CREBL, the Committee for Renewable Energy in the Baylands, is a citizen action group in Brisbane, California (next door to San Francisco), population 4300.
The Baylands is a 600-acre privately owned parcel of land in Brisbane located to the east of Bayshore Blvd. and west of Hwy 101. The site consists of manmade land formed by filling in part of the San Francisco Bay, a former Southern Pacific railyard, and the Brisbane lagoon. Past unregulated dumping and industrial uses have left behind large quantities of contaminants, resulting in the Baylands being classified as a brownfield site.
What's Going to Happen in the Baylands?
Universal Paragon Corporation, the owner of the Baylands, has applied to the City of Brisbane for multiple amendments to the Brisbane General Plan to accommodate its proposed plans for 4,300 housing units, hotels and offices totaling up to 12 million square feet (which would equal about 24 Transamerica Buildings). CREBL has submitted a Renewable Energy Alternative plan for development that is compatible with our existing General Plan. Proposed land uses are a solar farm on 104 acres, low-wind turbines on 32 acres, zero-waste recycling, restoration of the historic Round House, retail and entertainment facilities near the Bayshore CalTrain station, and office/research facilities, for a total of 1 million square feet.
The Renewable Alternative plan was presented to the Brisbane Planning Commission on November 16, 2015. A recording of the presentation is available in the Planning Commission minutes for the meeting. After extensive hearings, on August 25, 2016, the Commission unanimously passed a resolution recommending adoption of the Alternative, with minor modifications, by the City Council. The Council on June 7, 2017 concluded its schedule of study sessions and public hearings on the plan with a meeting dedicated to community group presentations, and then initiated its deliberations. That process has been extended due to new complications, including the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to locate its large maintenance yard on the Baylands and a statewide housing crisis.
Why Renewable Energy?
CREBL and the Planning Commission believe that the plan that is ultimately approved for the Brisbane Baylands should be compatible with the existing Brisbane General Plan, emphasize our environmental responsibility and stewardship of the land, and minimize the risks of long-term human exposure to the unknown contaminants that remain on the property. The Baylands Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) identified the Renewable Energy Alternative plan as being the environmentally superior plan1. Also, a federally-funded study (EPA/NREL) found the solar farm both technologically and economically feasible. (See Brisbane Baylands Draft EIR, Appendix N, Salasovich, Geiger, Healey, and Mosey, pp. v-vi). Typically significant transmission costs and loss of energy would be practically eliminated, because PG&E's Martin Substation is located close by at Geneva Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard.
Several methods of implementing the plan exist. Another recent major event favoring local renewable energy generation is Peninsula Clean Energy, a new local utility agency under the state Community Choice Aggregation law. This special non-profit Joint Powers Authority, formed by San Mateo County and all of its 20 cities together, purchases and distributes renewable energy, preferably from local sources, at rates favorable to Brisbane consumers. Solar and wind power generated in the Baylands would be logical sources.
A new major potential land use for the Baylands was presented to the City Council on June 7, 2017, by the state High Speed Rail Authority. They plan to locate the system's storage and light maintenance railyard here. They will need about 100 acres on either the west or east side of the Caltrain tracks. The Environmental Impact Report on these plans will be published late in 2017 or early 2018. Solar generation will be part of their facility, and other benefits to our community will be negotiated.
Interview With Tony Attard
What Can You Do to Help?
The Brisbane City Council has the sole power over land use in the entire city. The Council is on record as being in favor of an environmentally responsible plan to develop the Baylands that conforms to the sustainable growth laid out in the existing General Plan. The Council has to evaluate the environmental and economic costs and benefits of the developer's proposal to substantially increase the currently allowable project size and include housing as a major land use in the Baylands. All citizens who care about the future of our small town should keep abreast of proposed City Council actions and provide support for the Planning Commission's recommendation and keeping the Brisbane General Plan in its current form.
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