The Bay Area has yet another hazy development battle going on besides the sinking tower.
Just south of San Francisco, Brisbane, Calif. is in the process of reviewing redevelopment plans of a vast abandoned Southern Pacific rail yard. The developer that owns the site, Universal Paragon Corporation, has proposed to include 4,400 new units of housing on the 684-acre plot. With Brisbane only home to 4,282 residents, the City is pushing two alternative plans that would devote the space entirely to sustainable commercial space with zero housing.
At the crux of the fight is the Baylands Sustainability Framework, an October 2015 document that essentially focuses Baylands development on sustainability and does not include residential zoning.
Jonathan Scharfman, the director of development for Universal Paragon, describes the framework as “solid” in some respects but says that it wholly ignores the negative externalities associated with “absolutely crushing” commutes in the Bay Area. Scharfman says that Brisbane currently imports some 12,000 workers per day. (That number is not out of line in San Mateo County, which has created more than 50,000 new jobs since 2011 but only 3,000 new housing units.) Without adding housing, building out 8 million square feet of commercial space in Brisbane will dramatically exacerbate the problem for the city’s workforce.
“It’s a manufactured justification for a distaste among voters in small towns to claim that having no housing next to a development that’s going to create thousands and thousands of new jobs is sustainable,” Scharfman says. “It’s just anathema.”