremely disappointed with what might end up there,” he said. “Really though, I think the land owner loses. A renovation, and that’s what we get for another 20-30 years, is not a good use of that land.”
In other city business, the council voted to approve an amendment for a contract between the city and Meyers Nave to make City Attorney Steve Mattas interim city manager and successor agency executive director services. Part of the amendment includes having Jason Rosenberg provide interim city attorney services, while Robin Donoghue would provide interim successor agency general counsel services. These changes will take effect Nov. 2. Assistant City Manager Marty Van Duyn is also leaving.
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