Are we really annexing Brisbane? It sounds insane, but city lawmakers have indeed put forth a resolution that at least contemplates absorbing part of the city of roughly 4,200 people.
And when the mayor of Brisbane showed up to Tuesday’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting to complain about the possibility of San Francisco putting him out of a job, he heard some pretty unsympathetic talk back.
"Utilizing misinformation, the authors of this resolution are pressing for the unthinkable," said Mayor Clifford Lentz, after waiting all afternoon for the floor to open to public comment. "These are tactics of bullying and intimidation."
Lentz was reading from a letter authored by the Brisbane city council. When his time ran out a brief skirmish ensued over whether he should allowed to continue.
"We’re talking about conquering a neighboring town, we can let him finish his letter," Supervisor Scott Wiener said in an appeal to colleagues that has presumably never been voiced in the storied City Hall chamber before.
The bone of contention between the two cities lies in the Baylands, a 680-plus acre tract of undeveloped land north of Brisbane proper and south of Candlestick Point that the city is keen to develop. But when Lentz suggested that Brisbane could add thousands of new jobs to the site but "let San Francisco worry about" the housing element, tempers boiled over.
(For the record, Lentz now says that quote was taken out of context.)
The resolution offered by Supervisor Jane Kim’s office does indeed state that the city should "investigate viability of annexing Brisbane should the City of Brisbane contemplate building no new housing." Kim later clarified that we only have our eye on the Baylands, not the entire city. But surely even that that much is just an effort to play hardball, right?
Well, probably, yes. But when Lentz balked, he heard some pretty chilly replies. "Annexation is provocative," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin. "But the statement that we can accommodate the residential impact is provocative too. What goes around comes around."
"You have the right to speak your mind," said Supervisor David Campos. "We have the right to respond accordingly. Words have consequences."
Only Wiener entertained no patience for it. "To suggest that this isn’t a threat—hey, what about Palo Alto? What about Mountain View? What about all of San Mateo County, if we’re going to take over?"
Lentz pointed out that plans for the Baylands site are not final yet, and that the city’s general plan presently prohibits housing in the area because part of it was once used as a garbage dump. But even though the city is entertaining a zero-housing option, he suggested that could still change.
"The mayor of San Francisco, Planning Department, and MTA all contributed" opinions for Brisbane’s initial impact report on the Baylands when asked, Lentz added. "The Board of Supervisors did not."
In an email to Curbed SF, Kim’s chief of staff pointed out that all of Brisbane was once briefly part of San Francisco in the 19th century, a fact Peskin referenced again on Tuesday. "I’m just saying," he said.
- Brisbane housing resolution [City Legistar]
- Brisbane Mayor Responds to Annexation [SFHAC]
- Lawmaker Suggests Annexing Brisbane [Curbed SF]