Fate of Baylands Heads to Voters
By Austin Walsh
A ballot initiative standing to essentially double the size of Brisbane is splitting the small community in half, as residents and officials passionately grapple with a transformative proposal along the Baylands.
Voters will have the ultimate say on Election Day over the fate of Measure JJ, a general plan amendment which would allow for construction of up to 2,200 residential units and 7 million square feet of commercial space on the 684-acre landfill abutting the Bayshore.
Critics claim the site is too toxic and dangerous to accommodate housing while initiative advocates suggest the development is a fair compromise under mounting pressure to build new homes at the county’s border to San Francisco.
Brisbane native Michele Salmon, who is leading the charge in opposition, claims flatly the area is too contaminated to be considered safe for residential development.
“We are talking about putting housing on toxic land,” she said. “That is a big no for me.”
Meanwhile Mayor William Clark Conway believes remediation is possible to standards beyond state safety thresholds for livability. But even if such a level of cleanup isn’t possible, he fears such an argument will not satisfy legislators dead set on building housing at the site.
“Either it’s going to happen with us approving it in the general plan and controlling the process, or the state is going to do it,” said Conway, regarding housing development. “So pick your poison.”
His argument is built on draft legislation floated last year as part of the housing law package threatening to compel development at the site. In response to the bill crafted by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D- San Mateo, Conway and his colleagues on the Brisbane City Council approved floating a scaled down development proposal to voters in the upcoming election. He noted the ballot measure is a general plan amendment which would loosen development regulations to allow housing construction, but not guarantee the entire scope of the project would be built.