South San Francisco, California “The Industrial City” occupies 9.63 square miles of land at the sides and basin of a broad valley facing San Francisco Bay. Also known as the “Birth Place of Biotechnology”, South San Francisco is located approximately eight miles south of downtown San Francisco. Incorporated September 19, 1908, the City prides itself on its cultural, social, and economic diversity.
In the early 1900’s South San Francisco became an industrial center; steel mills, metal foundries, meatpacking factories and other heavy industrial uses covered the City’s eastern edge. In the 1970s and 1980s, heavy industry was replaced by light industrial and warehousing uses, hotels serving the San Francisco International Airport and biotechnology companies. At the center of this shift were Herb Boyer and Bob Swanson who founded Genentech in 1976 and helped spawn the City’s biotechnology cluster and transform the City’s economic base.
With a population of 64,000 that grows to 100,000 during the day, South San Francisco is focusing on sustainability. The City has created a Sustainability Division using existing staff to pursue grants, outreach to the community regarding sustainable practices, the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and serving as a resource for green building practices. A significant project is the development of our Climate Action Plan and a Pedestrian Master Plan, which will help the City achieve its goal of reducing our carbon footprint by 2020. Additional projects include: utilizing green building principles to complete a public parking garage with vehicle charging stations, constructing housing that transforms underutilized areas into livable space, linking the City with a pedestrian/bicycle path, installing solar panels on City buildings, utilizing a 400-kW cogeneration systems at our Water Quality Control Plant, and incorporating hybrid vehicles into its fleet.
Our environmental stewardship and smart growth land-use has produced positive results. Use of the electric vehicle charging stations as our new parking garage have helped eliminate approximately 8,000 kilograms of Green House Gas Emissions in the first seven months of 2012. The solar panels on the City Hall Annex are helping the City save $12,000 in annual energy costs. Changes to light fixtures and a variety of other cost saving measures resulted in an $80,000 rebate from PG&E and the City continues to explore other options. The City’s Water Quality Control Plant (WQCP) currently has a 400-kW cogeneration engine system that utilizes methane gas produced by the anaerobic digesters. The engine has been in operation since 1992. The existing cogeneration system produces approximately a third of the electrical demand of the WQCP. The energy produced offsets the electrical demand from PG&E, thus lowering energy costs. In spite of these positive results, staff continues to pursue additional energy options for the plant since its energy use is so high. Microsoft and Bloom Energy are working on a partnership with the City of South San Francisco to host the world’s first data center run on a biogas powered fuel cell. Once the 18 month demonstration/pilot program is complete, the City will have the opportunity to produce cleaner, cheaper, more reliable power using all the biogas at the treatment plant. Over a fifteen year period, this has potential to reduce the CO2 emissions by more than 8,400,00 pounds, help meet future Climate Action Plan Goals and improve community health.
Our business community is embracing sustainability as well. The South San Francisco Scavenger Company is expanding their services and offsetting their fuel needs. Plans are underway to begin offering food waste composting to residential customers allowing Scavengers to produce bio-methane to fuel their compressed natural gas trucks. This process, called Anaerobic Digestion, will initially produce enough fuel for 5-6 trucks per day. Scavengers has also installed solar panels on their materials recovery facility, off-setting electricity requirements, use Biodiesel 20 in their fleet and purchased two of the first available hybrid garbage trucks. Since 2006, they have shown a nearly 18% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Blue Ribbon Supply has installed solar panels and an electric vehicle charging station on site, Alexandria Real Estate built the first green biotech building, Onyx Pharmaceuticals is installing solar panels as part of their expansion and will they provide 45% of their energy requirements each year and the South San Francisco Conference Center received their Green Business Certification from San Mateo County. We are proud to be home to LS9 and Solazyme, both leading the way in the area of biofuels. LS9 received the 2012 Sustainable Biofuels Technology Award at the World Biofuels Markets Congress and Exhibition in the Netherlands and Solazyme has been recognized by Breathe California for their efforts to eliminate emissions.
In an effort to support and encourage additional efforts, the City has become a partner in the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows companies to obtain affordable financing to make “green” improvements possible.
The City is also participating in the single use bag ban ordinance process being led by San Mateo County which will provide a consistent regional approach to the elimination of single use bags. This is one more important step in our ongoing efforts to reduce litter and debris on our streets, waterways and waste stream and compliments the Green Food Packaging Ordinance passed by the Council in 2008.
The Industrial City continues to find new and innovative ways to keep moving forward and looks forward to continuing its sustainable efforts in the coming years.
Written by Mayor Richard Garbarino. Rich Garbarino was appointed to the Council in December 2002 to fill the vacancy left with the election of Gene Mullin to the Assembly. Mayor Garbarino ran for election in 2003 and was elected to his first full four year term. On December 5, 2006, and again on December 5, 2011, he was sworn in to serve as Mayor of South San Francisco. Mayor Garbarino was re-elected in 2007 & 2011 with his current term expiring in 2015