Alternative plans under consideration for proposed Brisbane Baylands development 

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  • Courtesy rendering

A developer's controversial plan to build a 4,434-home community in Brisbane is slowly gaining momentum, but it could likely face significant regulatory hurdles for approval.

The site of the proposed development is the roughly 684-acre Brisbane Baylands, a former garbage dump and railyard bordered by the San Francisco county line, the Brisbane Lagoon, Bayshore Boulevard and U.S. Highway 101.

Universal Paragon Corp. originally proposed the project in 2005, and the public comment period for its draft environmental impact review draws to a close Jan. 24.

Several possible alternatives are under review for the project, which has faced opposition from some Brisbane residents.

The developer's preferred alternative includes nearly 170 acres of open space and nearly 7 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space. An alternate plan proposed by the developer would include a sports stadium, concert theater and additional convention and hotel space.

Other options developed with input from the community would eliminate the housing units, feature more open space, and include or expand a 44-acre Recology site that overlaps the San Francisco-Brisbane border.

Because Brisbane's general plan prohibits the construction of housing on the site, the developer's preferred scenarios can only move forward if Brisbane residents vote to change the city's land-use policy. Such a vote has not yet been scheduled.

Universal Paragon General Manager Jonathan Scharfman pointed out that according to the draft environmental review, removing housing from the project would lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, because having office space without adjacent housing would necessitate more car trips by workers.

He said one of the project's chief goals was to locate housing closer to places of employment.

But Committee for Renewable Energy for the Baylands member Anja Miller predicted "total traffic gridlock" if housing was built on the property. Open Space and Ecology Committee Chairwoman Michele Salmon expressed concerns with the housing option, saying not enough is known about the potential toxins contained in the landfill and railyard.

Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf of the SPUR think tank said the project could possibly play a role in lowering housing costs for the community.

"No project by itself is going to be enough to change the macro-equation of housing prices," Metcalf said. "But if we add up the Universal Paragon project with some of the other big projects that are close to happening, that's going to be enough to make a dent in housing prices."

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