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Housing approved for South San Francisco Car Wash

March 6, 2018 | The Daily Journal

Housing approved for South San Francisco Car Wash

Council OKs 172 units along El Camino Real, replacing popular business

By Austin Walsh

A popular South San Francisco car wash will be rebuilt into a expansive housing development under a decision by city officials seeking to revitalize a key corner of the city.

The South San Francisco City Council unanimously approved SummerHill Apartment Community’s proposal to build 172 apartments at 988 El Camino Real, home to South City Car Wash.

Despite acknowledging fears the development may compound existing traffic and parking issues in the area, councilmembers lauded the builder’s vision for the 1.67-acre site at the intersection of Chestnut Avenue, according to video of the Wednesday, Feb. 28, meeting.

“You are the right developer for that high-profile corner,” said Councilman Mark Addiego, recognizing a variety of other developments the builder has completed in South San Francisco.

Councilman Rich Garbarino was similarly laudatory to the builder, claiming he believes the development plan works well for the site.

“I like the design. It fits. It really does,” he said.

The developer is proposing a six-story building that would include units spanning in size between studios and two-bedroom units. The ground floor will include more than 10,900 square feet of commercial space, and a variety of surrounding amenities such as a lounge and fitness studio plus an outdoor recreational area adjacent to Centennial Way have been offered as well.

The property owner who has leased space to South City Car Wash, which has operated since 1958, said the decision to redevelop the land was made with great care.

“We believe we found the right developer for the property,” said property owner Fred Bravo.

The project will offer 259 parking spaces for residents and retail shoppers, generating concerns among some councilmembers regarding whether such an amount is adequate to accommodate the expected demand.

Other officials questioned the nature of the traffic flow patterns through the property, as there is limited access to the development from El Camino Real.

Wendy Sinclair-Smith, a resident critiquing the project, suggested shortcomings of it could create “a carmageddon,” or severe congestion issue further compounding the problems already existing in the area. To mitigate such concerns, she recommended the planners “go back to the drawing board to scale it down a bit.”

Resident John Baker though presented an alternative view of the proposal, and suggested it offer fewer parking spaces in an effort to compel residents to use alternative forms of transportation. As it is currently designed, Baker said the project encourages patrons and residents to continue relying on their cars.

“Because they have the hope of parking, they will drive,” said Baker, who suggested some of the space reserved for parking would be better used for developing more housing units.

Developers hope to encourage public transportation ridership by offering $100 in introductory Clipper cards to residents, plus a $35 subsidy over three months to use carpool or bike sharing services.

Mayor Liza Normandy noted officials’ authority in altering the amount of parking spaces offered is limited, because the developer met the project’s zoning regulations.

But she too maintained reservations regarding the need for more spaces, and suggested officials could contribute to resolving the potential problem by building overflow parking at the nearby Civic Center project.

Adjacent to the car wash property, South San Francisco officials are planning to build new community and recreation centers, a library, fire station and police station. The development is expected to include new homes as well, though the size and scope of the residential component is yet to be determined.

The apartment builder also expressed a willingness to pay $1.83 million in park acquisition and construction fees to the city, plus a combined nearly $1 million in child care and school fees, plus more. An outdoor fitness park will be constructed near the BART station, available to the public, comprised of seven fitness stations which would be accessible from Centennial Way trail.

Councilman Pradeep Gupta said he believes the project will establish a nice synergy with the upcoming Civic Center when detailing his favorable vote.

“I support the project and I’m quite impressed by the clever solution to make use of that corner of South San Francisco,” he said.


SummerHill Homes is a nationally-recognized home builder focusing on the unique needs of the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. SHH has earned recognition and respect as one of the nation’s premier residential community builders. The company is renowned for developing specialized single-family detached and multi-family housing communities in established residential settings throughout California. Since its inception in 1976, SummerHill Homes’s goals have been to provide quality homes for its customers, Communities of Distinction for cities, and sound business opportunities for its partners.


SummerHill Apartment Communities is the leader in providing quality, smart growth, multi-family rental housing and mixed-use developments located throughout the western United States. SHAC defines excellence in customer relationships, the quality of products and in every aspect of operations. Criteria for site development are highly selective to meet the company’s objectives. SHAC uses extensive market analysis to identify housing needs, and then customizes each development to achieve the highest potential.

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