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Why won’t Brisbane help ease the housing crisis?

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Effort to build South Bay homes in peril

Photo by Sharon Hahn Darlin

To say that the South Bay and Silicon Valley need to add housing is an understatement. An intentional dearth of housing coupled with soaring job growth, thanks to the world’s most valued companies, has resulted in a chilling dystopian scenario come to life.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the town of Brisbane, where developer Universal Paragon Corporation wants to build roughly 4,400 new homes for the Baylands, an empty 684-acre site.

It would be one of the biggest projects proposed in the peninsula city—a region that’s also one of the country’s most unaffordable areas. In addition to helping reduce the need for cars by being located near a train station, it would provide much needed workforce housing for what is largely a middle- to upper-class, predominantly white area.

Too bad it most likely won’t happen.

In a Los Angeles Times piece on the housing project, reporter Liam Dillon explains why it this project won’t come to fruition.

For their part, some Brisbane residents feel besieged by pressure from housing activists, business groups, state lawmakers, San Francisco politicians, newspaper editorials and others beyond the city’s boundaries. An old rail yard and garbage dump contaminated the land, and opponents contend they want to protect anyone who might decide to live there even after regulators approve a cleanup. More than that, Brisbane residents say, outsiders don’t understand how much the Baylands project would upend their community.

“We’re a small town,” City Councilman W. Clarke Conway said at a meeting on the project last fall, “and we’re a small town by choice.”

For many longtime residents, who were thrilled to buy in the area in bygone days, the idea of closing the proverbial gates is a good one.

“For our town to grow like that, it would be too much, too fast,” said Paul Bouscal, 58, a San Francisco water department employee.

But not every resident feels that way.

“I see a lot of stuff,” said Bill Dettmer, 63, of Brisbane. “I see beds in garages. You have to increase the [housing] supply. If you really want to help out people, let them live in dignity. It just seems like a no-brainer.”

It’s important to note that many employers call Brisbane home, like BiRite Foodservice Distributors, Bebe, and on-demand private jet charter company XOJET.

Back in May, San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim suggested annexing part of Brisbane in an effort to ease the housing crisis. Brisbane politicos were none too thrilled and denied the offer.