A measure to build up to 2,200 housing units and 7 million square feet of commercial space on a contaminated former railyard and landfill site in Brisbane looks likely to pass.
Approximately 55 percent of Brisbane residents had voted in favor of Measure JJ by 1 a.m. Wednesday. Speaking at 9 a.m., the San Mateo County Registrar's Office said roughly one-third of the votes still needed to be counted.
The measure came about after state officials, including state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, pressured Brisbane's City Council to do something to alleviate the regional housing crunch by proposing draft legislation that would have put the state, rather than the city, in charge of developing the 680-acre Baylands site. That legislation was withdrawn after Measure JJ appeared on the ballot.
Proponents of the measure want to keep control of the development of the Baylands site in the hands of the city to prevent state intervention and the building of even more housing units.
"The state Legislature drafted a bill that would have put forth a program that would have gutted local control from Brisbane," said Brisbane City Councilman Clifford Lentz in a phone interview. "It is very likely that some form of legislation would have been crafted and signed into law that would have been very detrimental to Brisbane's ability to determine the final destiny of that site."
If JJ passes, Lentz said, the city will spend the next two years planning the project before handing it off to developers. An important focus will be making sure the toxic site is safe for habitation.
"By passing Measure JJ, we do have the opportunity to ensure the highest remediation standards are applied," Lentz said.
But opponents of the measure continue to voice concerns about those standards.
"I've never been against housing; I'm against putting human health at risk," said No on JJ campaign chair Michele Salmon in a phone interview, adding that at this point it would "take a miracle" to reverse the Yes on JJ campaign's nearly 10 percent lead.
Salmon said if JJ does pass, she plans to devote her energy to making certain that local authorities and state regulators ensure the safety of the site.
"I will monitor them at every single step to make sure that they clean up the landfill to the level of cleanliness that they have promised for ground-level residential housing across the entire area," Salmon said.
The San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder and Elections office said it plans to update voter numbers online by the weekend.
Listen to a discussion about Measure JJ on KQED's Forum here.