NIMBY-land Brisbane Says Yes to Major Housing

Brisbane voters narrowly approved a development that would add up to 2,200 housing units on the border of San Francisco and Daly City.

Brisbane narrowly voted to allow the Baylands project, which includes up to 2,200 housing units, to move forward.

San Francisco’s next-door neighbor has proved time and again that it’s the Bay Area’s NIMBY-est of them all. Then Nov. 6 happened.

On Election Day, Brisbane residents narrowly approved a major housing development on the San Francisco border that would construct up to 2,200 sorely needed units near Visitacion Valley’s transportation hub.

About 4,700 people live in Brisbane’s 3 square miles, making San Mateo County’s northeasternmost city approximately one-12th as dense as San Francisco.

Measure JJ, which called for 15 percent below-market-rate housing, was a referendum on a decades-long plan for the 684-acre former rail yard and landfill known as the Brisbane Baylands. As of the latest election results released Friday, the measure has a 54-percent lead — a margin of 77 votes.

But Universal Paragon Corporation, which owns the land and first proposed development in 2005, doesn’t want to jump the gun.

“This is an important issue, and many past Brisbane elections have been decided by very small margins,” Jonathan Scharman, Universal Paragon’s director of development, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the final tally will result in a win for Measure JJ so we can work with the city to move forward with the next steps in building a world-class, sustainable community at the Baylands.”

Even if Measure JJ passes, Universal Paragon must submit a specific plan that addresses remediation, water supply, revenue, habitat protection, and protection from floods and sea-level rise. The company has no deadline to do so but will likely tread carefully, as the Brisbane Planning Commission and City Council could modify or deny it.

State Senators Scott Wiener and Jerry Hill applied pressure by drafting California legislation but withdrew it when Measure JJ hit the ballot. Brisbane officials acknowledged to voters that “it is likely there will be efforts outside the city’s control” to push the project past the finish line in any case, which could extend beyond the City Council’s reach. The original plan outlined about 4,400 units.

Nonetheless, Universal Paragon’s timeline accounts for site cleanup, permitting, and looking toward construction in 2019. The company did not offer a timeline of when housing would be finished, but careful remediation is of concern to limit health risks, an issue at nearby Hunters Point.

When that’s settled, nearby Visitacion Valley — with its quiet retail stretch of Leland Avenue — will see an infusion of neighbors and up to 7 million square feet of commercial space just south of the city line. That’s more people traveling via the little-used Caltrain station and experiencing the slow agony of the T-Third light rail, something the SFMTA may have to seriously prepare for.

The passage of Measure JJ and impact of a new mixed-use neighborhood wedged among the San Francisco Bay, San Francisco itself, and Daly City could come down to a few dozen votes.

With hotly contested elections playing out around the country, it’s impossible to ignore that every vote counts — especially when it comes to housing in Brisbane.

 

Read more from SF Weekly’s “Borderlands” issue

The Borderlands: San Francisco’s Southern Tier
You are still in the city.

Urban Camper: Escape to Sunrise Point
S.F.’s southernmost urban campsite is a little-known respite for the outdoorsy.

Borderlands: Five Places to Eat and Drink Along S.F.’s Southern Edge
San Francisco’s southernmost reaches prove they’re very much a part of this food town.

S.F.’s Republicans Are Hiding Near the Border
A small southwestern edge of the city turned out for Trump in 2016. Will they change their vote in 2020?

For BART, No Representation Without Taxation
San Mateo County’s decades-long reluctance to fully join BART has San Francisco residents closest to Daly City Station paying double.

Inside the 7 Mile House, a 160-Year Old Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere
Sisig, adobo, and lumpia remain the best sellers at this Filipino-Mexican-Italian-American jewel, founded in 1858.

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