Opposition remains to quarry housing plan

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Matthew Artz

BRISBANE Most residents want to replace the 600-foot quarry carved into San Bruno Mountain that kicks up 2,268 pounds of dust into the air every day and acts as a barrier to native butterflies.

They just aren't sure that a proposed 183-unit housing development is the way to go.

Today, the City Council begins a series of public hearings on the quarry project proposed by Western Pacific Homes. Should the council certify the Environmental Impact Report and issue permits, Brisbane voters, under a 2001 ordinance, would then vote on the project.

"There are no easy answers," Mayor Cy Bologoff said. "This will definitely impact our community"

The 129 single-family homes and 54 townhouses proposed would bring about 500 new residents to a town of just under 4,000. It would be the second major mountainside development in the past two decades. In 1989, the city approved more than 500 housing units atop a ridge, Councilmember Steve Waldo said.

"With housing, the county gets the property taxes and we have to provide more services," said Paul Bouscal, a Brisbane resident and member of San Bruno Mountain Watch. He and other opponents of the plan have dominated public comment at hearings before the council and the Planning Commission.

But opponents face a dilemma: Their proposed alternative � nature trails and an environmental education center� is for now infeasible and the more viable options, housing, a light industrial park or renewed quarry operations� aren't attractive to them. The property is currently zoned for light industrial uses.

Bouscal, who favors housing over the light industrial option, said the San Bruno Mountain Watch hoped to raise an endowment to buy the 144-acre property he said is estimated at $50 million.

Quarry operations have ceased and the site has most recently been used to recycle concrete, Bologoff said. He added that the council planned to hold several public hearings on the issue and didn't expect a ballot vote until 2007.

The environmental report, completed last year, concluded that housing would pose fewer adverse environmental impacts than a light industrial park or renewed quarrying.

Councilmembers, though, want assurances that the development would be immune from major rockslides and could withstand a powerful earthquake.

"Whether it is safe or not is a question," Waldo said.

In 2001 the council approved an ordinance giving residents the right to vote on any housing project approved for the quarry. The housing developers have offered public amenities to the city and school district, and backed a proposal to re-create a wetland if the development is approved.

Correction: The developers are not officially supporting the wetlands proposal.