Crunch time

Pub date September 23, 2009
WriterSarah Phelan

The proposal by city officials and Lennar Corp. to build more than 10,000 new housing units at Hunters Point Shipyard/Candlestick Point is entering a critical phase, particularly for Bayview-Hunters Point residents who want greater oversight and scrutiny of the project.

Candidates are lining up to replace termed-out District 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell next year; the project’s draft environmental impact report will be released, considered for approval and potentially challenged; and Lennar officials will seek to get the final development agreement with the city signed before Mayor Gavin Newsom leaves office in 2011, or earlier.

The 770-acre redevelopment plan, which the Mayor’s Office is touting as a shining example of a public-private partnership, has come under repeated attack from community advocates after Lennar’s failures to monitor and control toxic asbestos dust at the shipyard. The crash of the housing market and plunge in the company’s stock price also triggered concerns about the project.

And in light of the U.S. Navy’s recent decision to dissolve the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), the community is concerned that decisions about radiologically-affected dumps and the shipyard’s early transfer from the Navy to the city could occur without important public oversight.

Another aspect of the project — a proposal to build condos on 42 acres of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area — was criticized by the Sierra Club, Arc Ecology, and Friends of Candlestick Park. Lennar argued it was necessary for the project to pencil out and this sale of state land was to be authorized by Senate Bill 792, sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno.

In August, Leno secured the neutrality of the environmental groups and the support of the California Assembly (but not Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, the lone dissenting vote) for an amended version of his bill, arguing that selling 23 acres for $50 million would spare the rest of Candlestick Point SRA from being closed by budget cuts. The legislation now awaits Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature.

Now, with the project’s EIR due to be released Sept. 28, people have the chance to register concerns about plans for such a massive development project, which includes condos on the Bayview’s only major park and a controversial bridge over Yosemite Slough.

On Sept. 15, community members packed the Board of Supervisors’ meeting to demand an investigation into their concerns, which also include the apparent inability of Newsom’s African American Out Migration task force to issue its overdue final report about the ongoing exodus of the city’s black population, which this project could exacerbate.

Sup. John Avalos told us he is now gathering information on the issue and hopes to schedule Land Use Committee hearings on the shipyard cleanup and Lennar’s economic health. "The documentation gives real strength and power to the community’s contentions," Avalos said.

He also noted that Maxwell is scheduling a hearing into the dissolution of the RAB, while Sup. Ross Mirkarimi is resurrecting legislation that seeks to put the San Francisco Redevelopment Authority under the control of the Board of Supervisors.

Arc Ecology director Saul Bloom said his group will study the project’s EIR to see if it accurately assesses the effects of Lennar’s development.

"We are concerned about the impact of truck traffic, the bridge over Yosemite Slough, and whether the transportation plan is going to effectively put the Bayview between three freeways," Bloom said. "But we’re going to be even-handed. If the EIR does a good job, we plan to say so."

Jaron Browne of the Bayview advocacy group POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) told the Guardian that her group wants the shipyard cleaned up and the community respected.

"This is not just a Bayview issue," Browne said. "The whole city will be affected by the decisions that take place in terms of the future of affordable housing and environmental protection."