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Baylands development vote looms for Brisbane

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Measure JJ could clear decade-plus Baylands logjam or start it all over again

Aerial photo of the Baylands in Brisbane. Photo by Sharon Hahn Darlin

Last week the city of Brisbane released a special FAQ mailer to voters about Measure JJ, the local November ballot initiative that might pave the way for the city to finally, finally allow development at the Baylands site.

The Baylands is a 660-acre tract of land (some sources estimate it at more than 700 acres) immediately south of San Francisco, a potentially prime piece of vacant property that could one day host thousands of new homes.

But the site is a former garbage dump presently only used for a small number of industrial applications. The city’s general plan does not allow for residential development there, unless voters approve Measure JJ in November.

The mailer breaks down the details of the measure, which could create thousands of new homes in San Mateo County and possibly double the population fo the town, including:

The General Plan Amendment does the following:

-Allows for a range of 1,800-2,200 residential units and up to seven million square feet of new commercial development. Under current City regulations, at least 15 percent of the residential units are required to be affordable housing units.

-Limits housing to the northwest corner of the Baylands. [...]

-Require that future development be revenue positive for the city. [...]

-[Require that development] address flood protection and sea level rise.

A rendering of new buildings in the Brisbane Baylands.
UPC plans for the Baylands.
Courtesy UPC

If the measure passes, developer Universal Paragon Corporation [UPC], which owns the entire property and has petitioned for over a decade to create a new Baylands neighborhood, will be allowed to “prepare a [...] development agreement for its property that is consistent with the amended General Plan” and begin submitting that for potential approval.

If the measure fails, everything goes back to the drawing board and the last two years of negotiations are largely scuttled.

Note that the FAQ warns voters that “it is likely there will be efforts outside the city’s control to permit residential development of the Baylands” is Brisbane itself doesn’t play ball.

The development plans are so unpopular at Brisbane City Hall that city council members actually mentioned the possibility of de-annexing the entire area at a recent meeting.

But Brisbane lawmakers frame Measure JJ as a compromise between the developers, Sacramento lawmakers interested in seeing the site used, and Brisbane residents.

Note that the proposed 2,200 or so homes is less than half of what UPC once hoped to build on the site. And as the diagram below shows, Measure JJ reserves only a tiny portion of the Baylands site for potential residential use.

City of Brisbane.