5 vying for two South San Francisco seats | Native Information
Three seats on the South San Francisco City Council are open this year but only two feature contested races.
The vote for residents in District 3, made up of the Sign Hill, Sterling Terrace, Downtown and Orange Memorial Park neighborhoods has been made simple with a single candidate, incumbent Councilmember Buenaflor Nicolas.
The vote for residents in District 1, which is made up of half of Sunshine Gardens and half of Winston Manor neighborhoods will have a choice between incumbent Mark Addiego and Angelique Presidente, a mother.
On the other side of town, District 5 voters, which include residents in Old Town, Diamond Heights, South San Francisco Industrial, Mayfair Village and Francisco Terrace, will have their choice of appointed incumbent Eddie Flores, community volunteer Brittany Burgo and retired fire inspector Tom Carney.
Whichever candidates are elected will adopt a portfolio of issues with which to grapple — envisioning a future for the city, accommodating the growing population, housing development, preparedness for an economic downturn and environmental concerns.
Known as the Industrial City, South San Francisco has redefined itself in recent years with the booming biotech industry, Addiego said, while it is important to remember the manufacturing past, it is equally important to recognize that the biotech companies are manufacturing drugs.
“This city popped up 12.5% in assessed valuation year over year just recently, and most of it is the commercial development on the east side of the freeway,” Addiego said.
Presidente said the focus is on biotech and the city needs to maintain the industrial side of town.
“The residents have been here for generations and they are getting pushed out and gentrified in a sense, because of these developments and they are touting affordable housing but unfortunately none of the housing is affordable,” Presidente said.
The City Council has taken a progressive turn lately, talking about public housing, universal basic income and limiting freeways. With that in mind, Addiego said that overall the progressive turn has been positive. The universal basic income program helps approximately 160 families.
“The city might be able to work with the state on further support. Long term, there is no mechanism to keep that going so perhaps families can bring themselves up a notch during this year or two to getting some regular assistance,” Addiego said.
Over the years there was a staleness to the council that is no longer the case, he said, and the council hath a wide range of ideas that keeps him on his toes.
Presidente said the shift is good and focusing on affordable housing should be the city’s priority. However, the big businesses that have been developing in the city are bringing in more people and it causes a further imbalance in the housing crisis.
One of the bigger issues is that the city is not accommodating everybody, Presidente added.
“Our infrastructure is imbalanced, our park and rec classes that we offer are imbalanced. There are like two to three toddler classes and there are only 15 slots. We have way more than 30 toddlers in the city. We have a three- to four-year wait list for child care, how can families provide an adequate income when one person is forced to stay home because there is no child care available, that’s a problem,” Presidente said.
Addiego said the upside that comes from corporate expansions is property tax, sales tax and the hospitality industry are all boosted by these new residents.
“And that equates to a healthy $121 million budget that allows us to do what we do,” Addiego said. “Yes, I would like to have more child care for every child in South San Francisco.”
The city’s child care program is very popular and financially feasible for a lot of families in the city, he added.
Housing production is a concern for many residents in the city, Addiego said that housing production has excited a lot of people in the last 10 years but he wants to focus on the missing middle.
“There are many people that are between $75,000 to $100,000 [a year] but they can’t make sense of the current market rate of these new apartment homes,” Addiego said.
There is an item on the ballot that would allow the city to build housing, there are commercial linkage fees that take money from the expanding developers and that money can only be used for affordable housing, he added.
Presidente argues that the city has upped its ante on housing development in the past few years to keep up with the state’s housing mandates.
“We had 10 years to deal with this problem and all of the sudden now we are scrambling to do it,” Presidente said.
If there is an economic downturn, Presidente feels like the city isn’t prepared.
“We have all our eggs in one basket, if something happens with biotech, all our eggs are counting on them,” Presidente said.
On the flip side, Addiego feels the city is in a good position if there is an economic downturn.
“We have $50 million plus in reserves,” Addiego said, adding the reserves are there for the unique occurrences.
In the next four years, Addiego wants to see more affordable housing. For Presidente, she wants to see more transparency with the residents.
District 5 has unique issues: all the candidates agree on affordable housing, traffic and parking issues, and a need for a community space whether it’s a park or community center.
Carney said failing infrastructure was an issue, Flores would like to see an affordable housing waitlist database for residents and Burgo would like to see a community grocery store in the district to cater to the growing community and a balance of development and needed resources.
Flores believes, in the next 20 years, the city needs to address the housing-to-job ratio he said creates an imbalance. He also mentioned the city’s 20-year General Plan that includes a climate action plan and a child care master plan.
“All essential elements in order to move us forward in the next 20 years,” Flores said.
Carney believes that the biotech industry has been highly beneficial to the city, however, the future growth of the city depends on the quality of the schools.
“What we are missing out on is we don’t have close collaboration with the school district, our schools are some of the worst schools and bottom of the pile in state scoring,” Carney said.
In the next 20 years, Burgo believes the current issue is there isn’t a balance and it will take city officials to come together with varying perspectives to figure out a plan to maintain a more equitable city.
“Our city is really great and could actually probably expand more on the industrial side I don’t think we need to lose it, I think right now, we need to have a place close by that we could get our goods and resources and I think … how we maintain it is a process which I think needs to be addressed,” Burgo said.
The City Council has made progressive turns lately with a universal basic income program and discussions of public housing, and Carney said the government shouldn’t get involved in building housing because it is not a good use of taxpayers’ money.
Flores said that the city has been leading the charge with more than 1,000 affordable housing units in the pipeline and more to come.
“We are going to do our part with affordable housing because the community is asking for it,” Flores said.
Burgo is involved with Friends of Old Town, a community volunteer group proud to lead the charge on issues including a community park and completing surveys to inform and give the residents a voice.
“When the FasTrak express lanes project was fairly new, we got the community together to one, inform them that, hey this change is going to happen and two, get their thoughts on hey how can we afford to take the freeway now what are we going to do? And the FasTrak express lane people got back to us and are going to start a financial aid program,” Burgo said.
The city is continually growing and there is a need to make room for more residents while accommodating the existing people, with that in mind, Burgo said the city does its best to accommodate the residents and businesses and the pandemic helped push the city to focus on financial needs and programs.
Flores said many families have been in the city for 30-plus years and add to the cultural richness, however, it is important to accommodate and accept new families who want to make the city their home.
“Understanding that everyone has needs,” Flores said. “Balancing the issues and understanding we can all move forward as a strong community.”
Carney argues the council is not willing to listen to residents. He feels there is a rift between the residents and the City Council. People don’t show up for council meetings, they aren’t heard or listened to and community benefits are not well publicized in both English and Spanish.
“The community doesn’t feel like it’s got a voice,” Carney said. “We work for the residents, and being on City Council is not about self-glorification, it’s about taking care of the residents. And the residents should be involved every step of the way.”
Carney and Burgo both believe that the city housing development is sufficient and the community needs to digest what development has already taken place.
Burgo said state mandates should be better communicated with residents about what the city needs to build. Having a conversation about where the best location should be for more housing development is another issue she would like to see addressed.
Flores argues that the city will continue to build affordable housing to accommodate the community.
“While progress has been made in affordable housing, much more work is needed,” Flores said.
In the event of an economic downturn, Flores said the city is not in deficit spending and has strong reserves and is able to provide historic wage increases to its workforce.
Carney emphasized that while the city is well prepared for an economic downturn, it should consider diversifying more into freight and the food industry to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket.
Burgo said the city has a potential plan but she is not sure how prepared they really are.