Nonprofit fellows group offers tips to Daly City to improve budget challenges 

click to enlarge Representatives of the Coro Fellows Program have suggested that Daly City could create a more robust tax base by creating innovation corridors including one from the Pacific Plaza, above, to Serramonte Center. - BRENDAN P. BARTHOLOMEW/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Brendan P. Bartholomew/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • Representatives of the Coro Fellows Program have suggested that Daly City could create a more robust tax base by creating innovation corridors including one from the Pacific Plaza, above, to Serramonte Center.

Daly City's path to a balanced budget might depend on the creation of innovation corridors that would serve as municipal centers for business, local culture and the arts. Such an initiative would involve the city rebranding itself, much as Fremont has done.

That's the word from participants in the Coro Fellows Program who recently conducted an analysis of Daly City's looming financial challenges. Coro is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose goals include training recent graduates and young professionals to become civic leaders.

Daly City's ongoing structural budget deficit has been forcing the city to "do more with less," officials say, and while services have not been reduced, City Manager Pat Martel recently warned that the town could face "a mass exodus" of city workers if it failed to offer competitive salaries and benefits.

Among the recommendations of Coro representatives Michaela Lee and Jerry Chang, who were on the team that conducted the Daly City project, was that the city could grow a more robust, diverse tax base by creating multiple innovation corridors.

One such corridor would run from Pacific Plaza, along Junipero Serra Boulevard, to Serramonte Center. Another would be Y-shaped, starting on Mission Street and encompassing both City Hall and Serramonte. Currently vacant or underutilized parcels in those areas could house co-working spaces, startup incubators, new retail anchors, multi-use live-work developments, and even artist studios, Lee and Chang noted.

This would seem to be consistent with Mayor David Canepa's desire to foster a "renaissance" in Daly City, but the mayor has previously noted that getting tech innovators to relocate to the city could be a challenge because of the lack of office and industrial space.

"Our challenge is that we don't have the commercial inventory," Canepa has said. "We're built out. Where do we go? We have to make use of our existing space."

Lee agreed with the mayor's assessment, but said having additional space would not be the only solution.

"It's definitely true that there is limited open land, but land would not be a magic bullet to solve Daly City's problems," Lee noted.

Chang asserted that taller, high-density, mixed-use developments could address the land issue.

"If you can't build out, you build up," Chang said. However, he noted that projects with increased height and density are often controversial among residents.

Fremont's effort to rebrand itself as a hub of Silicon Valley innovation and commerce has been considered a success, and Daly City could emulate that effort, Coro representatives suggested. Silicon Valley investors traveling between San Francisco and Silicon Valley usually pass through Daly City, creating opportunities to capture interest, Chang noted.

City Councilman Mike Guingona said he welcomed the Coro fellows' fresh perspective, and revitalizing Daly City through better branding is an option he prefers to raising city taxes. Guingona said any rebranding effort should focus on making the town "a destination for something other than it is now."

The councilman cited the Off the Grid food truck nights and farmers markets hosted by Serramonte Center as examples of events that build a sense of community and bring people to Daly City, and he believes the shopping center would play a key role in future efforts to activate local culture.

"What has evolved as our community gathering spot has been Serramonte," Guingona noted. "We don't have a downtown, but we have a mall."

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