On Thursday, July 19th the Brisbane City Council approved a resolution to place the Baylands General Plan Amendment (GPA) on the November 6, 2018 ballot for voter consideration that would allow for a range of 1,800 to 2,200 housing units, up to 6.5 million square feet of commercial development and a 500,000 square foot hotel. See below for more information on the GPA. The landowner Universal Paragon Corporation (UPC) initially sought to amend Brisbane’s General Plan with a 2005 Specific Plan application. The Council’s action last week signals that the City is ready to have their constituents express their support, or opposition, of the transformative development through the ballot box.
The 2011 Specific Plan called for a 12 million square-foot mixed-use development with 4,400 units of housing – double the amount the City is now considering – adjacent to an active Caltrain commuter line. Housing advocates considered the Baylands site ideal for housing and would help alleviate the Bay Area’s housing crisis, but Brisbane’s 1994 General Plan does not allow for residential development on the site. Recognizing the regional and state interest in ensuring a significant amount of housing on the site, the City Council negotiated a compromise with State lawmakers resulting in the proposed General Plan Amendment. Councilmember Cliff Lentz expressed the importance in passing the measure, underscoring the consequences of the alternative.
“There are opportunities for us if we maintain local control. That’s why it’s so important that we get behind this General Plan Amendment, and we vote for it, and that we pass it,” Lentz continued. “We know what the alternative is – we have a Specific Plan from the developer that’s got 4400 units, and no one in this town wants that. We are making a big sacrifice – everybody up and down the State knows it. No other City is doubling their population.”
The Council unanimously approved the certification of the FEIR, placing the measure on the November ballot, the range of 1800 to 2200 housing units– but had one dissenting vote on the proposed amount of commercial development. Citing concerns of jobs-housing imbalance, Councilmember Terry O’Connell opposed the amount of square footage of the proposed commercial, but understood the rest of the Council’s interest in having a fiscal buffer to protect the City from market fluctuations. In response, Mayor Clarke Conway explained his reasoning to support the amendment as recommended by City staff.
“For years I’ve said this is a regional project,” the Mayor stated. “You draw a circle around the Baylands, and include San Francisco.” He pointed to 1,679 units at the Schlage Lock site, immediately adjacent to the north of the Baylands, as well as the 900-unit Sunnydale project and 1,100 units at Executive Park – all which are light in noncommercial development, mostly providing neighborhood serving retail. “Seven million square feet provides the region a better opportunity to not travel so far, with transit amenities to have a true transit-oriented, regional project.”
Universal Paragon agrees it’s a regional issue. UPC’s Director of Development Jonathan Scharfman said, “We are in a unique position to have adjacent land holdings in San Francisco all within walking distance of the Bayshore Caltrain station and Muni Metro line with the capacity to produce 5,500 housing units. We see that as a productive offset to Brisbane’s proposed 7 million square feet of Baylands commercial development – which is anticipated to generate approximately 20,000 jobs. This equates to 3.6 jobs per housing unit as compared to 19:1 in San Mateo County and 8:1 in San Francisco. We look forward to cooperating with Brisbane and San Francisco in delivering a positive contribution towards addressing our regional housing crisis.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Madison Davis expressed her final thoughts as she casted her support for placing the ballot measure to a citywide vote. “I’m really proud of the work we put in, and I know how important Brisbane is to each of us….I want to remind the public that the work isn’t done. We have the Specific Plan that will come forward if the GPA is passed. Everyone has their opinion, and I welcome everyone to express their opinion in the November vote.”
General Plan Amendment:
The proposed land use change in the GPA will authorize housing on the Baylands within a range of 1800 to 2200 units, as well as up to 6.5 million sf of commercial and 500,000 sf of hotel development. The area allowed for residential development is north from the Main Street extension and west of the Caltrain tracks (scroll down for zoning map). The approved ballot language states:
“Shall 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?”