Promoting community events to rejuvenate South San Francisco’s downtown while deterring negative behavior by possibly restricting smoking, adding cameras and asking the court to keep certain people away are quality of life provisions the City Council will consider, it was determined at a meeting last night.
South San Francisco’s downtown has been marred by a variety of issues in recent years like homelessness and transients which officials say have been causing problems. During a special meeting Monday, the South San Francisco City Council was introduced to four ideas Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto put forward to curb challenges while promoting more activity. All ideas were met with enthusiasm for more study and to be brought back before the council in the future.
"We’re going to try to take back Grand Avenue for our residents,” said Matsumoto.
The council agreed, pointing out possible benefits from each option. "It’s a real good first step,” said Councilman Rich Garbarino. "I’m intrigued with the partnership with the downtown community. I’d like to see some co-activism. It can’t be the council just coming up with something.”
Partnerships to encourage more activities downtown will take planning but could include offering entertainment during lunch, offering events that support local schools or providing art to fill vacant storefronts, City Attorney Steve Mattas said.
Mayor Pedro Gonzalez supported the idea of more activities and noted a resident recently asked for such changes to be made.
Installing cameras was an equally intriguing idea to the council, which requested cost estimates and possible locations. Mattas said cameras would most likely be suggested for areas in which people congregate — like parks or the walkways between the main street and parking areas. Those are the same places that would be addressed in a change to the city’s smoking ordinance.
One of the strongest measures the council will consider is asking the district attorney to consider including stay away orders as a condition of probation.
"Repeat offenders who are committing misdemeanors, as a condition of probation, ... can be ordered to stay away from an area. We do have some problems with people in the downtown who urinate and defecate. Stay away would require them to leave or be arrested,” said Mattas, who added it could also be a way to get people into needed services.
Councilman Mark Addiego and Garbarino were very interested in the idea, adding there are a couple of people who constantly cause problems for police and businesses.
The suggested changes would be made in addition to the work the city’s Homeless Task Force is already doing to study the needed social services and best ways to offer such programs.
The topic of homelessness will also be discussed during the council’s regular meeting Wednesday when it considers the start of a Homeless Outreach Team.
The council will vote on an agreement with InnVision/Shelter Network to start such a team with a one-year, $125,000 grant. The money will become available in the spring, according to a staff report by Assistant City Manager Marty Van Duyn. Creation of such a group was requested by the Police Department due to chronic homelessness downtown. Approval would allow for the partners to identify people to serve on the team. In the future, another agreement will be required to run the 18-unit complex used to house program participants.
The council meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Municipal Services Building, 33 Arroyo Drive, South San Francisco.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.