A 292-unit apartment building planned to replace an aging industrial facility near Highway 101 in South San Francisco gained unanimous Planning Commission approval this week, and will next go to the City Council for a final sign off.

The building would rise eight stories on a 1.6-acre lot at 40 Airport Blvd. bordered by the highway and Caltrain tracks, and would sit adjacent to a La Quinta hotel and Denny’s restaurant. The area, which is near the city’s downtown, is mostly industrial but recently designated for residential developments by city planners.

“I think housing in this area really makes a lot of sense,” Commissioner JulieAnn Murphy said. “I think this is a good project and a good thing for the city.”

The building would be 330,000 square feet, with the structure wrapping around a central courtyard. A multilevel garage would provide 308 parking spots, and 33,000 square feet of amenity space would include a coworking room, a cafe for residents and a rooftop lounge.

Ryan McNamara, vice president of development for Blake Griggs, the Danville-based developer for the project, said the apartments would be smaller than average new units in the area, allowing for more affordable rents.

On average, rents would be $200 to $300 less than nearby new construction, resulting in studios in the $2,400 to $2,600 range and one-bedrooms near $3,000, he said.

“We’re hoping that by creating these different unit types we’re able to better serve the community and create a price point that’s better for our residents,” he said.

The smaller size will also mean a reduced subsidy from the developer to provide affordable units in line with the city’s inclusionary zoning requirements. The city’s rules require 10% of units be offered with rents affordable to those earning 80% or less of the county median income — which works out to studios offered at or below $2,558, one-bedrooms at $2,741 and two-bedrooms at $3,290. Another 5% of units would need to be more affordable, for those earning less than half the median income, with rents in those categories at $1,598, $1,713 and $2,056, respectively.

In all, plans indicate 57 studios, 32 one-bedrooms, 122 two-bedrooms, 59 three-bedrooms and 22 four-bedrooms.

Parking, McNamara said, will be an additional cost to market-rate units but free for those subsidized. Not including a parking space by default is required in many jurisdictions, he said.

“By unbundling and adding that cost of owning a car, it disincentivizes people to have a car if they don’t need one, it encourages them to take public transit,” he said, “It’s a trend that has been pushed for, for a long time, by the sustainable community.”

Commissioner Michele Evans said she was concerned the policy would lead to people taking up parking for nearby businesses. “It’s still not my favorite concept in housing,” she said.

As part of the agreement, the developer will cover the cost of various changes to Airport Boulevard, including adding bike lanes, removing a separated turning lane to improve pedestrian safety and making landscaping improvements. A payment to the city of $630,000 would also be made on top of standard impact fees, likely to cost several million dollars.

Commissioner Alex Tzang said he was less concerned about the parking policy, and that he hoped to see more projects with less parking.

“I’m hoping this will become the norm to South San Francisco citizens, where we really utilize public transportation, walking more, being fit,” he said. “We have been seeing projects with less and less parking.”

Across the street a 480-unit apartment development comprising two buildings is planned, slated also to replace industrial buildings. Proposed there are 560 parking places, something that became a point of contention during the approvals process with Mayor Mark Nagales requesting less parking in future projects in exchange for more affordable rents.

The two projects are within walking distance to the South San Francisco Caltrain station. The developers are also planning to work in conjunction to make upgrades to a pedestrian tunnel under the train tracks to improve downtown access.

“The key, if you want to activate your downtown, you want to bring new businesses, you have to put people there that can walk,” McNamara said. “And this project would contribute to that.”

The City Council will vote to issue final approvals, among them zoning changes, during a future meeting.

(650) 344-5200, ext. 105

corey@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200, ext. 105

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