TIME TO SAY HELLO.
There is a lot of information out there about the Baylands project, and we want to make sure you have all the facts. Please reach out to us with any additional questions and we’ll get back to you with an answer right away.
- 1. What is the Brisbane Baylands?
Nestled halfway between SFO airport and downtown San Francisco, the 684-acre Baylands site in Brisbane, CA is a once-in-a century opportunity for the region. Once home to railyards and the primary sanitary landfill for San Francisco, Baylands has a strong industrial history and played an integral role in connecting the Peninsula to San Francisco. After 100 years of industrial use and neglect, the site is once again poised to connect our region and become a world class demonstration of site regeneration, transit-oriented development and sustainable design.
- 2. Who owns the Brisbane Baylands?
From 1932 to 1967, the portion of the site east of the current rail grade operated as the San Francisco Municipal Landfill, and to the area west operated as a rail yard that began at the turn of the 20th century. In 1989, Universal Paragon Corporation (UPC) affiliates purchased the site and began the development planning process.
- 3. What is the history of the Brisbane Baylands Planning Process?
UPC, the property owner of the Baylands, underwent various concept plans for the site before submitting the 2006 Specific Plan for the Brisbane Baylands, later designated the Developer-Sponsored Plan (DSP). The Specific Plan was updated significantly in 2011. Contemporaneously, the City of Brisbane began developing an alternative plan in 2009 with input from residents, designated the Community Proposed Plan (CPP). All plans call for environmental remediation of the brownfield land from its use as a rail yard and landfill. Most notably, the CPP does not propose residential.
- 4. What is the difference between the plan in the General Plan Amendment (GPA) and the Developer Sponsored Plan (DSP)?
The DSP calls for the development of a mixed-use community including 4,434 housing units, 7 million square feet of commercial, transit/roadway improvements, 25-acre solar farm and nearly 200 acres of open space. Housing would be limited to the land previously used as the rail yard. The GPA includes the following description and language in the ballot measure.
Shall the Brisbane’s General Plan be amended to permit within the Baylands a range of 1800 to 2200 residences north of an extension of Main Street, and up to 7 million square feet of new commercial development, subject to these restrictions to protect Brisbane: land for housing must be certified safe for ground-level residential use; landfill must be permanently, safely capped; and development must abide by Brisbane’s Sustainability Framework principles and produce net positive City revenues?
A noticeable difference between the two is the significant reduction of planned housing units, from 4,434 units to a maximum of 2,200 homes – approximately half what the Developer proposed. The GPA was approved by the Brisbane Voters in November 2018.
- 5. Why is the Brisbane Baylands General Plan Amendment (GPA) on the November Ballot?
Every county and city in California is required by state law to have a General Plan, and the plan is required to be up to date. The General Plan discusses the city’s goals, policies, and implementation actions regarding future development.
The present Brisbane 1994 General Plan does not permit residential development on the Baylands site. Therefore, the City’s General Plan needs to be amended in order for residential development to be considered on the site. More typically, this change can be made with simply a vote of the City Council. In this case, due to significant size of the development in relation to the rest of Brisbane, the City Council, at their July 19 meeting, felt it appropriate to approve the Baylands General Plan Amendment subject to the approval of the GPA by a majority of the Brisbane voters.
An approval of the General Plan Amendment DOES NOT provide development approval but simply offers the developer guidelines under which approvals will be considered by the City in the future. The General Plan Amendment was approved by the Brisbane voters in November 2018. The developer is currently working with the City to prepare a Specific Plan and Development Agreement that abides by the GPA’s requirements and restrictions.
Click the link below to view Brisbane Planning Consultant, Lloyd Zola describing the General Plan process during the 7/19/18 City Council Meetings (Video of meeting 1:10:55 to 1:14:19)
- 6. What is a Specific Plan?
A specific plan is a document designed to implement the goals and policies of the General Plan. These plans will contain detailed development standards, distribution of land uses, infrastructure requirements, and implementation measures for the development of a specific geographic area.
The Brisbane Baylands Specific Plan will contain language that will further define the details of and requirements for site remediation/cleanup, size, design and maintenance of parks and open spaces, water supply availability and fiscal requirements, as well as other specific requirements and restrictions to which the development is bound to. The Specific Plan will be included as an Exhibit to the Development Agreement, a binding contract between the Developer and the City.
It is ONLY with the City Council approval of the Specific Plan and Development Agreement that site clean-up and construction at the Baylands can begin.
- 7. Why is residential development now being considered at the Baylands if the current 1994 General Plan disallows residential on the site?
According to Tom McMorrow from the law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP who represents the City of Brisbane on State level matters, in 2017 the housing crisis in the Bay Area caused the State of California to look for urban sites that could be considered for housing that would positively impact the housing shortage that presently exists. The Baylands site became prominent in these discussions and pressure from the State caused Brisbane to re-consider residential on the Baylands site. The approval of the General Plan Amendment by the Brisbane voters in November 2018 allows up to 2,200 residential units to be built on the Baylands site.
Click below to view the video of Mr. McMorrow’s response to City Council at the 7/19/18 City Council meeting. (1:00:27 – 1:10:54 of the video of the meeting)
- 8. What are the legal risks if General Plan Amendment on the November ballot is defeated?
According to Tom McMorrow from the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP who represents the City of Brisbane on State level matters, the legal fees associated with a potential lawsuit with the State or others are estimated to be in the $1-3 million range or higher, an amount well above the reserves of the City.
Click below to view the video of the response to this question posed by Councilmember Madison Davis at the 7/19/18 City Council meeting. (1:31:30 of the City Council video)
- 9. How will the site be cleaned up?
Under guidance of State and County regulatory agencies, and further checked by the City’s third-party consultant, the required standards for environmental cleanup will be detailed in the Remedial Action Plan (RAP). The community will have the opportunity to provide input for the RAP in a public review process. As part of the Baylands GPA, the City requires the developer to design and remediate for ground level residential. Once the City of Brisbane approves the Baylands Specific Plan, the developer will abide by state and federal regulations for environmental remediation based on the approved land uses.
More information on environmental remediation:
Draft EIR, Chapter 4G Hazards and Hazardous Materials
- 10. Will there be additional testing on the site for radioactive material?
If the US Navy, Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) or Regional Water Quality Control Board conclude that additional testing for radioactive material is necessary, that testing will take place. Furthermore, the Baylands GPA requires that all soil materials moved or exported from the landfill be tested prior to issuance of a grading permit. Approval of the GPA does not preclude the City from re-evaluating land use decisions in any forthcoming specific plans based on finalized risk assessments and approved remedial action plans.
- 11. Will tree planting on the site cause the roots to penetrate through the landfill cap?
In order to successfully revegetate landfill surfaces, including the planting of trees, the following are key factors:
- Ensure proper planning, design and funding
- Provide adequate soil quality and depth
- Determine appropriate target habitat and native plant selection
- Allow for appropriate planting and establishment
- Conduct routine monitoring and management
Grasses, shrubs and trees have successfully been planted over closed landfills and waste containment areas. The specified trees, shrubs and grasses will have shallow root systems that will not extend to the underlying waste. Properly designed and implemented per Title 27 California Code of Regulations, the integrity of the landfill surface will be maintained to support a variety of plants and trees. In general, the high density, low permeability and poor aeration of the landfill surface provide an effective barrier to penetration by tree roots. Materials used for capping landfill sites, such as HDPE (high density polyethylene) and compacted clays, also serve as an effective barrier to downward root growth.
- 12. How will the Baylands secure the needed water supply for the development and how much water will be needed?
Any approved Baylands Specific Plan will require a guaranteed water supply prior to start of construction. The City of Brisbane shall, at the expense of the Developer, prepare the required operational studies and additional environmental analysis as needed, and will enter into any required Water Supply and Conveyance Agreement prior to or concurrent with Specific Plan approval for Baylands development.
In addition, the Baylands development will implement strict water conservation measures, such as:
- Water budgeting and auditing
- Public education
- Efficient appliances
- Multi-family unit sub-metering
- Water-efficient landscaping
- Water-efficient bathroom and kitchen fixtures
- Recycled water production from offsite sources
For More information on water supply:
Draft EIR, 4.0, Utilities Service Systems and Water Supply
- 13. How will the plan meet Brisbane’s sustainability goals?
Sustainability requirements are based on the City of Brisbane’s adoption of the One Planet Living model (www.bioregional.com) through the Sustainability Framework, and will be included with the submission of the Baylands Specific Plan. Baylands calls for key performance indicators for sustainability based on this model. For example, the Baylands General Plan Amendment specifically requires Baylands development:
- to be energy neutral or better
- Incorporate building strategies with a “green building” approach, including LEED certification
- Promote and encourage non-vehicular access and movement to and from the site (particularly from Central Brisbane) and within the site as well
- Incorporate innovative methods to reduce resource consumption and waste generation
- Maximize solid waste diversion with the goal of achieving zero waste
- Provide on-site opportunities for public art and education to contribute to public understanding of the site, including its history, ecology and the project’s sustainability mission
By embracing Brisbane’s Sustainability Framework, the Baylands will become a national model for sustainability.
More information on renewable energy generation and sustainability:
- 14. How will infrastructure improvements (streets, storm drainage, sewer, water lines, traffic signals, overpasses and the like) be paid for?
As part of the required Specific Plan for the Baylands, a preliminary infrastructure plan would be prepared to identify how construction of such infrastructure would be phased and financed. The preliminary infrastructure plan would be subject to review and approval by the City. The Baylands GPA requires that the development shall be revenue positive to the City on an annual basis where all City costs (e.g., annual operating costs, maintenance and replacement of equipment, facilities, infrastructure, cultural resource and habitat protection and management etc.) are exceeded by project-generated revenues to the City (e.g., to the City’s General Fund, enterprise funds, special funds, etc.) during all phases of development and upon final buildout.
There are many mechanisms that are commonly adopted to enhance fiscal impacts for large developments. As described by economic consultant Keyser Marston, one common financial tool is an Assessment District or a Community Facility District (CFD). A CFD could be established for maintaining public roads, public entryways, landscaped areas, trails, and parks. A CFD is a special tax, secured by a lien on private property.
More information on infrastructure improvements:
Brisbane Baylands Draft Specific Plan Chapter 9
As the largest private property owner within the Planning Area, we expect to shoulder a substantial portion of improvement costs toward infrastructure in and around the Planning Area. Additional contributors will be other developers and government entities. Cost-sharing mechanisms, such as the one anticipated to result from the Bi-County Transportation Study, will need to be negotiated by and contracted between applicable developers and government entities.
More information on infrastructure improvements:
Brisbane Baylands Specific Plan Chapter 9
- 15. How will the City of Brisbane pay for the additional Police, Fire and associated City services that the Baylands will require?
Included in the Baylands Specific Plan and the related Baylands Development Agreement will be a requirement that the development be net revenue positive to the City of Brisbane with additional revenues primarily coming from the increase in property taxes generated by the new development. The Brisbane City Council has commissioned studies of review for the potential fiscal impact to Brisbane that the DSP would generate. Generally, these studies have indicated surplus net revenue to the City in the range of $1 to $3 million per year at full development build out. Brisbane’s present annual budget is in the range of $18 million. In addition, communities can establish a Community Facilities District to fund a portion of public safety services.
- 16. How will the Baylands address sea level rise?
Per the Baylands GPA, development shall be designed to protect uses from the 100-year flood, including 100 years of projected sea level rise as determined based on regulatory standards or guidelines in effect at the time of project construction. For example, the Baylands will be designed to ensure that finished floor elevations are a minimum of 1-foot of freeboard above the 100-year storm event hydraulic grade line water elevation with tidal flow and 100 years of estimated sea level rise. A Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment Report must be submitted to the City, and the Director of Public Works and City Engineer must approve prior to any development.
Click for more information on how the Baylands plan addresses sea level rise.
- 17. Can the sound from the necessary pile driving during construction be mitigated?
The Brisbane Baylands Final EIR requires that the Developer, working with the City Building Department, explore alternate cost-effective methods of placing piles in the ground to mitigate sounds from the construction effort.
- 18. How dense will the Baylands development be?
With a site size of 684 acres, 6.5 million square feet of commercial, 500,000 square feet of hotel and 2,200 units of residential, the General Plan Amendment estimates a population of 4,032 – 4,928 new residents. The GPA limits the maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to 2.4 for the area south of Visitiacion Creek and up to 4.8 north of the creek. FAR is a planning tool used to regulate a building’s mass in relation to the size of its lot. The FARs do not permit the maximum intensities to be established throughout the subarea – the intent of the FARs given for the Baylands is to accommodate diversity in the height and intensity of structure in order to encourage interesting, flexible, and variable development. For reference, see below for the sitewide FARs of nearby developments. The DSP, for example, proposed an average range of 4 to 6 stories for the area closer to the Bayshore Caltrain Station, whereas the area closer to Central Brisbane has building heights 2 to 4 stories, providing diversity in the densities for a sense of community in the new neighborhood.
- 19. How will you address traffic caused by the development?
By its urban, mixed -use design, the Baylands creates less traffic than traditionally designed developments with offices, residences, retail, restaurants and entertainment – in close proximity to transit stops and to each other. The Baylands General Plan Amendment would not cause an increase in transit demand that could not be accommodated by train transit capacity (BART and Caltrain). A robust transportation and parking management plan and an extensive pedestrian and bicycle network are key elements of the proposed development.
Baylands will include:
- Walkable, pedestrian-friendly districts with sidewalks and off-street paths and trails
- A bicycle circulation system, including bike sharing opportunities, that provides access throughout the development and connects to surrounding neighborhoods
- A public transit system including Caltrain, SF Muni, SamTrans, proposed BART extension and shuttles within ½ mile
- A street network that can safely accommodate the increased traffic volumes resulting from new development
In addition, the extension of Geneva Avenue from Bayshore Boulevard to the US 101 freeway, with an overpass crossing the Caltrain tracks along with the reconfiguration of the US 101 Candlestick interchange, will be constructed and accepted in coordination with San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), San Francisco Municpal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), and Caltrans. The Geneva extension will provide a viable route for bus rapid transit, connecting development within San Francisco, Daly City, Brisbane, and the Baylands to the Bayshore Caltrain station. By providing for high density, mixed-use development adjacent to the Bayshore Caltrain station, the Baylands General Plan Amendment will encourage the use of transit and discourage car-driving.
More detailed information on traffic issues:
- 20. I’ve heard references to California Senate Bill 35 (SB 35) and its potential impact on the Baylands. Can you clarify this better?
According to Tom McMorrow whose Sacramento law firm represents the City of Brisbane, SB 35 – passed into law in September 2017 – does not apply to the Baylands for many reasons, one of which is that this General Plan Amendment will provide the objective zoning standards and design review standards that will be embodied in the Specific Plan to be submitted by the Developer, should the GPA pass.
Click Here to view a three- minute clip of the 7/19/18 City Council meeting video where Tom McMorrow, attorney to the City, explains why SB 35 does not apply to the Baylands (video 1:28:38 – 1:31:30)
- 21. How will the proposed High Speed Rail maintenance yard impact the Baylands project?
Our goal for Baylands is to regenerate the contaminated site – a former rail yard and landfill – into a vibrant, healthy community of businesses, restaurants, retail, residences, entertainment and open space for existing and future Brisbane residents. A heavy industrial use such as another rail maintenance yard is not compatible with that vision. At this time, the High Speed Rail Authority has not submitted a proposal.
Get more information on High Speed Rail.
- 22. How will open space be addressed as part of the Baylands development?
The required Specific Plan for the Baylands will include an Open Space Master Plan. The Baylands General Plan Amendment requires that 25 percent of the Baylands land area be retained in open space and open area.
Key habitat areas, including Icehouse Hill, Brisbane Lagoon, wetlands and adjacent habitat will be preserved, enhanced, and protected in the development of the Baylands. The development will create natural linkages across the site to promote physical and visual connectivity between the San Bruno Mountains and the Bay. The developer has committed to improving Visitacion Creek corridor, Icehouse Hill, and the edges of Brisbane Lagoon for habitat conservation and passive recreation. In addition, the San Francisco Bay Trail would be extended to provide additional views of the Bay from the Baylands. Although some development could occur between the trail and the Bay, it would adhere to applicable San Francisco Bay Plan policies intended to ensure that new development maintains public access to the Bay.
More information on parks and open space:
- 23. How does the Recology project impact the proposal for the Brisbane Baylands?
Recology has submitted a project proposal for modernization and expansion of their existing facilities that are currently located in both San Francisco and Brisbane. Their proposal increases the size of their facility in Brisbane and includes a portion of the Brisbane Baylands site owned by Universal Paragon Corporation (UPC). The expansion allows Recology to consolidate their San Francisco operations and enables the City of San Francisco to meet its Zero Waste 2020 mandate.
The Recology proposal for the site is being processed by the City of Brisbane separately from UPC’s proposal, and includes a separate environmental review process.
More information on the Recology project (City’s website):
More information on Brisbane’s history:
Brisbane, the First 25 Years
- 24. When could clean up and construction start at the Brisbane Baylands?
The Baylands plan is going through the formal approval process under the jurisdiction of the City of Brisbane. With approval of the GPA by the Brisbane voters in November 2018, the City and the Developer are now in negotiations on the Specific Plan and Development Agreement. Site remediation and infrastructure improvements will begin after these two documents are finalized. There is a potential that the first buildings could commence construction in 2022. Full build-out will take 10-20 years.
The City of Brisbane also has an FAQ section relating to the Brisbane Baylands on the city’s website. The City FAQs focus on the planning and approval process.