Name: Kevin Mullin
Occupation: Mayor/Business owner (KM2 Communications)
How long have you lived in South San Francisco?
Over 30 years.
Why are you running for office?
I have immensely enjoyed serving the City of South San Francisco on the City Council since 2007, and I want to continue collaborating with my colleagues both at the Council and staff levels to create a safer and stronger South San Francisco. We have much work remaining on creating solutions to gang violence, strengthening our on-going economic development profile, and continuing our fiscally responsible approach to our city budget. These will be my priorities moving forward.
How long have you served on the council and what previous public offices and community leadership positions have you held?
Elected in 2007. Previously served as district director to then-State Senator Jackie Speier (now our Congresswoman), and also serve on the Workforce Investment Board of San Mateo County. Currently I represent the cities of San Mateo County on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional transportation planning and financing agency for the nine-county Bay Area.
What in your experience best prepares you to serve on the city council?
The experience serving on Council the past four years best prepares me for a new term, as it has been a remarkable learning experience. I also bring the perspective of a small business owner in South San Francisco to our Council deliberations. My blend of public and private sector experience is what best prepares me for local government service in these challenging fiscal times.
What are you most proud of in your time on the council?
I am most proud of the proactive and comprehensive approaches that the City of South San Francisco implemented in response to the gang violence and homicides this community has experienced in recent years. By hiring four new officers, creating a police substation in the new parking garage, and developing a comprehensive stakeholder group, the Community Coalition on Safe Neighborhoods, this city has demonstrated its total committment to addressing this violence and combatting the problem with suppression, intervention, and prevention strategies. Additionally, I am also very proud of the fiscally responsible approach taken by the City in addressing both short term and longer term budgetary concerns.
What will you do to improve downtown and bring in more businesses that appeal to consumers (question submitted by reader Cynthia Arias)?
By building market rate housing in the downtown (projects are planned and nearing construction), we are aiming to encourage workers from the biotech businesses in the East of 101 to call South San Francisco home. These workers have strong income levels and can help support the success of retail and restaurants. While we don't plan to compete directly with retail streets like Burlingame Avenue, I do believe you will gradually see a mix of retailers seeing new opportunities in our downtown. If we are successful in relocating our Caltrain station closer to the foot of Grand Ave., this will provide great stimulus for further mixed-use developments which will help the small, locally-owned businesses thrive. While that is a longer term prospect, we are doing things right now to help businesses on Grand Avenue, including providing low-interest loans for business upgrades and expansions. I believe a city is only as strong as its downtown, and downtown revitalization continues to be a priority for this Council and senior management.
Reader Marcy Escobar asks why the city continues planning building projects when some apartments and businesses are vacant? More generally, how do you respond to criticisms of development plans such as the El Camino Real/Chestnut Avenue Area General Plan? How do you square concern from some residents about development with the city’s requirement to provide more housing?
It might seem counterintuitive to be planning new mixed use developments while some storefronts and apartments are vacant. My response is that what you are seeing right now is a snapshot in time of market conditions in 2011, but we have a responsibility to do longer range planning in anticipation of continued population growth, and eventual economic recovery. It can take years to bring housing or mixed use projects from inception to completion. We don't want to wait until the economy is fully recovered to begin that planning process. By then, we may have lost the initiative and competitive edge with other localities looking to build.
The El Camino Real/Chestnut Avenue plan is a 20-30 year vision of what might be possible someday in that corridor. Any development that may occur someday would need to be approved by the Council at that time. I am excited though at the prospect of the city transforming blighted spaces into a dynamic area, complete with a new library, civic center, and a public plaza (that a city the size of South San Francisco sorely needs). The council is sensitive to community input, and demonstrated responsiveness to concerns by lowering the maximum allowable heights to ensure any future development better blends with the existing topography, and preserves views of San Bruno Mountain for the Buri-Buri area and minimizes impacts to Sunshine Gardens. On the natural tension between development impacts and the need to provide housing, we are a job center with a booming biotechnology sector. We expect the Oyster Point area to someday add 6,000 permanent jobs. We have a responsibility to provide housing opportunities so these workers can live close to where they work and not clog our roadways coming from the East Bay or San Francisco. We want those workers to have an opportunity to live here and become part of our community. We also have a responsibility to provide affordable housing opportunities and meet state obligations with regard to housing supply, and are doing just that with the Mid-Peninsula development at 636 El Camino Real and other projects. We are also keenly aware of the need to place the new housing near transit and bus lines, so the new units are part of an integrated land use strategy.
Many surrounding areas have renovated Safeway stores, but locations in South San Francisco are “a disgrace,” according to reader Melissa Yoshida. What, if anything, will you do get encourage Safeway to improve its local stores?
I agree that our Safeways do not compare favorably with the quality of those you see down the Peninsula. My hope is that we will eventually redevelop the two shopping centers in question, which will enable upgraded stores. In the meantime, we will encourage Safeway to make modifications to their existing stores. But I really believe the answer will be found with a future revamp of those entire spaces.
City leaders and police officers pledged to try to reduce violent crime after last December’s fatal shooting, but just last month a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed on First Lane. Have the additional officers on the police force and new Old Town substation paid for from city reserve funds been successful at curbing violence? What more will you do to address this problem? What do you say to residents who argue that more funds should be committed to youth programming?
It was imperative for the city to respond forcefully and comprehensively to those horrible crimes. Gang and gun violence is a multi-faceted societal problem that requires a multi-prong response, involving the city and our police department, schools, local social service non-profits, and most importantly parents and neighborhood residents. While one cannot say with certainty that hiring additional officers has prevented additional killings (it is difficult to prove why something doesn't happen), it stands to reason that an enhanced enforcement presence, matched with community outreach and the formation of our Community Coalition on Safe Neighborhoods, is resulting in progess. I have personally rode along with our new officer corps (the Neighborhood Response Team, NRT) and am impressed at the level of professionalism on display, and the relationship-building with local merchants and residents is apparent. We will continue to address this issue on multiple fronts, and are going to formally seek outside foundation funding to augment our outreach and strategic planning efforts (in partnership with Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center). We also have committed additional resources to youth programming (including adding the Junior Giants program among many others), and are committed to advocating for additional social service dollars and other resources to be devoted to Old Town and other neighborhoods where these crimes have occured.
South San Francisco currently has a voluntary ban on plastic bags, discouraging their use at large retail stores. Would you support a more general, countywide ban on plastic bags, as has been recently proposed?
I think a countywide approach to this issue has great merit, as opposed to a patchwork quilt of policies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. That kind of approach would also potentially put our retailers at a disadvantage as compared to those in adjoining cities without bans.
What, if anything, do you think the city of South San Francisco should do to encourage the biotech and clean technology industries?
Since the inception of the biotech industry in South San Francisco, we've always taken a pro-active approach to encouraging the development and prosperity of this industry. The city has invested major redevelopment resources in infrastructure which has helped the industry expand its operations. With the founding of the biofuels company Solazyme, I think the prospect exists that we may grow a new greentech sector to complement the biotech sector. The ferry service will provide a catalyst for further expansion of these industries. These are exciting times East of 101 in South San Francisco. We want to nurture the success of those companies and then continue the work of better connecting the prosperity experienced in the East side of the city, with the needs and desires of people on the residential side.
In your opinion, what is the most crucial budget issue the city faces, and what would you do about the problem?
The on-going sluggish state and national economy poses the greatest immediate threat with barely recovering revenue streams. We will continue to focus on core services and look for cost savings. We've been fortunate to avoid layoffs and don't anticipate major restructuring of departments as you see in some communities along the Peninsula. We are fortunate to have a healthy reserve in place, and are always committed to making tough fiscal decisions to keep our budget balanced. We do have long-term retiree health obligations which are daunting at best. We will need to engage in a serious conversation in the near future about ways to begin to bend that cost curve, so future city councils won't have to make major service cuts to finance those obligations.
What’s something that voters don’t know about you?
Many people are unaware that I am hearing-impaired and wear hearing aids in both ears. That is why you may see me with an earpiece at Council meetings, so I make sure I don't miss a word. I was also a mobile deejay in high school and college, playing lots of loud music (which probably didn't help the hearing problem).