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The Baylands Timeline


The developer bought the Baylands in 1989 knowing it was highly toxic land zoned for light industrial useAs part of the purchase, they made a commitment to clean it up. 

They submitted a development plan in 2006 that was aligned with our General Plan and had no housing.  They later withdrew that plan.  No clean-up had been done.


When the housing market got hot, they added housing to a new plan would triple the number of homes currently in Brisbane by building on toxic land.  

Community Facts

Incorporated in 1961

3.44 sq mi of land


total city budget

4,693 residents

1,949 Housing Units

Housing Update

Brisbane is not opposed to the responsible development of new housing. Far from it. 


In January 2018, Brisbane approved and implemented the Parkside Precise Plan with new zoning for 228 low and moderate income housing units.  You can read more about it here.

In October 2017, Brisbane approved the San Bruno Avenue Project for a 3-story, mixed use building with 16 one-bedroom senior housing units including 3 units restricted to qualifying low and very low income households.

The Brisbane Community is not against compromise, but Measure JJ was a bad deal.  The developer did not agree to the provisions in Measure JJ. There is no guarantee that the developer won't lobby state legislators for more housing.  Without a Development Agreement between Brisbane and the developer, who owns the land, the provisions in Measure JJ are unenforceable.  There are no protections without a Development Agreement, and even then, new state housing legislation can increase the housing limits in Measure JJ.  The landowner received a huge land value increase with no strings attached and no guarantees.  The developer may never remediate or build at all.   A sound compromise should have included the key stakeholders as part of the agreement before Brisbane gave away the protections of the General Plan.  

Who we are

We're the Brisbane Citizens for Responsible Development. Some of us have lived in Brisbane for three generations; others for under five years. (members include Linda Dettmer, Ray Miller, Anja Miller, Deb Horen, Michele Salmon, Keith Moreau, Barbara Ebel, Dolores Gomez, Beth Grossman, Dan Ryan, Dimitri Moore, Jamie Dunn and many many more!)

We all share the values that make Brisbane a unique and special place to live. We work hard to cultivate a strong community that deeply cares about our shared safety, health, and well being.  We fought to save a mountain and we will fight for responsible and safe development on the Brisbane Baylands. 

We are not funded by or affiliated with any outside organization. We're a group of citizens determined to make a difference. History is not only what has gone before; history is made by what we do today. 

Read our March 2018 PRESS RELEASE here.

One brief note: City of Brisbane staff and elected officials have not been involved in the creation of this website.  We have used public information from the City of Brisbane, as well as from the State of California, the EPA, and other public domain sources.  This site has been funded entirely by small donations from the citizens of Brisbane.

Guiding Principles


We believe in responsible housing growth in Brisbane.  We agree that there is a regional housing shortage.  That's why the the Brisbane City Council approved 235 new high density homes within the last year, many of them for moderate and low income residents.  

The new housing approved in 2017-2018 and other recent housing projects, represents a 12%+ increase in housing in Brisbane, a significant increase for a town with fewer than 2000 residential units. Proportionally, the approved housing plan far outpaces most jurisdictions in the region. 

Climate change is a present danger and an existential crisis.  The problem of climate change dwarfs that of our housing shortage.  The "growth at any cost" mentality that drives massive development projects only fuels the destructive cycle of severe storms and sea level increases. 


Hurricane Harvey showed us what can happen when severe storms meet urban sprawl. The Houston water shed had been paved over; there was nowhere for the water to go but up. Capping the Baylands with an impermeable cap to seal in toxins would have a similar effect in a severe storm here. (The clean-up plan for the Baylands is a misnomer.  The remediation plan is simply to cap the hazardous substances that permeate the water table and most of the land.) 

We're not confident that the plans to cap the land would make it a safe place to raise children or live on. The land is a liquefaction zone:  a moderate earthquake, sea level rise, or a severe storm could cause toxins to escape the cap.  It would be far from the first time that toxic material escaped from an area said to be safely contained.

There are sound alternatives to the developer's plan. There are other development alternatives that won't put peoples' health and lives at risk. Our Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Baylands included the Alternative Plan that included a solar farm that could generate enough renewable energy for a large portion of our population. It was  called out in the EIR as both feasible and the environmentally superior plan. There are synergies with the co-located PG&E substation. 


This could be a large contributor to Governor Brown's plan for the state to rely on 80% renewable energy by 2020.  Brisbane can make a significant contribution to our region. We have a legacy of fighting for what we believe, which has always included strong environmental stewardship and the pursuit of long-term, sustainable solutions to our local and regional problems. 

We are a small town, but we are not small-minded. We are willing to think big.



The following video, produced by Committee for Renewable Energy on the Baylands ,CREBL,  provides a vision for profitable ventures that will put this land to good use.

The History of Brisbane

Local historians Dolores Gomez and Christy Thilmany published the storied history of Brisbane in their 2009 book in the Images of America series. We've reprinted an excerpt with permission here:

"Nestled in the shadow of San Bruno Mountain, Brisbane, California, lies about 10 miles south of the center of the city of San Francisco.  From Native American villages to the continuing attractive small-town atmosphere, Brisbane retained an independent spirit in a charming location on the upper San Francisco Peninsula.

Brisbane's earliest inhabitants were Native Americans known today as the Ohlone, bands of hunter-gatherers living lightly on the land in semipermanent villages such as Amuctac and Tubsinte. Among the animals they hunted were ducks, bobcats, bears, and snakes, and many insects were also food sources. They also enjoyed bounty from San Francisco Bay, such as shellfish, fish, and sea plants.  To encourage growth of nuts and grasses they gathered for food, they would burn the slopes and valleys of San Bruno Mountain routinely.

When the Spanish came to what they called Alta or Upper California around 1769, although some resisted, many of the Ohlone were pushed off the land and into the missions.  The Catholic Church, which came to own most of the land, used the slopes and valleys of San Bruno Mountain to graze their cattle.  Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and carved up the former Spanish lands into land grants, one of which was awarded to an American named Jacob Leese around 1841. 

He became a Mexican citizen and was married to a sister for Gen. Mariano Vallejo, after whom the city of Vallejo is named.  The land grant was known as Rancho Canada de La Guadalupe La Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo.  The name indicated three valleys.  What is now the area around central Brisbane and Crocker Industrial Park was the valley of Canada de La Guadalupe.  La Visitacion is still known as Visitacion Valley. Rodeo Viejo was the valley lying along Mission Street from Daly City to where is crosses Alemany Boulevard.

The land went through several owners after Jacob Leese traded this rancho for one in Sonoma County in 1843.  The remainder of the 19th century into the 20th century saw most of the area used for ranch land and dairy farming.  The San Bruno Toll Road passed through the area beginning in 1860; it ran close to San Francisco Bay and connected El Camino Real in San Bruno.  At what is now the northern city limits of Brisbane at Geneva Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard, the Seven Mile House began serving travelers on the toll road in the 1880s.  Part of the original building exists as a section of the present pub.  A quarry on the slopes of San Bruno Mountain was established in the 1890s.


After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, several proposals were made to develop the northern part of the San Francisco Peninsula.  In 1908, a city called Vista Grande was proposed.  It would encompass the areas of what are today Daly City, Colma, and Brisbane.  Much opposition ensured that this never came about.  At the same time, the American Realty Company subdivided what is now the central Brisbane town area.  Streets were laid out, some houses erected, and a streetcar line was proposed that would take the residents to San Francisco.  This new town was named the city of Visitacion.

The city of Visitacion never really attracted many settlers, and the streetcar line was never built.  Over 20 years later in 1929, another real estate developer named Arthur Annis reopened the tract office built by earlier promoters and renamed the town Brisbane to avoid confusion with the adjacent area of Visitacion Valley.  There are two theories as to the origin of the name: to honor the famed journalist Arthur Brisbane, who was the highest paid newspaper editor of his day in the United States, or after Brisbane, Australia which has similar topography.

Arthur Annis offered many lots for sale at very reasonable prices.  Some monthly house payments were as low as $16, affordable even in the trying time of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Many families began moving to Brisbane, but the population increased much more with World War II, when workers came from all over the country to work in the nearby shipyards.

Brisbane residents have fought hard to remain “fiercely independent.”  At one time, Brisbane was looked down upon and real estate did not hold much value compared with the rest of San Mateo County.  Unincorporated Brisbane was called the “place where garbage was dumped” because the city of San Francisco would dump it raw garbage at Sierra Point, which is within the city limits of Brisbane.  When rumors of urban renewal surfaced with talk of bulldozing buildings, town leaders and longtime residents fought back, resulting in the birth of the city of Brisbane, incorporated in 1961.

During the 1950s and 1960s, there were various proposals to develop San Bruno Mountain and the surrounding area.  One proposal was event shave off the top of the mountain to use as fill for San Francisco Bay.  To preserve the peak, the Committee to Save San Bruno Mountain (now known as San Bruno Mountain Watch) was formed.  Through their efforts, a state and county park was established, and the group continues to fight to preserve the last large open space on the northern peninsula, endangered species habitats, and significant Native American sites such as shell mounds.

In the 1980s, another of Brisbane’s efforts to preserve the special nature of the town was the fight to keep a large incinerator from being built within town limits to process San Francisco garbage.  Feisty Brisbane won that battel, too, again refusing to be the site of a “Dumps.”

Over the years, the exceptional weather and convenient access to San Francisco have come to attract a more diverse population of differing skills and professions.  The modest homes of the hardworking blue-collar settlers of the past now are joined by the more upscale homes as well as several industrial parks.  But the independent spirit of the past continues to make Brisbane a distinctive place, more a state of mind than a location."


Copyright © 2009 by Dolores Gomez and Christy Thilmany. All rights reserved.

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