In the 18-year history of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC), we had never stepped out of our 7×7 sandbox. Simply, San Francisco had enough challenges when it came to building housing, so our focus was always in the City. However, we acknowledged that a regional approach to our housing shortage was the only way to solve the affordability crisis. As last summer started to wind down, we received a phone call from Universal Paragon Corporation (UPC), a SFHAC member. UPC has owned the Brisbane Baylands site, just south of San Francisco city limits, since the 1990s. They were proposing a mixed-use site, featuring office and commercial space, a hotel and housing. UPC’s vision included creating 4,400 homes on the site which would result in a responsible jobs to housing balance. Unfortunately, the small town’s Planning Commission voted to support a project that contained only office space. For SFHAC, the decision to get involved was simple.
The reality is that the Baylands site is a once in a generation opportunity. In a geographically constrained region we need to get this right. And by “we”, we mean the Bay Area’s community. The site sits in the small town of Brisbane, in San Mateo county, but the regional impact of this project could be gigantic. A 684-acre piece of land, with an operational train station in the middle of a brownfield, is too important for SFHAC to stay silent. We decided to reach out to local media to cover the story and, unfortunately, were not shocked by Brisbane’s response.
SFHAC worked with our housing allies at the San Francisco YIMBY Party and organized a field trip for housing activists last fall. While we’ve been paying close attention to the meetings, there is an important Land Use hearing on May 4th that requires more advocacy. Accordingly, we’re helping to organize another field trip to let the City Council know we’re paying attention to their decisions. If you want to join us, you can find details here. There are some who want to go to war, others who want to claim the land as San Francisco’s. SFHAC feels that our role in this conversation to shine a light at our southern neighbors. After all, we’re in this together.