The Foster City-based biopharmaceutical company Gilead is one step closer to expanding its campus after the City Council approved an environmental review this week.
“This is a win-win for Gilead and Foster City and I wish them all the best. They have been very proactive in supporting our sustainability efforts and I expect that to continue” Councilman Charles Bronitsky said.
Gilead is seeking to increase the area covered by the Gilead Sciences Corporate Master Plan to about 72.59 acres to allow for 5,000 potential new employees.
The city’s approval of an environmental impact report clears the way for Gilead to begin to put together plans, said Assistant City Manager Steve Toler. The Foster City zoning map will have to be modified for the area known as Vintage Park to allow up to 2,500,600 square feet of office, laboratory and parking facilities, according to a staff report.
The only agreement in place between the city and Gilead is for its South Campus, on which it is currently allowed to develop, Toler said. Gilead has recently completed a four-story laboratory. It will need to demolish some of the existing buildings on the site as it hopes to build a second lab within the next 18 months, Toler said.
“Gilead must meet certain requirements in that report. A lot of it had to do with traffic and mitigation, such as increasing their employee shuttle service,” Toler said.
Finalizing plans and construction is going to be a long process, Councilman Steve Okamoto said. Okamoto is concerned about the amount of traffic that will result from Gilead’s expansion. Gilead has assured the council it will take measures to mitigate traffic by pairing with shuttle services, Okamoto said.
“I am still skeptical, when you talk about 5,000 employees, it’s going to create a lot of traffic,” Okamoto said.
The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance assists large corporations by providing shuttle services to employees. The alliance has stated it plans to purchase more shuttles in the future to be able to accommodate the influx of personnel in the area, Okamoto said.
Construction at such a large scale will undoubtedly result in noise, Okamoto said, however, it would be temporary. The council passed the report by a unanimous vote anticipating Gilead will comply with its environmental requirements, Toler said.
Encouraging employees to bike to work, increasing the amount of bike lockers, painting bike routes and providing showers are other ways Toler suggested it could reduce its impact.
Gilead is still a long ways from completing its high-tech campus; it will have to go through the Community Development Department, specify its plans and present them to the council.
“We are happy with Gilead and we are wonderful partners with them,” Okamoto said. “We’re glad they made Foster City their headquarters.”
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