Brisbane Baylands Mega Development Plans for Mega Car Traffic

Both of the proposed designs of an 8-lane Geneva Avenue extension include pedestrian-hostile crossing distances of 120 feet at intersections. Image: City of Brisbane
Both of the proposed designs of an 8-lane Geneva Avenue extension include pedestrian-hostile crossing distances of 120 feet at intersections. Image: City of Brisbane

As the City of Brisbane agonizes over how little housing to include in a new mixed-use mega development to be built around a relocated Bayshore Caltrain Station, proposals to sink over $300 million into a new 12-lane Highway 101 interchange and an eight-lane extension of Geneva Avenue remain uncontroversial.

If approved, 7 million square feet of new office and retail space will be built on a huge abandoned rail yard and municipal dump, attracting an estimated 15,500 to 17,500 weekday workers. A proposed 4,434 new residential units would house around 9,900 new residents, although the inclusion of these housing units have proven the most controversial aspect of the plan.

Despite pitching the Brisbane Baylands as a transit-oriented community featuring an “improved street network to minimize traffic volume,” city planners assume that even in 2030, 80 percent of the development’s work trips and 70 percent of non-work trips will be made by automobile. 80 percent of visitors arriving at a 17,000-seat entertainment arena are also expected to arrive by car.

These mode shares are based on recent travel patterns observed around other Caltrain stations, which Brisbane simply assumes will remain unchanged for the next 14 years. Such an assumption ignores the reality that faster and more frequent electric trains, which Caltrain hopes to be running by 2021, will shift more trips to transit. Continued bike improvements will also contribute to mode shift.

A new 12-lane Highway 101 interchange to accommodate auto traffic planned for the Brisbane Baylands and Candlestick Point developments would cost over $200 million. Image: SFMTA
A new 12-lane 101 interchange, to accommodate auto traffic planned for the Brisbane Baylands and Candlestick Point developments, would cost over $200 million. Image: SFMTA

Brisbane’s Baylands plan maximizes auto traffic by building mostly wide, mutli-lane streets within the new development, expanding major intersections within Brisbane, and by connecting a wide new Geneva Avenue to a massively overbuilt Highway 101 interchange. On top of crossing eight lanes of auto and bus traffic spanning 120 feet on Geneva Avenue to reach the future Bayshore Intermodal Transit Station, and climbing a new overpass on Geneva Avenue to cross the Caltrain tracks, people walking or bicycling will face a number of other built-in barriers and hazards.

“If the Geneva Extension/Overpass is intended as the main bicycle and pedestrian connection to Caltrain, this would force these vulnerable modes to use a wide, heavily-trafficked arterial and contend with voluminous on-ramp and through traffic of freeway-bound cars and trucks,” wrote the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in its comment letter on the Bayland’s draft environmental review.

Even the development’s narrowest residential streets will be 64 feet wide, nearly twice as wide as traditional walkable neighborhood streets located near other Caltrain stations in San Mateo County. Sidewalks vary in width from six to 10 feet, while standard (non-buffered or separated) bike lanes between five and six feet wide are specified, located in the door zones of parallel parked cars.

A new 12-lane Highway 101 interchange and 8-lane extension of Geneva Avenue will help ensure an auto-dependent future for the Brisbane Baylands neighborhood. Image: City of Brisbane
A new 12-lane 101 interchange and eight-lane extension of Geneva Avenue will help ensure an auto-dependent future for the Brisbane Baylands neighborhood. Image: City of Brisbane

According to estimates [PDF] in the Bi-County Transportation Study of 2011, the proposed 12-lane interchange at Harney Way on the San Francisco-San Mateo border will cost $195 million, while building a new eight-lane Geneva Avenue from that interchange to Bayshore Boulevard will cost $90 million. A new $58 million Bayshore Intermodal Transit Station will be built south of today’s Bayshore Caltrain Station, to be served by Caltrain, an extended T-Third Street Muni Metro line, and express buses running between the Balboa Park BART Station to the west and the Hunters Point Shipyard to the northeast.

After discussing the Brisbane Baylands Plan at 24 separate meetings over the past year, the city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to issue its final recommendations to the City Council at its final review on August 25. City Council meetings to review the plan are not yet scheduled.

  • Jimbo

    if it is 12 lanes, i will

  • Jimbo

    everyone in the bay area, and always has

  • Jimbo

    ive live in SF for 20+ years, and everyone here i know calls it “the 101”. in fact, i dont think ive ever heard of it without the “the” in front of it

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    These are the same Brisbane residents who stand to have their homes values skyrocket as housing gets even more expensive and unaffordable for the rest of us. They’re suggesting that we should further restrict housing supply while at the same time building more commercial developments that will bring in 4 times as many people.

    Why should anybody pay attention to these residents when what they’re proposing will only benefit themselves while screwing over everybody else? We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and that’s why we have the housing crisis we’re in. We need to a housing blitz to get us out of this crisis. We need to stop paying any attention to the NIMBY homeowners who are turning all of us into slaves, forcing us to pay outrageous portions of our incomes for housing that costs a mere fraction anywhere else in the country.

    There was a lot of toxic waste at ground zero in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, yet 50 years ago we figured out how to clean it up. Toxic waste removal isn’t rocket science, and it’s certainly not an excuse to force even higher housing prices on the rest of us.

    It should be illegal for any city in the bay area to approve any new developments that will bring in more jobs without approving new housing for those new workers to fill those jobs.

  • RichLL

    Ziggy, it’s reasonable to ask why anybody should pay attention to Brisbane residents. But those same residents vote on this and you and I don’t, so they may not care whether we listen or not.

    This comes back to the fundamental problem with the Bay Area – that it should be one unitary regional government but in reality it is a bunch of beggar-thy-neighbor artificially balkanized fiefdoms.

    And it makes economic sense for Brisbane to emphasize jobs over residents. Partly because Prop 13 favors that. and partly because costs are generally proportional to the number of residents, whereas revenues are proportional to the number of jobs.

  • baklazhan

    And that’s something to aspire to?

    Even if you widen the freeways (at unfathomable expense), all those cars need somewhere to go to, which means vast parking garages and widened local streets as well. It’s not something that should happen, and it won’t.

  • RichLL

    I offered no opinion about the desirability of such infrastructure. I merely pointed out that, in the grand global scheme of things, 101 having 10 or 12 lanes is not outlandish or excessive. That China freeway has four times as many lanes but then China has four times as many people..

    Whether it actually happens or not isn’t a matter for you or I, but rather for the people who will continue to move to this location. They will have the money and the votes to decide what kind of city they want.

  • baklazhan

    The reason I wouldn’t be happy with this result is that it’s kind of emblematic of the current development pattern, where a great deal of money is spent on infrastructure, including all of the above things (which are nice enough)– but the amount of housing is limited, in no small part because of car traffic concerns. As a result, those transportation investments are not very cost-effective when considered on a per-capita basis, while the limited amount of housing is only affordable to those who can easily afford cars anyway. It’s stupid and wasteful.

  • Affen_Theater

    False. No “special infrastructure” for HSR running blended with Caltrain and its remaining at-grade crossings on the Peninsula. Over time, grade separations will continue to be built as funds and local politics permit … just as they have and will with Caltrain.

  • Affen_Theater

    Only in areas where it will run much faster than in blended operation with Caltrain on the Peninsula.

  • SF Guest

    I make no argument this may be a missed opportunity for adding new homes (but I would still choose not to live at any site with known toxins whether or not it’s cleaned up); however, Brisbane residents and its planning commission have the final say.

    As RichLL points out:

    “But those same [Brisbane] residents vote on this and you and I don’t, so they may not care whether we listen or not.”

    The City of SF cannot simply dictate to an adjacent city we’re building umpteenth houses and you have to follow our model unless both cities can reach a joint agreement.

  • RichLL

    I don’t often agree with Murpstahoe but he is correct here. HSR cannot operate with at-grade crossings. Unless the trains are speed-restricted at that location anyway.

  • Affen_Theater
  • brisalta

    Mission Bay area used to a lot of light industry and warehouses. A lot of it is fill. The first condominium complex there is now having problems due to the ground collapsing. No one is going to be digging in their gardens at the hospital. The hospital area is all covered in concrete and there is not much on the ground floor.

    Their is no plan by the developer to clean up the Brisbane Baylands. Their plan is to remediate by putting a small cap on top of it. Theoretically tree planting will be prohibited to prevent puncturing the cap. This is highly toxic land which is unengineered fill. It started to be filled well before any regulations existed. It is liable to liquefaction and and is known for constant movement. This will be very expensive to build on. I cannot see anyone paying top dollar to live here once they see the legally required disclosures. Due to the constant movement of the ground a lot of maintenance will be required and I cannot see lower income people being able to afford the up keep.

    One other point is that it is always wet there as bay salt water percolates through the ground. It is too deep to bedrock to block this water flow. There is an Archaebacteria that metabolizes arsenic for in the soil. Depending on the time of day, because of the tidal water the metabolites vary and a certain times of the day it produces a gaseous arsenic salt. Nice for the health 🙁

    The developer has known for years that CHSR wants land there for a railway maintenance. This is all about upzoning before eminent domain occurs. CHSR can not purchase the land until they complete the EIR for this segment of the project.

  • brisalta

    Actually grade separation work has been ongoing along the peninsula route. The Brisbane segment is still in the planning stages.

  • brisalta

    No one from the Bay area calls it the 101. That is a southern California affectation.

  • brisalta

    I have lived in SF for much longer than that and no one calls “the 101”

  • Affen_Theater

    Both Caltrain and HSRA have been asked – and have answered – many times that there will likely be numerous grade crossings remaining by the time HSR begins blended operation with Caltrain on the Peninsula. These, they say, will be upgraded to use four-quadrant crossing gates (aka “quad gates”) to improve safety until they are grade separated.


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