South City aims to win biotech race

Residents and business owners in the Industrial City should expect continued growth next year despite challenges from other metropolitan areas to attract biotechnology away from South City, the birthplace of the industry.

Mayor Richard Garbarino, in his State of the City speech to local business leaders Tuesday, said the success of local biotech companies like Genentech, Amgen, Exelixis and Elan has other cities and metro areas gunning to attract biotech business.

Garbarino said he and other council members attended an international biotech conference several weeks ago in Boston. They went in with a simple message focusing on South San Francisco as the “hub of the biotech industry,” he said.

The mayor said that in Boston the group sought to differentiate itself from its more glamorous cousin to the north, San Francisco, hinting at a growing rivalry. South San Francisco has made plain its desire to attract business from the high-priced markets in The City, and major developments at Oyster Point and on Sierra Point in Brisbane are being discussed.

“Biotechnology began and flourished in South San Francisco, not in San Francisco as [Mayor] Gavin [Newsom] would have you believe,” Garbarino said to laughs Tuesday.

In a previous interview, Council Member Karyl Matsumoto, who accompanied Garbarino to Boston, said a more difficult challenge was separating South City from San Francisco in the minds of businesses, which might consider South San Francisco a portion of the City and County of San Francisco.

“They see us as the southern tip of San Francisco,” Matsumoto said.

At the luncheon Tuesday, Garbarino said city staff was working with a biotech consultant to develop a survey for biotechnology and life science companies. The resulting report would summarize the economic benefits of the biotech cluster in South San Francisco, he said.

Additionally in his speech, the mayor spoke of a “stabilizing” hospitality industry expected to generate $250,000 more this year from transit-occupancy tax, a tax on hotel rooms, than it did the previous year. Revenues from other areas like sales tax, franchise fees, property taxes and building and fire permits were all estimated to increase for the second year in a row.

dsmith@examiner.com


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