Paying for renewal

Pub date May 16, 2006
WriterG.W. Schulz


BayviewHunters Point residents have cause to be concerned about any redevelopment plan that would dramatically alter the face of their neighborhoods, particularly given the displacement and corporate subsidies that have resulted from past redevelopment schemes in San Francisco.

So when housing activist Randy Shaw reported on his Web site April 10 that "hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars" in revenue from the BayviewHunters Point Redevelopment Plan could go toward rebuilding Candlestick Park for the 49ers, his claim created a firestorm. The rumor quickly circulated among community groups and lefty media outlets already fearful of what SF officials had in store for the southeast section of the city.

But Marcia Rosen, executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, says Shaw got it wrong: The tax increment financing (TIF) the main source of redevelopment money from BayviewHunters Point was never intended for Candlestick Park. Sup. Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes the project area, also told the Guardian last week that there hasn’t been any talk of subsidizing the stadium project or its surrounding housing.

Nonetheless, Maxwell has spent weeks trying to respond to community concerns about the stadium funding, as well as a host of other concerns raised by a portion of the community that has been galvanized by the redevelopment issue. On April 20 she added an amendment to the plan that explicitly restricts any TIF money from outside the Candlestick Point Special Use District from going anywhere near the stadium.

But that’s unlikely to end the controversy over a plan that Maxwell has been working on for six years and that has been in the pipeline for nearly four decades.

"This plan didn’t just happen out of thin air," Maxwell said at the May 9 Board of Supervisors meeting. "It came from many different plans in the Bayview. It was an accumulation of many outreach efforts. The plan has been thoroughly vetted. The scrutiny and disagreements have only made it stronger."

The legislation before the board for consideration now contains two parts: a 136-acre area that includes the Hunters Point Hill residential neighborhood, and a much larger area, added in the ’90s, that would expand the Redevelopment Agency’s jurisdiction by 1,361 acres.

Inside the enormous widened area is the Candlestick Point Special Use District, which was created by voters in 1997 as part of a narrowly passed legislative package infused with $100 million in bond money for the construction of a new Candlestick stadium and shopping mall. The plan was stalled until last month, when public mutterings about an alternative plan with more housing units began to circulate.

The propositions (there were two in 1997) allocating $100 million for Candlestick are still technically in effect. The money was never spent, and the football club’s ownership has since indicated it may build the project without that bond money in order to focus on housing. A feasibility study is currently under way, and no plans have yet been made public.

According to a report released by the Budget Analyst’s Office in late April, the Redevelopment Agency is expecting to generate almost $300 million in TIF money from new property taxes over the next 45 or so years to pay for the redevelopment plan. Approximately $30 million of the money available for infrastructure improvements and low-income housing would be contingent on business activity inspired by a new stadium, meaning the agency could end up with much less if the stadium area remains in its current state.

TIF money generated inside Candlestick Point can still flow outward, new stadium or not. But Rosen clarified for us that TIF money could also go toward infrastructure improvements associated with the Candlestick project, such as roads, streetlights, green spaces, and housing at least 50 percent of which is required to be affordable to those with low incomes, a far higher rate than citywide requirements. None of this could happen, however, without board approval and considerable public oversight.

"There is the possibility that the board could allocate tax-increment financing to a park or other public space," Rosen said.

Other concerns residents had over the redevelopment plan have cooled somewhat as Maxwell has introduced a series of amendments, including a call for regular management audits during the plan’s implementation and increased public participation in approving "significant land use proposals," an amendment she introduced last week.

But some skeptics have continued to express concern about gentrification of the area and the displacement of its predominantly minority residents.

Shaw, who opposes the plan, told us his greatest concern now is no longer the 49ers but turnout at public meetings.

"The proponents have outnumbered the opponents," he said. "I haven’t seen the kind of turnout we would have expected." SFBG