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Not a Slam Dunk Yet: Unanswered Concerns from the Brisbane Community

The threat of the "Jerry Hill Baylands Bill," hijacked our City Council's deliberations and due process. Several Brisbane Council members reversed their positions on housing on the Baylands before they had a chance to address the many environmental impacts and questions before them. With the newly passed SB 35 California state law that streamlines housing, overrides the environmental review process, and removes most local control, these critical unanswered questions and concerns may be paved over, only to surface later, when it is too late.

If our Brisbane's General Plan is changed to allow housing on the Baylands, and a remediation plan is in place, SB 35 kicks in. (Likewise, if the Brisbane General Plan does not change to include housing as an approved land use, SB 35 will not apply to the Baylands.) Since our City Council voted to put the decision about land use on the Baylands to the citizens of Brisbane, it is critical that the citizens of Brisbane become fully informed before they vote. As the City Council told us in the last Baylands public hearing in March, they were painted into a corner by the Jerry Hill bill. This decision is complex. It cannot be adequately addressed by a marketer's simple answer to move forward. Opponents of housing on this land, based on safety issues, want to move forward cleaning up the Baylands and support productive and safe uses that support local and regional needs.

Remediation is a given. The developer committed to remediation of the land as part of their purchase agreement in 1989. Their application includes remediation, which will remove the toxic land exception from SB 35. The only remaining exception is land use. If we vote for a change to our General Plan that includes any housing, SB 35 becomes the law of the land; local control over safety (over and above DTSC standards) and the amount, location, parking requirements, and look of housing, etc. will be very limited. The state law refers to city's control as "ministerial," which under SB 35, connotes obedience, following the procedures that allow housing to be built faster. Remember, DTSC approved the radioactive Hunters Point development as "ready to build" without testing for safety. DTSC outsourced their oversight and rubber stamped the findings of the wolf outside the hen house. A vote for housing on the Baylands, gives the developer the Stephen Curry ability for three pointers and multiple slam dunks, no matter what defenses the City Council plans. SB 35 will preempt that game plan.

We call on the Brisbane City Council to continue the public hearings and deliberations that were halted. The Jerry Hill bill will not be coming back, according to Tom McMorrow, our City Council lobbyist. With growing support for local control from cities across the state and the defeat of SB 827, Brisbane is no longer alone in standing up for local control over land use decisions. The political landscape has changed in favor of local control. Below is a letter written to the Brisbane City Council, from a Brisbane Citizen for Responsible Development. These questions and concerns (and more) must be addressed to allow the Brisbane public to be informed BEFORE we vote on changing our General Plan to include housing, a decision that has far reaching impacts on Brisbane's financial solvency in the long term and the safety and quality of life for all Brisbane citizens.

List of Unanswered Questions from the Community

March 22, 2018

Dear Honorable City Council and City Manager Holstine,

On May 11, 2017, I read this collection of “unanswered questions” at a City Council meeting and submitted them for the public record. I assembled these questions from members of our Brisbane Community. These are far from a comprehensive list of questions. One year has passed and these questions remain largely unanswered. Unfortunately, the primary focus of our community decision-making process has become politicized and monopolized by UPC Staff bringing in affordable housing advocates and most currently by the State Legislature Jerry Hill Bill that unfairly threatens our City’s autonomy and development decision making. Our community has repeatedly called for specific studies of each of these critical issues before a decision about any development on the Baylands is possible.

Most importantly, I would like to emphasize that under no circumstances should the General Plan be changed. The General Plan is a detailed, well thought-out document that represents countless hours of community input, committee and Council deliberations and staff time. Please do not change it to accommodate the developer or pressures from the legislature or other cities. The developer was well aware that our General Plan did not allow housing on this toxic Super Fund Site when they purchased it. The only reason it is not currently on the Super Fund list is that our General Plan stated that there would be no housing. This is our town and we must maintain the decision making power about what we choose to do with the Baylands. The General Plan protects our rights as a City. Our City needs to be able do the right thing to protect the general public from the effects of building, living and working on extremely toxic lands.

Finally, at the last City Council meeting on March 22, we listened to our hired lobbyist, Tom, explain the threat of the “Hill Bill” to our City. I am perplexed as to why the City Council feels it is necessary to make a decision now about housing when the Hill Bill went down. As I understand it, this is Jerry Hill’s last year in Congress. Why do we need to make this decision now from a position of fear when there is no actual bill? Can we ask that the State Legislature attempt to answer the questions below and then make a good decision together? This decision and the potential environmental and health risks are their responsibilities too.

Thank you for your consideration,

Beth Grossman

List of Unanswered Questions below:

LIST OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS from Community Members interviewed by Beth Grossman Submitted to the City Council May 11, 2017 (Edited and revised March 22, 2018.)

1. REMEDIATION What are the actual plans for remediation of the toxins? Is it truly safe for housing? Would we be willing to raise our children in housing on that land? Who is going to pay for the remediation? Who determines the standard of the remediation? Who will regulate that?

2. AFFORDABLE HOUSING Is there going to be truly affordable housing? What are the plans for size and price? What income levels will be able to afford them?

Lennar advertisements on BART list Bayview “affordable” housing starting at $600,000 per 600 sq. foot unit plus HOA.

Please visit the India Basin development to get a realistic idea of what this “affordable housing” is on or near toxic sites. After over a year, many of them remain unsold and vacant.

3. ECONOMIC BENEFIT What is the economic benefit for Brisbane if we have to maintain roads, police, fire, school and public works?


Why haven’t we done an economic assessment of the Alternative Plan for Alternative Energy recommended by the Planning Commission?


What is the liability in perpetuity for the City of Brisbane for future health problems or affects of earthquakes or sea level rise on the development?


What were the results of the review done by Dr. Lee? Are they available to the public?

What can we learn from the affordable housing toxic debacle at Midway Village?

Here is an article that is a forecast of what housing on the Baylands could look like. Midway Village, Daly City is just across from the Baylands proposed housing site, across Bayshore near Cow Palace.


Where is the water going to come from? How can we approve housing without a plan or agreement in place?

How does the City-prepared WSA (water supply assessment) meet CEQA requirements when there is no reliable water source?

Why does the EIR say that the proposed OID agreement does not require the construction of any new facilities when SFPUC says it does?

8. TRAFFIC How are we going to deal with the traffic and the impact of all this development on our ability to get in and out of Brisbane? What mass transit is proposed?

Can we require that the Geneva interchange be completed as a pre-condition?


How are we going to deal with the noise from the pile driving that will go on for year after year?

How can we consider placing people in homes that are assaulted on three sides by noise levels in excess of 65dba (from Bayshore Blvd, from the CalTrain, and from Hwy 101?) Will they also be shaken by the vibration of the CalTrain?


What about the Tank Farm? Is there an evacuation plan in the event of earthquake or fire? We need to deal with this regardless of the development on the Baylands.

How close can we build housing to the Tank Farm and toxic burners?


What is in the dirt that is being “recycled” and piled higher on a daily basis? Was a request made for the truck manifest for the UPC owned soils processing business? Is there any soil from Bayview Hunters Point?

Is the soils manifest available to the public? Has the soil been tested by an independent company, not affiliated with UPC?

12. SURROUNDING AREA DEVELOPMENT How is the Baylands development being coordinated with all the Candlestick/Hunters Point/India Basin/Bayview and San Francisco development just north of Recology?


How does the High Speed Rail fit into this picture? If the Baylands are re-zoned to permit housing, why would the State Legislature want tax payers to have to pay an exorbitant price for the Baylands in the event of eminent domain?


How will the fuel leaking from the tank farm effect the health of the site and people working there?

How will 20 years of pile driving affect those already leaking pipelines?

How will the cap be repaired in the eventuality it fails?

Since the sides and bottom of the landfill are not sealed against bay water intrusion, what impact will sea level rise have?

Liquefaction will result from an earthquake. Will all the leachate bubble to the top?

How many hazards are too many?

-Beth Grossman, Brisbane Citizen for Responsible Development



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