South San Francisco officials are expected to enter exclusive negotiations with a builder interested in constructing a housing development with more than 800 units on a piece of public land abutting El Camino Real.
The South San Francisco City Council is set to approve Wednesday, July 11, beginning negotiations with AGI/KASA Partners to hammer out the finer details of a proposal for a massive, mixed-use development near where Westborough Boulevard turns into Chestnut Avenue just west of downtown.
Mayor Liza Normandy said she believes the exclusive negotiating proposal will pass, as councilmembers are ready to move forward with the highly watched and occasionally controversial project.
“Absolutely,” answered Normandy, when asked whether it is reasonable to expect the proposal to be approved. “AGI/KASA is going to be a great community partner.”
Beginning exclusive negotiations will be the next step in a process which started earlier this year, when councilmembers selected AGI/KASA as the preferred developer ahead of three other interested companies.
The company’s initial proposal was comprised of 812 units, with 162 affordable units to be built by Bridge Housing in a standalone building. The largest building proposed would not exceed eight stories.
Plans also include 5,500 square feet of child care space, 7 acres of parkland, 13,000 square feet of space reserved for artisanal merchants such as coffee roasters, breweries and other independent businesses. Officials have noted though that the final development may not reach the size and scope of the initial vision.
The sweeping nature of the proposal drew some alarm from residents, who have claimed a massive development at the site purchased by the city’s former redevelopment agency would be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
Normandy recognized those fears, and noted officials are cognizant of concerns regarding height and density. To that end, she said officials preferred the AGI/KASA proposal to an offer from another finalist, Blake Griggs, which aimed to construct a tower reaching as high as 12 stories.
The Blake Griggs proposal became a lightning rod for those seeking a smaller project, and emotions surrounding the issue boiled over during an April meeting when residents hurdled insults at councilmembers out of anger with the large development.
Noting her awareness of the raw nerves over the issue, Normandy cited AGI/KASA’s reputation for working well with surrounding communities and addressing residential concerns.
“They are just very community driven and they work with the community to ensure there are no high rises and that everything works out,” she said.
Yet despite officials’ best efforts, community concerns persist. An online petition circulated by a group called South San Francisco Residents For Smart Growth has collected more than 400 signatures, in pursuit of a smaller, less dense project.
For her part, Normandy expressed confidence the developer would continue to work alongside concerned residents and the rest of the community to assure the final project will attempt to address such fears.
“They want to start with a blank palette,” she said of the developer’s plans. “They hear the community, and I think that is great.”
Should councilmembers approve entering negotiations, the exclusivity would last for one year. If the time expires without a deal, 60-day extensions could be granted, should the developer be willing to pay $50,000. Successful negotiations would give way to a development agreement, which would ultimately be considered for approval by councilmembers.
As officials examine the project, they will also address community benefits such as affordability and other amenities. The developer is expected to set aside 20 percent of the project at an affordable rate, and build the below-market units in the first phase of residential construction. AGI/KASA should also offer financing documents detailing the capacity to deliver the project as proposed, according to a city report.
Pointing to the company’s good standing with surrounding communities, Normandy said she is confident an agreement can be reached, allowing officials, the developer and the community to begin collaborating on the project vision.
“After we solidify the [exclusive negotiating rights agreement], we have to start this conversation with the community,” she said.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105