Will the BART/Millbrae deal force California high-speed rail underground?

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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CHSRA has created 6,000 construction jobs.
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The city of Millbrae, Calif., announced an agreement with the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to return several downtown parcels of land that both give the city new opportunities to develop significant mixed-use housing and commercial units and to further leverage its demands that California high-speed rail tracks be under-grounded.

“This is terrific news and an important milestone for both the city and BART. New housing and a premier development on the transit corridor is one step closer to becoming a reality,” said Mayor Ann Schneider.

“Thanks to the collaborations with BART Director Bevan Dufty we are pleased to finally see these important properties transferred back to the city,” said council member Gina Papan. “With control of this land, Millbrae will continue working with our congressional and state representatives to obtain an estimated $165 million in funding designated for developing significant regional projects, which includes under-grounding the high-speed rail station.”

The pact between Millbrae and BART was signed April 5.

The deal returns land to Millbrae that BART had been holding as part of its extension into SFO airport. This agreement will turn currently underutilized land into a vibrant new development helping provide a catalyst for build out of the city’s prime downtown land.

The re-conveyance of property interests in four parcels located on the west side of the existing Millbrae transit station allows Millbrae to re-align California Drive to serve the already approved Serra Station project which includes 488 units of housing with 15% affordable units and 320,000 sq ft of office and commercial space. It also gives Millbrae the opportunity to develop a new adjacent transit-oriented project.

Millbrae will now consolidate several city-owned parcels and will soon seek proposals from developers to build the additional transit-oriented project immediately adjacent to Millbrae Serra Station. 

The approximately 0.85 acres of land transferred back to the city will be used for California Drive and transit-serving uses. Upon completion of all land transfers the city will have about 1.2 acres of land for development on the west side of the station. 

The city plans to issue an RFP for development of the parcels in the coming weeks.

The land agreement gives Millbrae new leverage in its challenges to California high-speed rail and its EIR and other approval processes, city leaders said. Millbrae is pushing high-speed rail to under-ground its tracks because its current plans would pave prime real estate in downtown Millbrae and turn it into a parking lot.

The city of Millbrae has filed a strenuous objection to the environmental impact report filed by the California High Speed Rail Authority, noting that the document violates the requirements of California’s CEQA law.

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