Bay Area Housing In Focus: San Francisco Versus Brisbane

This was a tweet that launched a potential “housing war” on the Peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area. I like this story as a great example of the seriousness of the housing issues in the San Francisco Bay Area.

CalWatchdog did a great job of summarizing most of the drama (see “San Francisco threatens suburb over housing“), so I will just post highlights in bullet form here:

  1. The city of Brisbane, population 4,000, plans to develop the Baylands, a 684-acre former industrial site that is now polluted.
  2. The city’s Planning Commission limited the development to commercial-only.
  3. The firestorm began in earnest after Brisbane mayor Clifford Lentz was quoted declaring that housing was not needed because neighboring “San Francisco is providing the housing.”
  4. Angry San Francisco supervisors led by Jane Kim threatened to annex the entire town of Brisbane in order to ensure housing gets included in the Baylands development. San Francisco is facing down a housing crisis as it scrambles to figure out how to provide affordable housing and accommodate swelling demand for limited inventories.
  5. Kim later clarified that San Francisco should consider annexing the Baylands site, not the entire city of Brisbane.

The irony of a plan to develop a large site with no plan for housing the new workers can be seen in the coming election cycle. There are six Bay Area cities with ballot measures proposing various forms of rent control to address soaring rents. Directly across the Bay in Alameda County, a ballot measure seeks to raise $580M in bonds to pay for affordable housing programs. For additional context consider professionals are streaming out of high-cost San Francisco in search of cheaper housing in Alameda County, Oakland in particular. A mad scramble is afoot to figure out how to accommodate all the demand for housing in this land-constrained area.

So, I think it is pretty irresponsible for any city to plan major commercial development with no realistic plan for housing the potential new workers whether in their city or elsewhere. San Francisco is right to be up in arms, but I am guessing the grandstanding is bluster to get attention and to signal the egregiousness of Brisbane’s plan.

The San Francisco is a hotbed for housing issues, and I am adding this development to my monitoring list!

CalTrain speeds through the now barren land in Brisbane finally slated for redevelopment.
CalTrain speeds through the now barren land in Brisbane finally slated for redevelopment.

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