South San Francisco’s Safeway, housing, biotech venture strikes ahead | Native Information

A long-awaited Safeway, biotech campus and housing development in South San Francisco is poised to move forward, following a resolution by the City Council this week to override an airport committee decision that found the site was too loud for housing.

The project, slated to include 184 apartments, the grocery store and other retail, plus three six-story life science buildings, is the latest proposal for a long vacant 14-acre parcel at 180 El Camino Real.

The site was previously occupied by a Safeway that shuttered in 2014 ahead of anticipated redevelopment. The city had approved a project that was to include 284 new homes and 220,000 square feet of retail, which the previous owner was unable to move forward.

The latest plans were brought by SteelWave in 2021, a Foster City developer that has since purchased the site. The envisioned new Safeway would be 64,000 square feet — a flagship facility open 24 hours a day complete with a pharmacy, a representative from the grocer told planning commissioners last year.

The latest plans for the development at 180 El Camino Real in South San Francisco were brought by SteelWave

Another 10,000 square feet for other shops would also be included, and the apartments would be located in a seven-story building at the northeast corner of the lot, with parking provided in a separate garage.

The proposal, however, hit a potential snag earlier this month when the Airport Land Use Committee, with the City/County Association of Governments for the county, determined the location receives too much noise from airplanes to be suitable for housing.

The City Council this week unanimously agreed to override the decision, pointing to other benefits the location offers, including its proximity to the San Bruno BART station, which is less than a half mile away, and the grocery store on site increasing walkability.

“We’re really developing a new neighborhood that really will interface greatly with public transit,” said Councilmember Mark Addiego.

He also pointed to a 338-unit housing development approved in 2020 for 410 Noor Ave., a location adjacent to the Safeway project closer to the airport. The City Council at the time similarly overrode the airport committee’s decision.

“It’s not my favorite committee, let’s put it that way,” said Mayor Mark Nagales. “In terms of the projects we keep bringing in front of them, it’s pretty much a very strict definition, and if it doesn’t pass their definition it’s an automatic no vote.”

180 el camino real south san francisco

In 2021, a Foster City developer that has since purchased the site. The City Council this week unanimously agreed to override a decision by the Airport Land Use Committee, determining the location receives too much noise from airplanes to be suitable for housing, pointing to other benefits the location offers.

If the project were across the street from Huntington Avenue, it would be cleared per the committee’s criteria, said Billy Gross, the city’s principal planner. He said the site is reportedly subject to 70 decibels, and the developer’s intent is to reduce residential interior noise to 45 decibels or less.

The Shops at Tanforan is also roughly a half a mile away, closer to the San Francisco International Airport. It is planned for redevelopment into a biotech space and 1,000 units or more of housing. Closer still are existing neighborhoods of single-family homes.

City Attorney Sky Woodruff said the council’s override would not open the city to potential litigation.

The council’s action informs both the airport commission and Caltrans Division of Aeronautics of its intent. A formal vote on the matter will take place sometime in September, said Gross. The Planning Commission is also set to review the project next month.


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