South San Francisco officials endorsed a plan allowing Genentech to nearly double the size of its expansive campus, potentially clearing the path for more than 4 million square feet of further commercial development.
The South San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously recommended councilmembers approve allowing the crown jewel of the city’s biotech hub to significantly expand its headquarters along Oyster Point during a meeting Thursday, Oct. 15.
Noting the plan which must ultimately be adopted by the South San Francisco City Council is a testament to the company’s commitment to the community where it has been located for decades, officials lauded the ambitious vision.
“I think this master plan framework is going to be great for the city,” said Commissioner Robert Bernardo. “It will be a great blueprint for the future.”
The revised master plan document aims to allow for up to 9 million square feet of construction throughout the 207-acre site along Oyster Point, up substantially from the roughly 5 million square feet of facilities currently occupying the 207-acre property.
The proposal unveiled last year continues an update process initiated in 2017 — the most recent in a series of revisions to the campus plan first established in 1995. It was initially updated in 2007, when a development cap was established at 6 million square feet. In 2013, it plan was amended to make way for a 27-acre development.
In previous discussions, it had been suggested that the newest update could make way for 12,000 additional employees, which would more than double the 10,000 currently occupying the site. But company representatives have noted that estimation is based on a formula assuming Genentech builds to the greatest extent allowable under the plan, and officials have yet to determine a development plan.
If councilmembers approve the master plan, individual new projects or additional phases of construction would be proposed and vetted through the standard public review process.
In return for officials blessing the master plan, Genentech offered a slate of community benefits through a lucrative development agreement.
As part of a deal spanning 15 years, Genentech offered South San Francisco $30 million for affordable housing program and $15 million for transportation initiatives. Additionally, the company would support development of housing east of Highway 101, while also favoring establishment of a community facilities district in the area.
Biotech companies populating the Bayshore have traditionally opposed construction of housing near their corporate campuses. Commissioner Michele Evans expressed her appreciation for the company reconsidering its position on the issue.
“That has not been a good source of discussion in the past,” she said, committing to holding Genentech accountable to its promise.
Genentech also promised to cap vehicle trips to the campus, while committing to build new open space along the Bay Trail and investing heavily in public art.
For his part, commission Chair Alan Wong admired Genentech’s partnership with the city and hoped the relationship could serve as a template for other companies in the life sciences industry to replicate.
“I think they have not only been a great partner to the city but a good role model for other biotech companies in the area,” he said.
Commissioner Norm Faria agreed, lauding the thoughtful expansion plan offered by a leader in the thriving local industry.
“They think about the community, they think about their growth and that is something that is easy to support,” he said.