San Bruno Mountain Latest Press


Lofty plans for former landfill: Developer proposes commercial district for Baylands property

Publisher: San Francisco Chronicle
Reporter: Ulysses Torassa

One of the last large tracts of developable land on the Peninsula could become a major shopping and commercial district under a plan being proposed by the land's owner.

The Brisbane property known as the Baylands includes a former landfill, rail yards and lock factory on 540 acres just west of Highway 101. It is contaminated with toxic chemicals and has sat vacant for years while various proposals, including a golf course and water park, have been floated and discarded.

The owner of the land, Universal Paragon Corp., submitted an application and a $50,000 deposit with the city Friday to start the approval process for a planned 1 million square feet of commercial and retail space on a 330-acre chunk of the property.

Possible uses include shopping centers, offices, auto malls and hotels. The project will not include housing because the site is too contaminated for people to live there. About one-quarter of the land would be set aside for open space.

But cleaning up the property to make it safe enough for even commercial use won't be cheap. The company has already spent $20 million on cleanup efforts and expects to spend another $20 million more, Universal Paragon spokesman Bill Chiang said Wednesday.

Brisbane officials are cautiously optimistic about the proposal, which will be the subject of a lengthy environmental review and several public hearings before it comes up for approval.

"I think there are great potential benefits to mitigating of contamination in the Baylands,'' said Mayor Michael Barnes, adding that more usable parkland and open space wouldn't hurt, either.

Still, he said, there are worries that big-box retailers and chain stores may conflict with the character of the small town. The City Council has formed a committee to look into those issues.

Chiang said the project would be a boon to Brisbane and the surrounding area by cleaning up a health hazard and eyesore and creating jobs and open space. And, he said, the property -- which was created by filling in part of the bay -- would be partly restored to wetlands.

City Manager Clay Holstine said the city plans to hire an outside expert at the landowner's expense to make sure cleanup efforts are adequate. Brisbane will also require Universal Paragon to pay for additional staffers in the planning department to handle the project.

The plan will be presented to the City Council on Monday, and Holstine said the panel expects to hold its first public hearing on the proposal in January. Copies of the 193-page application will also be available to the public on CD-ROM.

"There are going to be multiple opportunities for residents of Brisbane to participate,'' Holstine said.

E-mail Ulysses Torassa at

South City condo plan offers jobs: Planners review third phase of Terrabay proposal

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Mary Albert

SO. SAN FRANCISCO -- The City Council and Planning Commission got their first peek Wednesday at developers' proposed plan for a massive mixed-use complex known as "Terrabay Phase III" or the "North Peninsula Plaza."

Surprised by the substantial differences between this plan and the one initially proposed years ago by Myers Development Company, many council members and planning commissioners agreed that current plans bear a lot of potential for new jobs and additional city revenue.

Even so, they had many questions. After scrutinizing the three-dimensional model of the proposed mixed-use development, which boasts two massive high-rises -- one primarily for offices and the other for residential units -- parking, a child care center, performing arts center, valley trail, retail shops and a movie theater all linked by a "main street," council members and commissioners peppered the developers with questions.

Mayor Karyl Matsumoto asked the developers if they had secured commitments from potential retailers, while Vice Mayor Ray Green inquired about the previously discovered Indian shell mound.

Kazuko Morgan of Cushman & Wakefield responded that Borders, Barnes and Nobles, Williams Sonoma and restaurants such as Pasta Pomodoro have all expressed "strong interest" in the project.

Jack Myers, CEO of Myers Development, took on the latter question, explaining that the land, on which historic shell mounds were found, has been turned over to San Mateo County for protection and public use.

Myers also agreed to extend the soundwall promised to residents living near the Terrabay Phase II project after several residents complained that it is still not complete.

Antonio Rodriguez, for example, explained through a translator that the soundwall does not provide adequate protection.

He and others, such as teenagers Rebecca Camillo and Jessarela Orozco, also asked Myers to consider building a park for children who live in nearby Terrabay II.

Myers agreed to consider building one.

Building what he and architect Norman Garden of RTKL Associates described as a "classic and lasting" plaza, with landscaping and "a genuine sense of neighborhood," should begin by mid-2005.

Crews whack weeds on San Bruno Mtn.: Invasive gorse a fire hazard to nearby homes

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Mary Albert

BRISBANE -- For Brisbane's Carolyn Parker, it is a relief to hear that work crews are taking a different approach this year to eradicating some of the highly flammable "gorse" weeds on San Bruno Mountain.

Parker's home in the Altamar on the Ridge estate development sat precariously close to a controlled burn that went out of control in July 2003.

Flames licked so close to her home that "I didn't know if I was going to have a house or not," said Parker, who evacuated her three pets when she started to smell smoke.

Now she is delighted to hear that work crews are tackling the invasive species near a residential area of Daly City with heavy-duty weed whackers and "brontosaurus" trucks.

"I think it is fabulous," said Parker.

Paid for with about $325,000 in Proposition 12 bond funds, crews launched a four-year project Oct. 4 and are about halfway done with their goal for the year, said Jen Zarnoch of May & Associates, Inc., which was hired by the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation to hack 31 acres of prickly weeds located on parklands above Daly City's Carter Street.

Their goal was to eradicate the area's mature gorse, seedlings and re-sprouts by 2006, and then re-vegetate the land with native species such as willow, elderberry and dogwood.

The crews will also begin restoring a small wetlands zone next summer, Zarnoch said.

In groups of about four, contractors from May & Associates have been hacking away at the weeds that not only pose a fire danger to the homes nearby, but are also strangling native plants that house the mountain's endangered Mission blue, Callippe silverspot and elfin butterflies.

Then, because the species of weed is so hearty and can grow back within months, crews are attacking the stumps with powerful herbicides.

"This is nasty stuff," said Sam Herzberg of the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation.

Friends of San Bruno Mountain's Doug Allshouse echoed Herzberg's comments, explaining that gorse is nicknamed "greasewood" because of the number of volatile oils within it.

In years past, California's Department of Forestry has conducted controlled burns to combat the species. One was scheduled for July in a different part of San Bruno Mountain near Juncus Ravine, but was postponed due to weather conditions.

San Bruno land set aside: Site was once used as Native American burial grounds

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Mary Albert

The Bay Area's oldest bones can rest easy now that San Mateo County has acquired almost 26 acres of archeologically and environmentally valuable land.

On Thursday, the county purchased the open space because it is home to Native American burial grounds dating back to 3,200 B.C. as well as several federally recognized endangered species, according to national conservationist organization The Trust for Public Land, which coordinated the effort.

The acquisition ends years of efforts by environmental, political and preservation groups to save the eastern side of San Bruno Mountain, located between U.S. Highway 101 and San Bruno Mountain State and County Park, from commercial development by San Francisco-based Myers Development Company.

Now, the land where endangered Mission Blue and Callippe Silverspot butterflies flutter and Slipskin Ohlone peoples lived continuously for 5,000 years will be protected by San Bruno Mountain State and County Park.

"This is a great achievement for the county," said Mark Church, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. "It is a huge step forward to protect the habitat of San Bruno Mountain."

Also, he said, the acquisition sets a "good precedent" for ongoing efforts to expand open space because it is the first time a comprehensive conservation plan has been implemented anywhere in the United States.

Original plans called for building three hotels and an office tower, according to The Trust.

But groups like San Bruno Mountain Watch had resisted development as early as the 1960s, said Executive Director David Schooley. In 1999, they took their objections to Myers' plans to court.

"This has been 30 years of effort to protect this area," said Schooley. "This is the final move."

Purchasing the property -- valued at $1,285,000 -- would not have been possible without funds from several sources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed about $860,000 of federal dollars through "section six" funding, said Assistant Field Supervisor Al Donner.

In addition, the San Francisco Foundation and Pajaro Valley Ohlone Indian Council each contributed $50,000, and the Caltrans Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Fund chipped in $325,000, according to The Trust.

Staff Writer Justin Nyberg contributed to this report.

Parks to open again in middle of the week: As budget look better, board bows to public

Publisher: San Francisco Chronicle
Reporter: Ulysses Torassa

Four San Mateo County parks will soon be open during the middle of the week again after the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to restore $186,500 in park funding that had been cut from the budget.

This summer, the county closed the Edgewood, Junipero Serra, San Bruno Mountain and San Pedro Valley parks on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays as a cost-savings move. At the time, supervisors expected a $56 million shortfall in the county budget, but that estimate has shrunk to about $27 million, according to Supervisor Jerry Hill, who sponsored the measure to restore the park funding from reserves.

The weekday closures prompted a grassroots campaign by citizens and parks groups, who said the parks were treasured destinations for the community.

"It's appropriate and important for us to bring back the quality of life we enjoy and our citizens expect," Hill said. "In many cases, it's a silent majority that use the parks, enjoy the parks and support the parks, and you don't hear from them until you take the parks away or try to limit their use. Then they speak very loud and clear, and we've heard that for the last few months."

The closures also led to more vandalism and to problems for schools and other groups that use the parks, Hill said. The parks even lost out on landscaping maintenance work donated by people in the community who could not get inside during the week.

Activists who rallied to restore the funding said they were gratified by the supervisors' vote, which was unanimous.

"We're really thrilled," said Ellen Schuette, executive director of Friends of Huddart and Wunderlich Parks, both in Woodside.

Those two parks were not among those that were closed during the week, but her group participated in the effort to get the funding restored. "To me, it means the supervisors understand the parks are truly a treasure," Schuette said.

Ed Pike of San Francisco, a former Peninsula resident and avid parks user, was a major force in drawing people and groups together to fight for more funding. The next step, he said, is to find a long-term solution for funding parks, instead of relying just on the annual county budget.

Hill agreed, saying the county was working with the local cities to develop a stable funding source. That might turn out to be a separate park agency, similar to the East Bay Regional Parks District, that relies on its own tax levies to operate and maintain their sites.

Also Tuesday, supervisors voted to restore funds for an anti-gang and street crime task force for the Sheriff's Department.

Although the county still faces a budget shortfall, it has about $120 million in reserves, Hill said. That's because county officials socked away money during the dot-com boom, knowing tougher times would inevitably return.

"We have prudent and excellent management," Hill said. "We didn't do what the state did. We saved the money just for that rainy day."

E-mail Ulysses Torassa at