“Economy, economy, economy!”
That's the first thing David Canepa said when summarizing his priorities as Daly City's new mayor. Canepa, who took office early this month, said creating jobs, supporting small business and growing the economy were among his top goals. Canepa and City Manager Pat Martel recently sat down with The San Francisco Examiner to discuss issues affecting the city.
“People keep asking me, 'Where are the jobs?'” Canepa said.
He pointed to Serramonte Center's planned expansion as part of the answer. When the new Dick's Sporting Goods store — currently under construction at Serramonte — is opened, it will add 100 to 200 jobs in the city, Canepa noted.
Martel said even during the holiday shopping rush, Serramonte has much more parking space than it needs, adding that mall officials recently unveiled plans to make better use of that site. She said besides new stores or restaurants, other possible additions could include various types of entertainment facilities.
Less than a mile uphill from the shopping center is the recently approved 60 Christopher Court housing development. Canepa said the 80-unit project will provide construction employment for local skilled laborers and help stimulate the city's economy.
The mayor said his work in the private sector, operating a small business that helps companies implement social-media campaigns, has made him keenly aware of the challenges small businesses face. He believes the city must support its small-business owners so they can create local jobs.
Canepa acknowledged that construction employment is temporary, and many of the jobs provided by stores, restaurants and small businesses are low-wage, entry-level positions. He said he'd love to attract more tech employers, such as Genesys Telecommunications, whose world headquarters is located on Junipero Serra Boulevard.
A primary obstacle preventing similar companies from setting up shop in the city, Canepa says, is a shortage of appropriate space. He explained that cities such as South San Francisco and San Mateo have Bay commercial zones with plenty of room for new office complexes, but that is something his town lacks.
“Our challenge is that we don't have the commercial inventory,” he said, “We're built out. Where do we go? We have to make use of our existing space.”
Martel noted that although Daly City is the biggest, most populous city in the county, it's mostly residential and therefore lacks a diverse tax base. This has made it difficult to maintain services, she said, but the city has managed to do so without the sales-tax increases other Peninsula cities have relied on.
“We try to be as lean as possible,” she said.
Canepa said another big priority is to improve the quality and depth of the city government's communications with residents. He said the city has already taken steps in the right direction with technology solutions like its iHelp mobile app, which enables citizens to alert city staff to problems around town. However, he insisted that people should always feel comfortable making an old-fashioned phone call to City Hall.
“The bottom line,” Canepa said, “is that every citizen matters, and everybody who shares a concern with us deserves a response.”