Brisbane Baylands — a model opportunity for a Jobs-Housing-Fit

The City of Brisbane has a huge opportunity with development of the Baylands site, situated immediately contiguous to San Francisco’s own master-planned development at the old Schlage Lock site. The developer — Universal Paragon Corporation (UPC) — has a pending proposal with the City of Brisbane to create a mixed development of commercial, office, retail and housing.

While the debate over the development has been framed simply as Yes/No to including housing in the master plan, that binary question begs a lot of important details. We think it’s a no-brainer that the Baylands site should include housing, and lots of it, to meet the needs created by the seven million square feet of development with 15,000 permanent jobs that UPC has projected for the project once fully built out. UPC’s website for the project boasts, “Baylands will be an employment powerhouse from the get-go.”Without housing, the project would effectively be exporting that newly created demand to neighboring cities in the area, adding yet more pressure on those communities to not only address their own housing needs but to also be the “bedroom” communities for Brisbane’s major new job hub.

The key questions are not only how much new housing will be needed to accommodate that added workforce demand, but as importantly, how much of it needs to be affordable to meet the incomes of those workers. In other words, what will it take to achieve a true Jobs-Housing-Fit?

Understanding the true housing needs in the Bay Area region is core to the work we do at the Council of Community Housing Organizations. We did a jobs-housing analysis based on the workforce numbers for the Baylands project.

Using the household-sizes profile for the local metropolitan statistical area about 30% of workforce households for the Baylands development would likely be single and about 70% of households would likely be families of two or more persons. So for the 15,000 total jobs created, assuming hypothetically that the project would provide all workers the opportunity to live within the same master-planned area, that would demand about 9,500 new homes be built to achieve a 1:1 jobs-housing ratio (for the moment ignoring the affordability question). In other words, more than twice as many housing units as the 4,500 units that UPC is proposing in its mixed-use development.

Going the next step requires looking at the question through a Jobs-Housing Fit lens so that the housing produced actually matches the workforce profile from UPC which anticipates that the 15,000 jobs will be comprised of 42% in R&D, 49% in office, and the remainder in a variety of hospitality, retail, institutional and industrial activities. The jobs-housing analysis concludes that to create this fit will require about:

11% of housing units to be affordable to households earning incomes up to 50% of the median income

16% of housing units to be affordable to households earning incomes between 50%-80% of the median income

13% of housing units to be affordable to households earning incomes to households earning between 80%-120% of the median income

60% of housing above 120% of the median income.

So that is a total need of about 40% affordable housing for a range of lower-income and middle-income worker households to achieve a true Jobs-Housing Fit, or about 3,800 affordable homes of the projected total need of 9,500 units. In other words, more than twice the 15% affordable housing percentage that UPC is proposing for its mixed-use development and more than five times the actual number of affordable units that UPC is proposing (675 units) to include! That calculation doesn’t even include the additional affordable housing needs induced by the market-rate housing itself, for the variety of service workers, maintenance and groundskeepers and other support jobs that market-rate housing generates.

Poignantly, the project website argues, “It is not acceptable to expect other cities to carry the housing burden.” This sounds good on paper, but without a proper analysis of the true housing need created by development, it is somewhat superficial. The Brisbane Baylands presents a model opportunity to push developers, cities, and the region to actually begin to internalize the full housing impacts created by development, rather than leaving them as economic externalities to be dealt with by other communities and by future generations.

Maya Chupkov