Officials from South San Francisco gave the go-ahead for a new Mercedes-Benz dealership to take over the former Orchard Supply Hardware building and a surrounding mall.
The South San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan by Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco to convert the vacant hardware store and shopping center into a new showroom and service center on Thursday, July 2nd.
Board chairman Alan Wong admired the proposal and encouraged the dealership to work with residents of the nearby neighborhoods to ensure that their quality of life is not compromised.
“It is extremely important to consider local residents – their comments and concerns – and be good partners with the city,” said Wong.
The comment follows some letters and comments from neighbors who raised concerns about the potential for light or noise from the car dealership entering their home.
Ash Zaki, an executive at the auto company, made a pledge to be a good neighbor and assured those affected that the new facility would respect those living nearby.
“We’re very, very sensitive to the community,” he said.
To that end, he said the lights on the property would be turned away from homes and dimmed at night, and that salespeople would be instructed to direct test drives to Interstate 280 rather than residential streets. An upcoming discussion of signs will determine what advertising is allowed on the building.
According to the decision of the commission, the automobile manufacturer can press ahead with plans to redevelop the addresses from 2211 to 2245 Gellert Blvd. into a 30,000 square meter service facility and an 80,000 square meter showroom and sales center.
The site is expected to have 588 parking spaces to accommodate buyers, employees, vehicles visiting the service center, and sales inventory. The two-story showroom will also provide space for administration offices, a customer lounge and a parts warehouse.
Officials also put in place a comprehensive security plan for the website, designed to reassure commissioners that the risk of break-ins or car theft is limited.
Mercedes-Benz from San Francisco has been active in San Francisco since 1961 and is now planning to relocate its headquarters to the peninsula. Zaki said the company was drawn to the new location, largely because of its easy access to Interstate 280. However, he also noted that it was difficult to find such a large location and mentioned the challenges with operations connected in a big metropolis.
Orchard Supply Hardware’s South San Francisco site closed in 2018 when parent company Lowe’s announced that all 99 stores in California, Florida, and Oregon would be closing. San Mateo County’s locations included South San Francisco, Millbrae, Foster City, San Carlos, and Redwood City. Months later, the parent company also closed Lowe’s store at 720 Dubuque Ave. in South San Francisco as part of a company downsizing targeting underperforming locations.
The service bay will replace the Gellert marketplace and displace 11 restaurants and businesses. Since Mercedes-Benz announced its intention to take over the site, city officials have been working with dealers to identify new locations.
For his part, Commissioner Sam Shihadeh expressed confidence that the new auto and service center will be beneficial to South San Francisco.
“I think it’s an improvement for the neighborhood, for the region. And I think it should bring some revenue to the city too, ”he said.
Wong also said he looks forward to welcoming the company to his new community and reiterated his expectation that the company will work hard to integrate with its environment.
“As a new kid on the block, being a good neighbor is extremely important,” he said.