Land Use and Community Design

Where We Want to Be

In the future

  • A strong local economy that offers a diversity of employment opportunities for current and future residents and enhances the fiscal sustainability of the City.

  • A diverse supply of housing types affordable to different income levels and household compositions that promote a high quality of life for all residents.

  • An attractive community with a public realm that fosters activity and social interaction and celebrates South San Francisco's history and culture.

  • Amenities available throughout the city that enhance the quality of life and enjoyment of residents, employees, and visitors.

  • Convenient and equitable access to services, jobs, public facilities, and transportation infrastructure throughout the city.

  • A sustainable and resilient built environment that promotes equity and positive health outcomes.



01Performance Metric:

Housing near transit


Increase the number of housing units within a half-mile radius of BART and Caltrain stations and other high-quality public transit service


2021 Data: 1498 Dwelling units within 10 mins. (half mile) to high quality transit.

02Performance Metric:

Complete neighborhoods, where residents can reach community amenities (e.g., grocery stores and retail), public facilities (e.g., parks and community centers) and services (e.g., health care and affordable childcare) within a 20-minute walk


All residences are within a complete neighborhood


03Performance Metric:

Building square footage of industrial, research and development (R&D), and office uses.


Stable or increasing supply of building square footage for employment uses


2021 data: 27,003,540 square feet

04Performance Metric:

Increase the number of housing units by permitting housing at low, moderate, and above-moderate income levels


871 very low income units, 502 low income units, 720 moderate income units, 1863 above moderate income units for a total of 3,956 housing units.


2023-2031 target date progress: 0% completed

How Our Plan

Gets Us There

A woman walking down a path through a park

The Land Use and Community Design Element establishes the citywide pattern, scale, and character of residential, office, industrial, research and development (R&D), retail and services, recreation, public, and all other land uses throughout the City of South San Francisco through the 2040 General Plan horizon. It anticipates and aims to preserve and grow a range of housing types for different income levels throughout the city, to ensure that all people in all stages of life, present and future, have opportunities to live affordably in South San Francisco. The Land Use and Community Design Element simultaneously supports existing commercial, industrial, and R&D land uses and provides opportunities for new industries in a manner that is compatible with city character and minimizes impacts on residents. Finally, the Land Use and Community Design Element provides guidance to create a pedestrian-friendly public realm – including sidewalks, streets, and other public spaces – that simultaneously beautify the community and help improve pedestrian, bicycle, and transit connectivity throughout the city.

Key Issues and Opportunities

The City of San Francisco has a diverse mix of land uses that provide opportunities to live, shop, work, and play. Understanding how land is currently used in South San Francisco is important for understanding opportunities for preservation and future growth through the General Plan horizon year (2040). This section describes the existing pattern of land use and identifies issues and opportunities for future uses to encourage a vibrant community where everyone can thrive.



South San Francisco’s most common land use is residential, with single-family homes covering about 34% of land, and multifamily housing covering about 6% of land. In fact, single-family residential is the dominant land use in all sub-areas except El Camino Real, Lindenville, and East of 101, meaning that there are distinct residential neighborhoods throughout most of the city.

While South San Francisco has historically been a place where people of all income levels can find a place to live, regional housing demand has driven up the prices of home ownership and rentals across the Bay Area in recent years, making it more challenging for people earning at or below the county’s median household income to establish and retain residency in South San Francisco. Residents in some areas of South San Francisco are particularly vulnerable to displacement.

The City of South San Francisco is committed to creating opportunities for everyone to live in South San Francisco, regardless of income. Per the draft 2023-2031 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), the City of South San Francisco must permit a minimum of 3,950 housing units within this timeframe at varying levels of affordability to meet this requirement. In addition, the City must continue permitting new housing to comply with the 2023 - 2031 RHNA cycle as well as future RHNA cycles during the General Plan horizon year.

Opportunities and considerations related to growing South San Francisco’s housing stock include the following:

  • Community benefits: New development must create community benefits for both residents and employees.
  • Diverse housing types: A range of housing types for different income levels and household types must be produced to balance job and housing growth and distribute the potential impacts of future growth in the city.
  • Impacts of future growth: The City must consider the impacts of future growth, including potential displacement, on existing residents and be strategic about the amount and pace of growth.
  • Sustainability: The City must identify methods to make sure land use decisions and development promotes sustainability, such as creating complete neighborhoods and encouraging new development to incorporate energy-efficient design.

Exterior of yellow single family home

Industrial and (R&D)

Community Design

Community design refers to what somebody sees and experiences when spending time in South San Francisco’s streets, commercial districts, and public spaces. Community design is impacted by a few factors, including landscaping and tree canopy; public art; the

FutureSound store front

location, scale, and architectural character of homes, stores, parks, offices, and other spaces; and how easily one can travel between destinations. Quality community design can enhance one’s quality of life. Beautiful, well-designed, pedestrian-scale buildings, streets, and public spaces can increase one’s pride in South San Francisco, improve community safety, strengthen connections to local arts and culture, and make South San Francisco a more attractive place to live, visit, and work.

Community design is impacted by the character and age of buildings, as well as their interaction with the surrounding environment. Building design and character in South San Francisco varies greatly by neighborhood. For instance, Downtown features two historic retail corridors, Grand Avenue and Linden Avenue, where a variety of historic structures and land uses contribute to the creation of memorable corridors with diverse architectural styles. In East of 101, on the other hand, building character is significantly different, as there is a high concentration of large office and R&D buildings built after 2000 that are set far back from the street.

Key components of quality building design include using sustainable, long-lasting building materials, orienting buildings towards streets to create inviting spaces, and designing buildings to reflect local history. The General Plan seeks to facilitate building design that creates walkable and inviting spaces, such as locating parking behind buildings, allowing for outdoor plazas and dining, and locating building frontages in close proximity to the sidewalk edge, where appropriate.

Accessibility, connectivity, and the quality of the pedestrian environment are important characteristics of community design. Walkable neighborhoods often enjoy economic benefits, including higher property values, increased private investment, and tourism. Residents in walkable neighborhoods typically engage in more physical activity than residents in neighborhoods with low walkability, which leads to improved public health outcomes. The General Plan seeks to improve pedestrian connections throughout the community, as well as bicycle and public transit connections, to ensure South San Francisco is an accessible, connected community for all.

General Plan Land Use

The General Plan Land Use map shows the location and the intended use of each parcel of land in South San Francisco. The land use map is a graphic representation of the land use policies contained within the General Plan Land Use and Community Design Element. Each parcel is given a land use designation, which provides a vision of a parcel’s intended use or uses.

Citywide Land Use Vision
Citywide Land Use Vision

The General Plan land use map and policies identify opportunities to develop and preserve housing, employment, parks, and more across the city. Specifically, the General Plan Land Use and Community Design Element creates a land use scheme that aims to:

Maintain industrial uses in Lindenville and East of 101 to: a) Preserve the “Industrial City” heritage, b) Retain a base of above minimum wage paying jobs that match skillsets of residents and c) Maintain small and diverse businesses critical for a thriving economy.

Retain life science uses that will ensure South San Francisco will remain a world class life sciences destination and an economic engine for the region

Create new, vibrant residential neighborhoods in East of 101 and Lindenville, ensuring appropriate City services, amenities, and retail to support new residential growth

Produce a range of housing types for different income levels and household types across the city to balance job and housing growth and distribute the potential impacts of future growthCelebrate the history, culture, and diversity of the Downtown and its residents and maintain Downtown as the heart of the community by: a) Retaining small, culturally diverse businesses, b) Protecting existing Downtown residents from the impacts of neighborhood displacement, and c) Creating programming for arts and cultural resourcesTransform Colma Creek into a public amenity that manages flooding and sea level rise, restores ecology, increases public access, and improves public access to the San Francisco Bay and Bay Trail

Consider the impacts of future growth, including potential displacement and traffic impacts, on existing residents and businesses, being strategic about the amount and pace of growth Improve bike, pedestrian, and public transit connectivity throughout the city

Given the availability of vacant land, market conditions, and the community’s desire for change or preservation in respective parts of the city, most land-use changes in this General Plan update are focused on four sub-areas: Downtown, East of 101, El Camino Real, and Lindenville. For more details on policies relative to each planning sub-area, including the sub-areas not expected to undergo significant change, reference the Sub-Areas Element.

Building façade in East of 101 sub-area
Land Use Designations
Growth Projections
Gateway Childcare Center



Goal LU-1

Goal LU-1:

Create complete neighborhoods, where residents can access most of their everyday needs within a short walk, bike, or transit trip.


To encourage residents to live healthy lifestyles, reduce dependence on automobiles, and bolster pedestrian activity and community vibrancy by providing walkable access to services and amenities.
Policy LU-1.1: Support mixed use activity centers.
Support a network of vibrant mixed use activity centers located throughout the city. Mixed use centers should include business and services, housing, healthy food, parks, and other gathering places.
  • Action LU-1.1.1: Maintain vacant building inventory.
    Maintain an inventory of vacant buildings and encourage developers and potential business owners to locate their development/businesses in areas most in need of their resources.
  • Action LU-1.1.2: Implement mixed use rezoning.
    Identify key activity areas that currently feature single-use commercial or residential zoning designations, and re-zone to allow for mixed use development that could provide more convenient access to local commercial.
  • Action LU-1.1.3: Complete neighborhoods study.
    Initiate a study to determine appropriate locations for siting everyday needs, including services, healthy food, public facilities, and shopping within a short walk, bike, or transit trip of all residents.
Policy LU-1.2: Connectivity in complete neighborhoods.
Improve walk, bike, and accessibility in complete neighborhoods.
  • Action LU-1.2.1: Department coordination for complete neighborhoods planning.
    Ensure coordination between the Economic & Community Development and Public Works Departments to align needed transportation improvement projects with land use planning in complete neighborhoods.
  • Action LU-1.2.2: Develop infrastructure improvement program for complete neighborhoods.
    Develop a formal program and structure to evaluate and facilitate the repair, maintenance, and expansion of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure in complete neighborhoods.
Policy LU-1.3: Improve access to healthy foods.
Encourage development of community gardens, allowing food “pop-ups” and mobile vendors throughout the city, encouraging siting of grocery stores and markets in areas where residents lack convenient access to healthy food, and supporting and expanding the South San Francisco Farmers’ Market.
  • Action LU-1.3.1: Rezoning and public easements for healthy foods.
    Identify parcels and areas in public rights-of-way that can facilitate community gardens and re-zone to allow urban agriculture.
Policy LU-1.4: Maintain and expand public facilities and services.
Maintain and expand public facilities to better support the community, including schools, libraries, utilities, and recreational spaces, particularly in neighborhoods lacking these resources. Seek opportunities to co-locate new public projects near compatible civic uses such as schools and campuses to create nodes of activity and services.
Policy LU-1.5: Create places and opportunities for neighborhood events.
Create places and opportunities for neighborhood events that bring the South San Francisco community together.
  • Action LU-1.5.1: Funding for neighborhood events.
    Seek funding, sponsors, and partnerships to provide community involvement programs such as Light Up the Night, Neighbors Night Out, and other similar activities and programs designed to strengthen neighborhoods.
Policy LU-1.6: Promote Childcare and pre-K facilities.
Promote childcare and pre-K facilities in South San Francisco.
  • Action LU-1.6.1: Zone for Childcare and pre-K.
    Revise the Zoning Ordinance to allow childcare and pre-K facilities throughout the city.
  • Action LU-1.6.2: Fund and expand childcare and pre-K.
    Coordinate with public institutions, including San Mateo County, and seek State, federal, and private funding sources to maximize resources to fund and expand childcare and pre-K in South San Francisco.
Policy LU-1.7: Create new Lindenville and East of 101 mixed use neighborhoods.
Facilitate the construction of new mixed-use neighborhoods in Lindenville and East of 101 that are well connected to services, transit, amenities, public buildings, and parks and recreational facilities.
Goal LU-2
Goal LU-3
Goal LU-4
Goal LU-5
Goal LU-6
Goal LU-7
Goal LU-8
Goal LU-9