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South San Francisco project exemplifies DTSC’s mission

The mission of the Department of Toxic Substances Control is to protect public health and the environment. One way it does that is by cleaning up contaminated properties. It’s a bonus when the property is slated for development, which can lead to more tax revenue and jobs.

A proposed two-acre redevelopment project near a Cal Train station in South San Francisco is a good example of this. The proposal calls for combining six parcels bordering Highway 101 into a single multifamily housing project. Cleanup is under way.

The site is an important component of the city’s 2015 Downtown Station Area Plan (opens new window), which sets a new vision for downtown. ”This is quite the interesting project,” said Robert Boggs, DTSC project manager.  “The development is going to coincide with a $50 million expansion of the Cal Train station in South San Francisco. Considerable money and effort are being expended to revitalize this portion of South San Francisco.”

The city’s chief economic development official said the project has overwhelming community support. “It is a model of environmentally responsible, transit oriented development to provide badly needed housing in our community,” said Alex Greenwood. “It will be a wonderful catalyst for our downtown.”

The property has been used by a variety of companies since the late 1800s, including a gasoline service station and a tire business. As a result, elevated levels of lead and volatile organic compounds were found on portions of the now-vacant property. The site must be cleaned before the property owner can develop it into housing and accompanying parking.

“The subsurface issues on this site have been well characterized for years,” Greenwood said. “They are common to any urban infill site, and it is well-known how to remediate them.”

The proposed developer signed a California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act agreement with DTSC in 2016. The act provides certain immunities from liability for some purchasers of contaminated property, and is intended to promote the cleanup and redevelopment of polluted sites.

The cleanup plan recommends removing 15 truckloads of contaminated soil and shipping it offsite for disposal. An additional eight truckloads or so would be excavated and covered by an on-site parking garage.