The Mercury News
S.F. supervisors threaten to annex Brisbane
Board considered a resolution Tuesday that threatened city
SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area’s housing shortage has sparked a bizarre spectacle: Four San Francisco supervisors are threatening to annex the tiny city of Brisbane over a disagreement on land-use policy.
The San Francisco board was scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on a resolution urging its small neighbor to the south to include housing in its plan for the Brisbane Baylands, a 684-acre parcel west of Highway 101 that is slated for redevelopment. If Brisbane doesn’t knuckle under, the resolution calls for San Francisco to investigate the feasibility of seizing the community of about 4,000 residents, which is part of San Mateo County. All 11 of San Francisco’s supervisors would have to approve the resolution.
Brisbane Mayor Cliff Lentz decried the resolution as an “unthinkable” act of bullying.
“That’s sad for the whole entire region,” he said, “when the biggest player on the block isn’t playing nice with its neighboring cities.”
Brisbane leaders have come under fire for resisting developer Universal Paragon’s vision for 4,434 housing units — and millions of square feet of office, retail, and research and development space — on the sprawling site, which is polluted from decades of industrial use.
Housing advocates argue Brisbane must contribute its fair share of housing to the Peninsula, where the supply of housing is low and prices are sky-high.
The Brisbane Planning Commission in August voted to recommend that the City Council reject housing on the site in favor of commercial uses, open space and renewable-energy generation. The council has yet to dig into the plan, though a majority of the council has voiced opposition to housing on the Baylands in the past.
But the annexation threat has brought the simmering controversy to a rolling boil. Michael Roush, Brisbane’s city attorney, said the saber-rattling is without precedent in his four decades of legal experience.
“I am aware of no statutory authority,” he said, “that would allow a larger city to gobble up a smaller city essentially because it did not like an anticipated political decision of the smaller community.”
The annexation campaign is led by Supervisor Jane Kim, who has called the Brisbane Planning Commission’s recommendation a “bad deal for San Francisco and a bad deal for our region.”
“To even think about creating thousands of new jobs in one city but inflicting all responsibility for housing the inevitable influx of workers on your surrounding neighbors is unacceptable,” she said in a statement.
Kim is running for the District 11 seat in the state Senate, which includes San Francisco and parts of northern San Mateo County, but not Brisbane. Her opponent in the race, fellow Supervisor Scott Wiener, said Kim is trying to drum up attention for her candidacy.
“I find it very odd that someone running to represent San Mateo County is advocating breaking up the county and absorbing one of its towns into San Francisco,” he said.