As a kid sitting in the back seat of my parents’ Oldsmobile Delta ‘88, when we left San Francisco and headed down the Peninsula, I always wondered what was on the other side of US 101. The Bay was to the East, but what was on the West? As a teen and young adult, leaving Candlestick Park through the southern access route, I wondered the same thing. You would turn either right or left, but wouldn’t go straight.
Well, now I know. It’s a former railyard and landfill site, The Brisbane Baylands. The borders include the Lagoon to the South, the San Francisco County line to the North, Bayshore Boulevard to the West, and Hwy 101 to the East. 684 Acres!
There is a proposed development on this site including 4,400 homes, 7,000,000 sq. ft. of commercial space including R&D Labs and innovation hubs, dedicated land for a new high school, 300+ acres of restored and enhanced habitats and 20,000 new jobs (5,000 construction and 15,000 permanent).
This is a big opportunity. It looks great, so what’s the issue? The 4,400 homes.
The greater community has spoken. While just about all community voices outside of Brisbane are in support of this housing, some local residents are in support and some local residents are not. The Brisbane Planning Commission is recommending a plan with up to 1 to 2 million sq ft of new development, 85 Acres of Renewable Energy Generation, but no housing. This will not be an easy decision for the Brisbane City Council. Up next: deliberations during July and August where the City Council can either make a decision outright or decide to develop a new plan. They will also consider options for a public vote.
I’ve taken a look at a sample of the public comment in opposition of housing. The comments range from honoring the past principles of slow growth and protecting the vision of a small town, concerns of traffic congestion and concerns that the land is toxic and can’t be cleaned appropriately.
I get it; these are similar concerns to many developments in the greater Bay Area. But let’s look at the projections provided by Plan Bay Area for 2040 and what drives the need for more housing. The Bay Area is projected to add at least 1.3 Million jobs (4.7M total), population of 2.4 Million (9.6M total) and we need 820,000 homes (3.4M total).
Both the jobs and population growth are way ahead of projections, but housing, as usual, is behind. So we have to take every opportunity to not only catch up, but get ahead. If not, we know what has and will continue to happen. Prices keep going up and many middle- and low-income families continue to be pushed out of the city, including our children and grandchildren.
We must take advantage of appropriate development opportunities and build housing, build communities. In San Francisco, some of these developments are Transbay, Mission Bay, Mission Rock (Giants Parking Lot A), Pier 70, Treasure Island, Parkmerced, the Shipyard, Candlestick Point, and Schlage Lock. For Brisbane, it’s the Brisbane Baylands.
The Brisbane Baylands is a transit-oriented development, planned for Muni Light Rail, Bus Rapid Transit, Caltrain, Shuttles and enhanced road connectivity.
But what about the contaminated soil? All developments must follow the California Environmental Quality Act. Each project has to prepare and submit for approval an Environmental Impact Report including remediation plans which meet all standards. That would be the case for the Baylands and, by the way, my neighborhood, Mission Bay.
A little history on Mission Bay: it is a community built on an old railyard and industrial area, similar to the one in Brisbane where the housing units are proposed. The analysis and remediation strategies are covered in the Environmental Impact Report. Today, approximately 75% of the development is complete. When completed there will be 6,500 housing units, 4.4M square feet of commercial space, a UCSF research campus and medical facility, 500 student public school, retail and open space.
Is it perfect? No. Are there days when we are a little frustrated with transit and traffic? Yes. But our families are thriving and we live in a wonderful vibrant community.
City Council and residents of Brisbane, please embrace this opportunity and be part of the solution!
Bruce Agid is a native San Franciscan, a die-hard Giants fan, and The Bay City Beacon's resident baby boomer. You can catch his live-tweets of Warriors and Giants games at @BruceAgidSF & @baycity_beacon.
Photograph courtesy of Larry Wong Photos & Brisbane Baylands.
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