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.

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(4) comments

rb

I am a home-owner in South San Francisco and I absolutely say YES to this project. I imagine the 40% of the population who's being squeezed on rent would also say YES to more housing to fix our current housing crisis. I'm really tired of a small bunch of B-team Republicans pretending like they're the only ones whose voices count in our city (and the uncritical acceptance of this by the SMDJ) while they are rolling in Prop 13 handouts and NOT paying the bulk of the taxes that support the services they complain about.

cicerone

As a long time SSF resident and Bay Area native, while I don't like high-rises per se, I strongly support this development and other dense, transit-oriented developments, as long as they are sensitive to the surrounding single family housing (i.e. not looming over somebody's backyard). It's a great opportunity to add housing supply and improve the connection between the east and west sides of town (via the Arroyo extension and improvements to Centennial Trail). Do other residents really prefer an empty trash strewn field in this location? What alternative do they propose?

Marko

I really DO appreciate your point of view, cicerone, but have two points to make:

[a] there was more-than-substantial opposition to high-rise development in SSF for many reasons - BUT the SSF Council has (according to Mayor Liza's remarks) completely ignored the residents and has forged ahead without even real controls on the project;

[b] The City has done a poor job of serving current residents - a record covering the past twenty years. How is the addition of thousands of new residents (who will be transient renters , not committed homeowners) expected to reverse this situation and make things better? The odds are that things will get worse!

Marko

Mayor Liza!

The people who live here in SSF, who elected you to the Council, and whom you claim to represent...

ALL of them are saying NO to this project. They are telling you about the bad things they see this project is doing, and how unhappy these proposals have made them. They're saying that they DON'T want SSF to become the crowded Outer Mission - much less a new version of the Tenderloin!

South San Francisco hasn't been able to demonstrate an ability to muster or control the resources to provide necessary services to the current population density - yet you and your colleagues keep salivating over plans to add thousands of new residents. Or perhaps salivating over the monies you expect such plans will generate...

Where are the Council's plans to support all of our needs: street and other infrastructure maintenance (like bridges); police staffing, training, and supplies, added fire department coverage, added and enhanced parks, a community-accountable traffic and parking management plan, libraries, food-service inspection, youth and senior programs, recreation opportunities, employment training and support, public transportation, emergency services expansion, vermin control, coordination with school services, municipal justice and arbitration, continued-improvement of powerlines and other safety hazards, and many other services.

The focus of the present Council has been ongoing and new development , NOT on improving (or even maintaining) the level of services current residents deserve. Nor has there been a significant effort on the City to mitigate the problems created by builders as they construct these added units.

And the City's "professional" management (which I call the "B" team) doesn't generally interact with the people, but prefers to build their frequently-inflated resumes behind the scenes.

This is a City Council which recently extended - by fiat - the terms of several members. Since membership appears to be so desirable, maybe the voters ought to be asking what rewards are presently accruing to councilmembers, and who is providing those rewards?

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