Uncertain developments



Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones has San Francisco officials confused about which local projects will be affected.

Currently, the state allows municipalities to redevelop specified areas by borrowing against estimated future property taxes. Brown says he doesn’t want to interfere with any redevelopment bonds or commitments that have been contractually entered into — but the plan would redirect billions from development projects to schools, public safety, and other local programs.

“Redevelopment takes money from schools, cities, and counties,” Brown said at a Jan. 10 budget proposal press conference. “We want to take that money and leave it at the local level for the purposes it was historically intended. That’s police or fire or local activities, county, or schools.”

Brown says his proposal will save the state’s general fund $2.7 billion over the next 18 months. And he wants to help cities and counties raise taxes to replace that money.

But local officials say it remains to be seen what Brown’s plan means for existing obligations, and details won’t emerge until the governor releases a draft budget in March.

“I don’t think we’ll really know until we see what the legislation says,” said Redevelopment general counsel Jim Morales. “Clearly if you have a binding contract, that’s enforceable in court. The Legislature couldn’t pass a law that interferes with that.”

Redevelopment already has contracts related to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Mission Bay. “The fact that we have an agreement is helpful. But a redevelopment plan of itself is not an agreement,” Morales said. “It goes to the question of what is the obligation, who gets it, and what tools do they have to fulfill those obligations.”

Morales said he believes the passage of Proposition 22 in November — which blocked the state from taking local redevelopment funds — lies at the heart of Brown’s proposal.

“The way Prop. 22 was drafted doesn’t give the state Legislature much room to use these funds except to eliminate redevelopment agencies,” he said. “It’s a legal as well as a political strategy to amend by another ballot measure or somehow modify Prop. 22.”

Brown’s bombshell landed just as city officials announced that a settlement had been reached with the Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon Society over charges that the city’s environmental impact report for Lennar Corp.’s massive development proposal for Candlestick Point and the former Naval Shipyard was inadequate.

The agreement includes criteria for the design and construction of a bridge across Yosemite Slough to lessen environmental impacts and provide habitat improvements.

“A settlement that provides great benefits to people and wildlife is not one that is often achievable. We’re extraordinarily pleased to have done so in this case,” said Arthur Feinstein, chair of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter in a Jan. 8 press release.

“The agreement creates benefits for the community and the open space, habitats, and wildlife throughout the project area,” said Mark Welther, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. “The lagoon and other improvements will create an area whose beauty and ecological significance will rival Crissy Field.”

Lennar’s Kofi Bonner said the settlement helps clear the way for fundraising efforts. “It means we have one less lawsuit to deal with,” Bonner told the Guardian at the Jan. 11 swearing-in for interim Mayor Ed Lee.

Still on the table is a suit that Bayview-based Green Action and Power (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) brought against the city’s EIR for Lennar’s project.

Bonner said POWER’s lawsuit is about issues that the developer does not control. “POWER’s suit is about toxins removal and how the Navy is handling the issue,” he said.

POWER counters that it’s premature for the city to certify the EIR for the Lennar project. “The problem is that we are asking the city to approve future uses at the shipyard when we don’t know the result of the Navy’s clean-up process,” said Jaron Browne, a spokesperson for POWER.

Browne said that there’s nothing in POWER’s lawsuit to prevent Lennar from moving forward at Candlestick Point or with rebuilding the Alice Griffith public housing project.

Class of 2010: Malia Cohen



It took two weeks and 19 updates of San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system before Malia Cohen, a former Mayor Gavin Newsom staffer and partner in a firm that helps businesses and nonprofits create public policy, was declared the winner of the hotly contested race to represent District 10, which includes Bayview, Hunters Point and Ingleside. The nail-biting time lag was a byproduct of complex calculations that involved 22 candidates, no clear front-runners, and a slew of absentee and provisional ballots.

But when the RCV dust settled, the results proved that the D10 vote continues to break down along class, race, and gender lines. These RCV patterns personally benefited Cohen’s success in picking up second- and third-place votes.

But they also helped D10’s African American community, now smaller than its growing Asian community but still larger that the black community in any other distinct in the city, send an African American supervisor back to City Hall. And it avoided a run-off between Lynette Sweet and Tony Kelly, who won most first-place votes.

Some chalk up Cohen’s victory to her polished appearance, the middle-of-the road positions she took on the campaign trail, and an impressive list of endorsements that include the San Francisco Democratic Party, the Labor Council, the Building and Construction Trades Council, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF), Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma (D-SF), Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, SF Democratic Party Chair Aaron Peskin, and BART Board President James Fang.

But Cohen told us she thinks coalition building was the key. “Endorsements only account for a quarter of the reasons why you win,” she said. “It’s all about building an organization, a net that goes deep and wide.”

Some progressives were alarmed by a Dec. 1 fundraiser to help settle Cohen’s campaign debt whose guest list included Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown, Sup. Sean Elsbernd, Ma, Building Owners and Managers Association director Ken Cleaveland, Kevin Westlye of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and Janan New of San Francisco Apartment Association.

Cohen dismissed concerns over this conservative showing of après-campaign support. “Fear not,” she said. “It is a fundraiser event. And now that I’m a newly elected supervisor, I look forward to meeting everyone. And I will do a great job representing everyone.

So what should we expect from Cohen, who ran as a fourth-generation “daughter of the district from a labor family” on a platform of health, safety, and employment — and will soon represent the diverse southeast sector, which has the highest unemployment, crime, recidivism, foreclosure and African American out-migration rates citywide and is ground zero for Lennar Corp.’s plan to build thousands of condos at Candlestick and the shipyard?

“I’m a bridge-builder,” said Cohen, who attributes her surprisingly tough but open-minded edge to being the oldest of five sisters.

So far, she’s not going out on a progressive limb. She told us she favors a caretaker mayor: “I’d like someone to maintain the business of the city, someone who has zero political ambition,” she said. “That way it creates an even playing field for the mayoral race.”

Cohen says she is determined to address quality of life concerns, including filling potholes, re-striping crosswalks and introducing traffic calming measures, and taking on critical criminal justice issues, including City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s gang injunction in the Sunnydale public housing project in Visitacion Valley. She opposes Herrera’s strategy but notes: “If not gang injunctions, then what? I can’t dispute that they get short-term results, but what about the long-term impacts? We need long-term solutions.”

Cohen supports Sup. John Avalos’ efforts to pass mandatory local hire legislation but is open to “creative solutions” to help get it over the finishing line. “People who live here should be working here,” Cohen said. “But is 50 percent the magic mandatory hire number? I don’t know.”

Cohen, who just survived a foreclosure attempt, has promised to be a “fierce advocate” for constituents facing similar challenges, including those who met predatory loan brokers at church.

But asked how she would cut spending or raise revenue to address the city’s massive budget deficit, she had no specific answer.

Yet Cohen disagrees with detractors who say she lacks experience. “I may look cute, but don’t be misled. I have a public policy background and fire in my belly. I’m a union candidate, I’m smart, I’m talented, and above all, I love the people in D10 and the rest of San Francisco. I want everyone to prosper and receive benefits. So give me a shot.”

Thrown under the bus, Arc sues Redevelopment


Arc Ecology filed suit today in federal court against the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, citing First Amendment issues and the Commission’s alleged retaliation for Arc’s criticism of the Agency’s Candlestick Point/ Hunters Point Shipyard project

Represented by attorneys from the First Amendment Project, Arc said the purpose of the suit is to hold the Redevelopment Commission accountable on two counts. First, for attaching an unconstitutional condition to the contract that requires silence from its contractors on matters of public concern outside the scope of the contract and second, for taking reprisal actions against Arc Ecology for its award-winning critique of the Candlestick Point Hunters Point Shipyard Redevelopment Plan.

 Redevelopment commissioners threw Arc under the bus this September, when they rejected the recommendation of Agency staff, an independent interagency selection panel, the Hunters Point Citizens Advisory Committee and dozens of Bayview Hunters Point and San Francisco residents to rehire Arc to provide environmental technical and educational services for the cleanup of the shipyard.

At that same meeting, the Commissioners voted to award the contract to Circle Point, a San Francisco-based consulting company that Commissioner Francee Covington worked for, in support of a bridge project near Sacramento, several years earlier.

During the Commission’s Sept. 21 meeting, Commissioners Leroy King, Francee Covington and Darshan Singh joined Commission President Rick Swig in calling for Arc’s ouster, variously accusing Arc’s executive director Saul Bloom of disloyalty and dishonesty, but failing to support their claims with evidence related to the contract in question.

“I’m opposed to giving the contract to Arc,” Commissioner King said, accusing Bloom of talking, “against Lennar.” But Lennar is the developer for the city’s massive Candlestick Point/Shipyard project, and as such it is not in charge of the Navy’s clean-up of the shipyard.

Commissioner Covington pulled out the city’s response to comments on its EIR (environmental impact report) for Lennar’s redevelopment plans, as alleged evidence of Arc’s malfaisance, even though the non-profit’s  Redevelopment contract involved assessing environmental issues related to the Navy’s shipyard clean-up, and not assessing rLennar’s redevelopment proposal.Covington then pointed to, but did not identify, letters she claimed were from individuals who alleged their names were falsely included in a letter supporting Arc’s EIR comments.

(The Guardian subsequently discovered that these missives were form letters. Both were written in identical language. Naim Harrison, who works for Positive Directions, which sent the city one of the form letters, told the Guardian that he signed Arc’s EIR letter, which asked for more time to review the city’s draft EIR. “It seemed a reasonable request,” Harrison said. But Positive Directions director Cedric Akbar, who sent the form complaint letters and was running as a candidate in the hotly contested D10 race, did not return the Guardian’s repeated calls.)

Commission President Swig, a hotel and tourism industry consultant, sought to frame Arc, which was hired as an independent non-profit, as an ungrateful consultant. “As a consultant myself, I don’t agree with all my customers, but I don’t bite the hand that feeds me,” Swig said.
Then the Commission voted 4-0 to reject Arc and award the contract to Circle Point, instead.

“The Redevelopment Commission’s punishment of Arc Ecology sends a message to all contractors that they must now lie for the Commission.” Bloom stated in a Dec. 6 press release. “Just listen to the Agency’s own web-audio of the Commission’s September 21st meeting. This unelected, unaccountable legislative body, one of only a handful of such Commissions in California, is attempting to put responsible criticism in the deep freeze.”

“No matter that the subject of our commentary was outside the scope of our contract, no matter that purpose of the contract was to provide the community with an independent view of the decision-making regarding the Shipyard’s cleanup, and no matter that its own staff found our analysis helpful, the Commission’s action states clearly they prefer public relations to transparency,” Bloom continued. “This is a governmental body with a duty to uphold speech not their private business. The Commission has given notice that to contract with the Agency be prepared to kiss the First Amendment goodbye.”

Arc and the First Amendment Project say their lawsuit will also demonstrate that the Office of Economic and Workforce Development “clearly biased the applicant evaluation score against Arc Ecology but failed in its attempt to rig the recommendation of the Selection Panel” and that the Redevelopment Commissioners “falsely stated the Commission’s policy as always awarding contracts to the highest scoring applicant – even if the difference is only two tenths of one percent out of a possible score of 100.”

First Amendment Project staff attorney Geoffrey King told the Guardian that Arc’s suit focuses on two distinct areas of concern.

“First, there was the attachment of an unconstitutional condition to Arc’s contract, and then there was the taking of retalitory action,” King said. “We allege that statements that Arc made were wholly outside the scope of its contract. But even if its statements were inside the scope of its contract, Arc was hired to be a watch dog and not a lap dog. Arc’s role within that process was to be an independent voice. You can’t condition funding on someone’s silence over something they were not contracting for.”

You could impose conditions like that, King says, if the government hired a public relations firm to disseminate an approved message.

‘That’s where you can control the content,” King said. “But if the government is hiring you to be independent, it can’t get mad at you for providing answers it doesn’t like.”

“And nobody accused Arc of a breach of the duty of loyalty,” King continued, noting that Bloom asked Redevelpment Agency staffers if he was in a breach, and was told that he was not.

“It’s pretty stark when you look at the transcripts of that Redvelopment Commission meeting what the real issue was,” King said.

Steve Moss: The big duck goes on and on and on


And so you will remember, from my earlier blog (STEVE MOSS: THE BIG DUCK) that I asked Steve Moss some questions in the critical District 10 race. He answered but ducked the questions, so I put forth the relevant follow up questions. No answer at all. But the blog comments provide some interesting back and forth with Moss supporters and others in the district.  (Yes, I don’t like anonymous comments and I always sign my comments as Bruce and B3.)

Moss told us in the Guardian endorsement interview that he fully supports more sunshine and accountability in non profits. So let’s take him at his word on this one and raise again the questions he has been ducking. PG&E has invested millions of dollars over the past 10 years into Moss, his non profit (and by extension his for profit firm and the Potrero View, which he now owns and uses for his personal and political agenda.)

More, Moss’s non profit collected $1,290,000 in the past three years from the California Public Utilities Commission for energy efficiency projects, according to SF Power’s annual revenues in its 2008 to 20l0 report on its website. Loretta Lynch, former president of the CPUC, explained to us that this money for energy efficiency programs are funded by ratepayers, not utilities, and that PG&E decides each year whether Moss/SF Power gets any of this money and how much. Lynch lives on Potrero Hill.

The report also disclosed that SF Power got $150,000 from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commisson in 2008 and $125,000 in 2009.) Both the CPUC and SF PUC are widely recognized PG&E- friendly bastions. Moss got hundreds of thousands more in previous years since he incorporated his non profit in 2001.  And, according to a statement in the report, Moss is still hustling money from the big polluters in District 10 (from PG&E, Mirant and its power plant and the mayor’s office et al).

This district has been brutalized for decades by PG&E, for starters with the belatedly shuttered Hunters Point power plant and with the still fuming Potrero Hill power plant, and with the concentration of gas pipelines under the district. If elected, Moss would be the first supervisor in memory who would be a direct financial captive of PG&E.

It is only fair to the residents and businesses in his district that Moss explain before election day some basic questions: how much money in total and by year has PG&E invested in him and his non profit and profit businesses? Why has he been secretive about it?
Will he keep hustling PG&E and Mirant for more money if elected? Will he cut his ties to PG&E and the non profit/profit firms and when? How can his constituents trust him considering PG&E’s investments in him?

Other critical questions concern the $250,000 or so investment that the downtown/Chamber/PG&E/real estate/landlord/BOMA gang has made in Moss and his campaign with the full expectation of getting good returns with friendly votes that would most likely be inimical to the interests of his district. Given the huge, unprecedented money gushing into his campaign from commercial landlords, developers, PG&E, and the Chamber gang, how can district residents and businesses trust him on the critical issues of public power, closing down the Potrero power plant, tenant rights, land use, Lennar and other big developments, affordable housing, and protecting the neighborhoods and small businesses?

The critical pre-election question: If Moss can’t answer these key questions fully and forthrightly, and he keeps the Big Duck going, how can he be trusted as a district supervisor?

Full disclosure: I look out from my office window at 135 Mississippi St. at the Potrero Hill power plant, pumping out poisons every minute of every day, courtesy of PG&E and Mirant, and the PUC/City Hall.

Don’t nobody give a damn about us!


As Supervisor John Avalos’ proposal to mandate local hiring for publicly-funded construction projects heads for a committee hearing next week, local hiring protests continue to break out around UCSF’s Mission Bay groundbreaking celebrations for a $1.5 billion hospital project that the UC Board of Regent recently approved.

The problem, according to community advocates, revolves around UC’s apparent absence of a community hiring plan. Rumor has is that local residents will only get 12-13 percent of the construction jobs, even though the site is only a T-Third ride away from Bayview Hunters Point and other low-income communities where unemployment rates have risen steeply in the last four years.

Yesterday evening, I went to a university-community celebration where UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann was in attendance. So, I asked her about UC’s local hiring plan. Desmond-Hellmann said I’d need to speak to UCSF’s Barbara French, who recently advised community-based organizations that construction at the site won’t start until December, and that the groundbreaking activities are happening now to take advantage of the weather.

So, while I’m waiting to hear back from French, check out a slideshow (see above) of the Oct. 27 local hiring protest at UC Mission Bay. There’s been coverage of how MC Hammer talked to the protesters Oct. 26, when the Secret Service got upset about the local-hiring demonstration outside the groundbreaking that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended. And how Hammer came back with a “we want jobs” message.

But there has been no coverage of how filmmaker Kevin Epps (who is responsible for Straight Outta Hunters Point and Black Rock) was on hand filming the Oct. 27 protest, or how UC’s Terry Rawlins dropped by, or how Terry Anders of the Anders & Anders Foundation) took part in the local hiring protest saying, “This is the first piñata we want to crack open,” or how  Mindy Kener, who is also with Anders & Anders, added, “We want all the candy to fall out.” Or how Aboriginal Blacks United’s Alex Prince, who led the protest to demand fair and equal access to high-paying union jobs on the UC Mission Bay project near the economically depressed Third Street corridor, was accompanied by Heaven, ABU’s cuter than cute mascot dog.

“We want to make sure folks get trained and everything that’s necessary, so there is no dispute,” Prince told me. “UC has not really been helpful. They just said they want to meet with us.”

Osiris Coalition member Greg Doxey, who helped negotiate labor’s community benefits agreement with Lennar in 2008, emphasized the importance of passing local hiring legislation that has some teeth.
“We’ve found that no matter how much dollars is committed for training, it doesn’t help if developer is not committed to doing any training,” Doxey said. “That’s why we are supporting Local SF, Sup. John Avalos’ legislation. We want some teeth. All we have right now is a good faith policy. Avalos’ legislation will give us teeth to set fines to be put in place.”

Charles Hopkins, another local resident, said all the community wants is its fair share.
“It’s sustainable for San Francisco to have local hire,” Hopkins said.

A group of unemployed Asian-American members of the iron unions also participated in the ABU rally where they held up signs saying “Show us the $$$”.

An employee of Cambridge, which along with San Francisco-based DPR, is one of the prime contractors at the site, did come out to talk to the protesters.
“If folks want to put their names on the list, they can,” the Cambridge employee, who declined to give his name, said. “But the unions have their own procedures, when it comes to who they dispatch, including seniority.”

Mindy Kener of the BVHP-based Anders and Anders Foundation said she’d like to see more women hired on local construction sites.“The women want to work and get off the welfare lines,, they need to work and it’ll make a big difference in our neighborhood if we put people to work who live on the T-Third line,” Kener said. “All we need is for UC to give the green light to put our neighborhood to work.”Carlos Rodriguez, a Local 261 member who has been out of work for two years, worries that workers are being forgotten while deal making is going on.“I see how unions talk to management, they forget about the laborers,” Rodriguez said.

A man on a bicycle stopped to see what was going on.
“It’s not going to work, when they can get illegal aliens to work for $6.50 an hour,” the man said, as he resumed his peddling.

Across the street, filmmaker Kevin Epps also indicated that he thought part of the local hire problem is rooted in racism.
“Deeply rooted, institutionalized racism,” Epps said. “We are talking about power, and power doesn’t give up without another power taking it away.”
Standing nearby was UC contract compliance manager Terry Rawlins, who clarified that UC isn’t currently hiring folks to work on the construction site.
But doesn’t the university have leverage?

“Not directly,” Rawlins said, “We try to establish goals, based on cooperation with unions, and without violating any bargaining agreements.”

But UCSF Director of Design and Construction J.Stuart Eckblad told the Guardian that he thought the workers were asking for the right thing.
“I’m all for maximizing the opportunities and participation of the local community,” Eckblad said.” The question is what is realistic, and there are issues of what is really available with labor and the trades.”

Joshua Arce of the Brightline Defense Project noted that folks have been distracted by Lennar’s shipyard project from the reality that there are 6,000 jobs coming on line, a stone’s throw from the Bayview, the Mission and Market Street.
“What is equitable?” Arce asked. “A good faith approach, a market-based approach or a mandatory approach? At the end of the day, it’s about equity, and no one would dispute that this situation is inequitable. Let’s just agree that it’s not equitable [to have no local hiring plan] on a big project like this in a community that is facing such high unemployment levels.”

“There are hundreds of good-paying, union jobs on this projects while we have people in our communities that are dying for lack of work,” ABU president James Richards told me. “We have qualified union workers standing outside the job site that are ready, willing, and able to work and if the community doesn’t work, no one works.Good faith efforts have never worked and now they want us to be fooled again. So, we are going to step it up, and we don’t give a damn about the unions, either. The person who fights for these jobs, deserves these jobs. So, let’s begin to tell the truth. Many of the folks in the labor unions don’t speak English, they are not from San Francisco, and most are not even from this country. Everyone is dancing around the truth. Everyone knows the truth, but they don’t speak it.”

But ABU’s tent looked inclusive at the protest, Arce noted, as he pointed  out the power of teaming up with all marginalized groups in San Francisco.

“I could go for that,” Richards said.  “We got blacks, Mexicans, Asians, whites, everybody in ABU. It’s ain’t no racist thing.  But let us work, too. “Why do we always have to get in last? Don’t nobody give a damn about us! 

Maxwell disappoints by endorsing Sweet


To be honest, I wasn’t surprised that termed-out Sup. Sophie Maxwell endorsed D10 candidate Lynette Sweet yesterday. Just disappointed. And it’s not just because Sweet refused to come into the Guardian this fall for an endorsement interview (a stance that suggests that Sweet would be depressingly inaccessible to reporters that haven’t drunk her Kool-Aid—a stance that, unfortunately, reminds me of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attitude towards the media).

I’d been hearing rumors that Maxwell was going to endorse Sweet since February, when Sweet, who’d already racked up Mayor Gavin Newsom’s D10 blessing at that point, showed up alongside Maxwell at the city’s kickoff event for Black history month.

Then there was the fact that during an interview in February for the Guardian’s kickoff article about the D10 race, Sweet spouted phrases that sounded eerily similar to Maxwell’s words.
“D10 is a pretty diverse district, but there is only one common thread: the need for economic development,” Sweet told me.

But a few days earlier when I interviewed Maxwell about a third, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to recall her , Maxwell talked of common threads:

 “I’m waiting for people to have a better understanding of what this community is, what the common thread running through it is, and how to use rank choice voting,” Maxwell said, by way of explaining why she wasn’t willing to endorse anyone that early in the race.

Now, it’s understandable that Maxwell would be looking for a candidate to carry on her legacy. But it she was looking for a moderate black female candidate  then why not endorse Malia Cohen, who isn’t hampered by all of Sweet’s dirty laundry—and has raised the most money in the race, so far?

Could it be that Cohen wouldn’t be down for the kind of dirty deal making that was par for the course back in the days when Willie Brown was still mayor and Sweet was the swing vote that crowned Lennar as master developer at the shipyard/Candlestick Point?

Rumor has it that Maxwell is upset at all the corporate money that’s flooding into this race in support of Steve Moss—and that she asked the other candidates to hold a press conference in which they decry this practice. Rumor also has it that Sweet signaled her willingness to join Tony Kelly, Dewitt Lacy, Chris Jackson and Eric Smith–to name a few–in making such a statement. But it hasn’t happened, yet. And the corporate money keeps rolling in for Moss.

Meanwhile, with three weeks until the election, D10 forums are beginning to sound like a parody of a “Lost” episode featuring a 22-member cast that all claim to represent the city’s polluted and economically depressed southeast sector:

“One of us is a BART director, one of us worked at City Hall, one of us is a community advocate, one of us is a City College Board member, one of us is a civil rights attorney, one of us is an affordable housing development director, one of us is a bio-diesel advocate, one of us is a public safety advocate, one of us was raised in the Bayview, one of us served on the Navy’s Restoration Advisory Board,” and so on.

I’m not saying this is wrong. Hell, I love all this diversity of choices. but I am concerned that, come election night, the progressive vote will get split into a million pieces, while deep-pocketed conservative forces like the Chamber of Commerce and Golden Gate Restaurant line up behind one candidate in an attempt to crush candidates that would stand up to their powerful influence at City Hall and truly represent the D10 community

Yes, there is ranked choice voting, and it’s unlikely that one candidate will win a majority of the vote in the first round. But it’s critical at this venture that progressives develop a winning strategy. D10 candidate Ed Donaldson told me recently that if a candidate who doesn’t represent the community’s concerns gets elected, then the community would respond just as they did around Maxwell—and organize a recall.

But wouldn’t it be better if the community can come together behind three truly progressive candidates and help them win the November election?

One of the key challenges in this race will be to win votes in Visitacion Valley, as well as in the Bayview and/or Potrero Hill.

In his latest column in the Chron, former mayor and Sweet supporter Willie Brown alluded to the importance of this in a city with ranked-choice voting:”It’s not getting much attention, but someone has finally figured out how to get the Asian vote out,” Brown observed.”You do it by mail. You get ballots and ballot books into every household, then have the whole family sit down together. The kids help with the translation, everyone talks things over and everyone votes.”

Meanwhile, D10 candidate Tony Kelly told me that Marlene Tran, who is tri-lingual (English, Cantonese, Vietnamese) and has a good handle on community issues in Viz Valley, has confirmed that Kelly is her second-ranked choice (presuming that she votes for herself in first place. of course).

Not a bad strategy–and one that other progressives need to consider, given ranked choice voting–and the brutal reality that they are going to be massively outspent in the next three weeks.







Downtown money hits district races


Downtown cash is pouring into the district supervisorial races.

Ethics Department filings show that an alliance backed by the Chamber of Commerce, the SF Police Officers Association and United Health Care Workers West is dropping major money on Steve Moss in D10, Scott Wiener in D8 and Theresa Sparks in D6. 

Called the “Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth,” the coalition supports the building of a mega-hospital on Cathedral Hill.

The independent expenditure alliance puts UHW, part of the Service Employees International Union, in the odd position of using membership money to attack progressive politics in San Francisco – potentially undermining years of work by another SEIU affiliate, Local 1021.

Campaign disclosure forms show that the Chamber-Police-UHW alliance has spent $20,000 on bilingual (English/Chinese) door hangers for Moss that feature photos of Chamber of Commerce President Steve Falk and United Healthcare Workers political director Leon Chow.

These same interests also spent $20,000 on robo-calls for Moss, with a heavy focus on Visitacion Valley in an effort to secure the Asian vote in the crowded D10, where there is a strong likelihood that the race will be decided by second and third place votes

Word on the street in the Bayview is that former Mayor Willie Brown is pissed off that the Chamber is backing Moss, instead of African American candidate Lynette Sweet, and that termed out D10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell is angry that big corporations are trying to buy an election in the poorest and most ethnically diverse district in town.

But unlike the rumor mill, the money trail doesn’t lie. And from that perspective this is looking like a replay of the June 2008 election, when big businesses bought support for Lennar’s Candlestick Point/shipyard development by claiming it would create thousands of jobs building condos that most workers can’t afford—jobs that have yet to materialize.

This time the battle cry is for jobs building a massive hospital, even though few workers will likely get service from this hospital, which is designed to serve as a regional center for high-end health care.

So far, the same alliance of police and corporate money has plunked down $17,000 for bilingual (English and Chinese) door hangers in support of Theresa Sparks in D6 and another $17,000 for bilingual robo-calls in support of Sparks.

And so far, Scott Wiener has gotten the relatively short end of the corporate money stick: the Alliance has only spent $15,000 on a door hanger in support of Wiener.

This means that the alliance spent $90,000 in a two-week period in September. The numbers lend credence to DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin’s belief that the alliance has a war chest of $800,000, which it intends to use to put pro-downtown candidates into power.

Asked about the support of this alliance, Sparks, Wiener and Moss gave markedly different replies that reveal as much about each candidate as the money behind them.

D6 candidate Theresa Sparks suggested that the Alliance was spending more on her and Moss’ D10 campaign, because it felt Wiener was further ahead in the D8 race than she is in D6 or Moss is in D10.

And Sparks was openly supportive of the Cathedral Hill hospital project. “I’ve been very supportive of that project,” Sparks told us.

Sparks also observed that it was logical that the Chamber would support her.

“D6 has one of the largest numbers of small businesses and one of my biggest platforms has been economic growth, and I think the Chamber has been very supportive of job creation,” Sparks said.

By comparison, Scott Wiener told the Guardian that he has not taken a position on CPMC’s proposed mega hospital on Cathedral Hill.

“Those kind of issues could come before the Board, in terms of CEQA issues, and so I could be conflicted out,” Wiener said.

When the Guardian noted that the Alliance has so far not spent any money on phone banking for Wiener in D8, Wiener said, “I have volunteers doing phone banking.”

As for Moss, he told the Guardian that said he doesn’t have a position on the mega-hospital.

“I haven’t seen the plan,” Moss said. “But I understand that there seems to be an agreement that would maintain St. Luke’s with about 300 beds, but that there is a deep suspicion among the nurses that it’s not economically viable. And there seems to be a much greater need for a hospital in the southeast.”

Moss, however, is with downtown on other key issues: He supports the sit-lie legislation on the November ballot. He also reiterated that he likes the rabidly anti-tenant Small Property Owners Association, whose endorsement he called a “mistake” during a previous interview with the Guardian.

“Landlords feel that they are responsible for maintaining costly older buildings and that they are not provided with ways to upgrade their units in ways that share costs with tenants,” Moss, who sold a condo on Potrero Hill in 2007 for the same price that he paid for the entire building in 2001, and owns a 4-floor rent-controlled apartment building in D8, near Dolores Park, that he bought for $1.6 million in 2007, and where he lived from December 2007 to February 2010.

Moss refused to provide a copy of the lease on his current rental at Vermont and 18th St—something that the Guardian requested in light of an email from his wife that indicated that the family intended to move back to Dolores Park of Moss loses the race.
‘That’s private information,” Moss said, claiming that he does not plan to move back into his apartment building in D8, if he loses in November.

Moss claimed that UHW endorsed him because his position on politicians and unions.
“I agreed that politicians should get not involved in union politics,” Moss said. “The United Healthcare Workers seem to be a worthy group,” he added. “All they said was that they wanted to make sure that they had access.”

All this campaign money drama is playing out against the backdrop of a punishing battle between United Healthcare Workers West and the rest of SEIU. And as these recent filings show, UHW is spending a huge amount of its membership dues to undermine the city’s progressive infrastructure by trying to elect candidates who are not progressive, even though its progressive sister union has endorsed Rafael Mandelman in D8.

SEIU 1021 member Ed Kinchley, who works in the Emergency Room at SF General Hospital, is furious that UHW is pouring all its money into downtown candidates like Moss, Sparks and Wiener and trying to undermine everything that its progressive sister union is trying to do.

“UHW basically isn’t participating in the Labor Council, it’s just doing its own thing,” Kinchley said.

Kinchley noted that UHW is currently in trusteeship, and is being controlled by its International, and not its local membership, thus explaining why it’s doing this dance with forces like the Chamber and the Building Owners and Managers Association, which have long been the enemy of labor.

“Sutter wants a monopoly on private healthcare, and people like Rafael Mandelman in and Debra Walker have been strong supporters of public healthcare,” Kinchley said, Kinchley also noted that he wants supervisors who are willing to state their support for public health care, rather than dodging the issue and hedging their bets, right now.

“I want someone who can straight-up say, here’s what’s important for families in San Francisco, especially something as important as healthcare,” Kinchley said. “but it sounds like UHW is teaming up with the Chamber and supporting people who are not progressive.”

“And it’s not OK for somebody in D10 to say they haven’t seen CPMC’s plans, when people from D10 use St. Luke’s all the time for healthcare, because it sounds like Sutter wants to change St. Luke’s into an out-patient clinic for paying customers,” he continued.

SEIU 1021 activist Gabriel Haaland accused the Chamber, the Building Owners and Managers Association, UHW and the Police Officers Association of putting together a massive political action committee, “to try and steal the election through corporate spending.”

All this leaves the Guardian wondering how Leon Chow, the political director of UHW, who has done good work in the past on health care issues, is feeling about seeing his photograph spreads all over town alongside that of Chamber of Commerce President Steve Falk on door hangers in support of Sparks, Wiener and Moss.
As of press time, Chow had not returned our calls, but if he does, we’ll update this post.

Redevelopment throws Arc Ecology under the bus


No one was really surprised when the Redevelopment Commission voted 4-0 not to renew Arc Ecology’s contract to provide environmental information services regarding remediation plans at Hunters Point Shipyard and award it to Circle Point.

Sad and disgusted, yes. But surprised, no. That’s because everyone expected that Commissioners Leroy King, Darshan Singh, Rick Swig and Francee Covington, who are all appointees of Mayor Gavin Newsom, would throw Arc under the bus as payback for Arc’s decision to comment on the EIR for Lennar’s Candlestick Point/shipyard redevelopment plan and oppose the giving away of state parklands so Lennar could build luxury condos.

“The message was that we shouldn’t have commented ” Arc’s executive director Saul Bloom told the Guardian after the Commission vote went down. “But this you’re-either-on-our-side-or-out-of-a- contract attitude is completely bogus. It’s tactics that Republicans use against Democrats.”

And with the exception of Al Norman (who had the bad manners to burst out laughing when Arc got voted out) and Circle Point staffers, who obviously wanted the contract, those who attended the Commission’s September 21 meeting agreed that the outcome symbolized everything that’s wrong with Redevelopment’s current model of governance, in which political appointees, not elected officials, make decisions that majorly impact the city’s land use.

Thor Kaslofsky, Redevelopment’s shipyard project manager, kicked off the Commission’s contract discussions by explaining why Redevelopment Agency staff were recommending that the Commission award the contract to Arc Ecology.
As Kaslofsky explained, Circle Point received 0.2 points more than Arc from the Agency’s scoring panel, “making it difficult for the panel to determine who is the most qualified.”

Kaslofsky noted that there had been “concerns about Arc Ecology’s multiple roles in the community.”
This was a reference to the fact that, besides, providing independent assessments on the Navy’s clean-up plans, Arc produced “Alternatives For Study,” a report that studied alternatives to a plan that Lennar and the city refused to change–a public-private stubbornness that most recently resulted in a lawsuit from the Sierra Club and the Golden Gate Audubon Society.

“But the panel voted for Arc as the most qualified firm,” Kaslofsky concluded, noting that there were “concerns about Circle Point’s ability to ramp up”—a reference to the fact that though Circle Point has offices in Sacramento and downtown San Francisco, it doesn’t have a presence in the Bayview and little-to-no experience of the military base clean-up process.

Bloom then talked about how Arc has been active in the Bayview for decades.

“We’ve been in the Bayview for 25 years,” Bloom told the Commission. “We’ve read every environmental document that’s been produced. And our office is on Third Street,”
Bloom noted that after Arc scored the highest for Redevelopment’s environmental services contract in 2009, the Agency withdrew its request for proposals (RFP) leaving the community without Arc’s services—and without the services of the Navy’s community-based Restoration Advisory Board—at a time when the Navy was pushing clean-up plans that favor capping the shipyard’s heavily polluted Parcel E-2, rather than digging and hauling out the contamination.

As Bloom noted, the Agency’s contract RFP switcheroo, “caused significant costs to the community because we were unable to provide services at the same time the Navy’s RAB was closed down.”

After Bloom spoke, a stream of Bayview advocates testified in support of Arc.

“Arc is more knowledgeable about clean-up issues than most government regulators,” said Scott Madison, a member of the shipyard’s citizen advisory committee.
“The community asked for—and you granted—an independent contractor, a watch dog, not a lap dog,” Madison continued. “Circle Point may be technically qualified, but they are strangers to the Bayview. The Commission should have the courage to hire a watchdog, even at the risk of a nip at the heels.”

Michael Lynes, conservation director with the Golden Gate Audubon Society, which recently joined the Sierra Club in suing to block the city’s EIR on Lennar’s Candlestick/ shipyard plans, told the Commission that he found “the value provided by Arc to be absolutely essential.”

D10 candidate Eric Smith, a member of the Navy’s now defunct RAB, praised Arc for, “being fantastic in sharing the information.”
“There is no other organization that has their history, has done the work they’ve done, and has the relationship with the community,” Smith said, “With the loss of the RAB, Arc was the only place to go.”

Jackie Phillips of ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) noted that how a lot of organizations come to the Bayview, but unlike Arc, few stay the course.
“I’ve gone to their workshops,” Phillips said. “They sat us down, they’ve taken us on tours, they’ve taken us to the toxic sites, they have shown us what these changes will mean.”

Phillips also expounded on the difficulty of winning the trust of the Bayview community.
“In the Bayview, we don’t know who to trust, because there have been a lot of broken promises,” Phillips said. “Arc did not try to hide things from us. They have a relationship with the community.”

Next up was Claude Eberhart, who said ordinarily he’d be happy to see Circle Point get the contract, because he likes their staff.
“But by rights, I can’t recommend that,” Eberhart said. “The issue is trust.”
Noting that he has worked with Arc since 1987 when he and Bloom fought plans to homeport the USS Missouri at the shipyard, Eberhart said that in terms of getting “clear, concise and correct information,” Arc is “one environmental organization we can rely on.”

Eberhart also noted that last year, when there was pressure to take a large chunk out of the Candlestick Point State Recreation Area so that the city/Lennar could build luxury condos on state parklands, “Arc stepped forward and provided the information we needed to achieve a community consensus and have the Sierra Club come up with the final deal that allowed for an exchange [of state parklands].”

John Eller, an organizer with ACCE, which co-signed the community benefits agreement that the Labor Council negotiated with Lennar to secure living wages and higher levels of affordable housing, noted that Commission President Rick Swig had spoken earlier in the meeting about how Cohen, Newsom’s former economic advisor, was a consensus builder.

“And that’s exactly what Arc has done over the years,” Eller said.

Kate Kelley, director of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, praised Arc’s integrity.
“The information it provided was balanced, responsive and certainly technically competent,” she said.

“This is not a baseball game,” Kelley continued, referring to Circle Point’s understandable claim that it rightfully won the contract based on the Agency’s scoring process. “This is about relationships and trust—and I trust Arc Ecology to do the right thing.”

Al Norman, who heads the Bayview Merchants Association, was the sole dissenter among Bayview residents who spoke at the meeting.
Norman claimed that Arc’s critique of the city’s EIR was somehow “a conflict of interest.”

But instead of providing evidence to support his claims, Norman launched into a personal attack.
“[Bloom] went against this agency and the community, concerning his alternative plan, when we already had a plan in place,” Norman said. “I think Circle Point deserves a chance.”

The son of the late Jesse Mason, who worked for Arc until he died this summer, spoke in support of Arc and Bloom.
“My father believed in Arc, he trusted Arc,” Mason said.

And Christine Johnson, secretary of the shipyard’s Citizen Advisory Committee, spoke of the pressing need in the Bayview for independent review of technical environmental documents.
“We feel it’s imperative to get immediate advice and expert opinion and to properly assimilate information,” Johnson said, referring to the Navy’s shipyard clean-up plans.
‘We’ve been without that advice for nearly a year.”

Terry Ander, whose organization is a member of the Southeast Jobs Coalition, which includes Brightline, Inner City Youth, Visitacion Valley Community Development Coalition and Young Community Developers, spoke highly of Arc.
“Arc Ecology deserves this contract,” Anders said, noting that the Bayview community has been part of “enough neglect and B.S. to last for ten life times.”

And D10 candidate Kristine Enea, a former member of the Navy’s RaB, urged the Commission to “support Arc and focus on the community’s need for information.”

Bayview community advocate Espanola Jackson stressed the need for accurate information from a trusted source, as opposed to politically comfortable lip service.
“We need the correct information and not the lies and the politics that have been played upon my community,” Jackson said.

After 17 folks spoke in favor of Arc, many of them registering surprise that there was talk of taking the contract away from a small Bayview-based non-profit, Bloom sought to correct any misinformation that had been spread about his organization.
Noting that Arc’s Alternative for Studies “was an attempt to do some problem solving,” Bloom observed how, “Instead, we got painted as an opponent to a bridge. We are a strong supporter of the development and we have put 300 people to work in the Bayview.”

But all this support and clarification was not enough to save Arc from being thrown under the bus.

Commissioners Leroy King, Francee Covington and Darshan Singh joined Commission President Rick Swig in calling for Arc’s ouster. And along the way, they variously accused Bloom of disloyalty, dishonesty and expectations of winning the contract. (The latter accusation was a tad ironic given that there are currently no term limits for Redevelopment commissioners, as evidenced by King who has sat on the commission for decades and has just been renominated by Mayor Gavin Newsom to serve yet another term.)

“I’m opposed to giving the contract to Arc,” Commissioner King said. “Each time, [Bloom] spoke opposed to Redevelopment,” King continued, without proffering any details to support his claims, but giving a disturbing insight into how he thinks organizations that contract with Redevelopment for $282,000 a year (the amount Circle Point will be paid for four years for the environmental services contract) should position themselves on all Agency-related issues.

“[Lennar’s] Kofi Bonner called me and said. ‘Will you chance your vote? We need him’” King said, acknowledging that he didn’t want to award the contract to Arc, when it first applied, four years ago.  “But every time [Bloom] was opposed to basic things to fill that shipyard. He talks against Lennar.”

Commissioner Covington confused the audience by pulling out a copy of the city’s response to comments on its EIR for Lennar’s redevelopment plans, even though the Redevelopment contract in question concerns assessing the environmental issues related to the Navy’s shipyard clean-up plans.

Covington then pointed to, but did not identify, letters that she claimed were from individuals who alleged their names were falsely included in a letter supporting Arc’s EIR comments.

Covington then told the audience that the Agency’s 50 percent small business enterprise standard in contract awards “ is a goal but does not apply to non-profits”.

And Commission President Swig, a hotel and tourism industry consultant, sought to frame Arc, which is respected as an independent non-profit, as an ungrateful consultant.
“As a consultant myself, I don’t agree with all my customers, but I don’t bite the hand that feeds me,” Swig said.

And then the Commission voted 4-0 to reject Arc—and award the contract to Circle Point.

Outside the meeting, a black mood reigned.
“It was political payback,” Scott Madison said. “I think the Commission made a bad choice.”

Mike McGowan. Arc’s senior scientist, noted that public support was 17-3 in favor of Arc.
“But I guess only four votes counted,” he observed. “It seemed that Redevelopment’s staff was in favor of Arc, as was the community except for a few voices, but the Commission kept harping on incidental issues. The truth is that there are no holes in our qualifications.”

McGowan noted that the environmental services contract relates primarily to Navy clean-up.
“Arc never got in the way of the development,” McGowan said. “What it did was participate more fully in the EIR process, and, as I understand, Lennar incorporated some of Arc’s suggestions into their design. But by Arc not having its contract for the last 18 months, a lot of misinformation floated to the top.”

McGowan noted that the spirit of the Agency’s policy on small business enterprises is to foster the development of small firms that are disadvantaged and local.
“And Arc definitely is smaller, less advantaged and based in the Bayview, but it seemed like a lot of personal animosity came up,” he said.

Bloom acknowledged that the loss of this contract is a serious economic blow for Arc.
“They screwed a local small non-profit in the face of a multi-million dollar organization that swathed itself in a couple of small Bayview businesses,” Bloom continued, referring to Circle Point’s inclusion of three local SBEs as sub-contractors in its contract proposal.

Others, speaking off the record for fear of political reprisal, told the Guardian that the Commission’s treatment of Arc—and its refusal to listen to community members and community-based organizations that represent many thousands of local residents—calls into question the need for Redevelopment to exist in its present configuration, if the Commission believes its priority is to fire contractors that disagree with its plans in other arenas.

“The Board can eliminate the Redevelopment Agency and/or change its governance,” a Bayview resident said. “The Bayview is the last frontier of the eastern side of San Francisco. It’s a historically neglected neighborhood that many folks in City Hall now see as the next potential gold mine.”

Endorsement interviews: Eric Smith


Eric Smith’s passion is environmental justice. He’s the director of Green Depot, a coalition of biodiesel organizations, and has helped lead the city to switch its buses and official vehicles to the cleaner fuel. He’s working on ways to get the city to move its waste by train. And he talks about the important of green jobs (and not just green jobs for the top college graduates.)

Smith told us he’s not fond of the Lennar project, but he supports the Communit Benefits Agreement and would have voted for the project EIR. He’s concerned about the city’s plans to bring 40,000 more housing units, mostly high-end condos, to the neighborhood, particularly the threat to light-industrial jobs. He complains about the lack of centralization in city services and the sometimes overlapping jobs of nonprofits and public agencies. He’s an opponent of the gang injunctions and Sit-Lie.

You can listen to our interview here:


esmith by endorsements2010


Blocking the bridge



The Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon Society have sued to block the final environmental impact report on the Lennar Corp. redevelopment project, a move that could force reconsideration of a bridge over Yosemite Slough.

The suit against the city, Board of Supervisors, and Redevelopment Agency charges that the final EIR for Lennar’s Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard project was inadequate, in part because it didn’t consider all the impacts of the bridge or look properly at alternatives.

The move comes as no big surprise: these environmental groups vowed to file a suit within 30 days of the city’s August certification of the project EIR. But advocates hope it will lead to a change in the proposal.

Arthur Feinstein, a member of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said the EIR didn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

The introduction to the Sierra Club suit notes that “the FEIR failed to identify or underestimated the significance of environmental impacts associated with the project; failed to address the alternative proposed by Arc Ecology, which provides for a bus rapid transit route around Yosemite Slough; and failed to provide adequate responses to comments on the draft EIR.”

Or as Feinstein puts it: “There’s a bridge, and it’s going through a nature area where they say the sound level from the buses will be the equivalent to standing 50 feet from a freeway.

“They say there is no impact and that you can’t have an undisturbed nature experience in an urban area, but you can,” Feinstein continued, pointing to the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, and Crissy Field as examples of places where you can have undisturbed experiences.

Feinstein noted that Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is the only large park on the city’s eastern shoreline, and the only park that people in the Bayview can access easily.

“The city boasts about how much it was improving the Bayview, but this park is the only major open space where you can get away from urban stress — and folks have a lot of stress in the Bayview,” Feinstein said. He added that building the bridge will involve sinking pilings in Yosemite Slough that will disturb wildlife and stir up PCBs and other known contaminants.

“Noise, light and glare all have impacts on wildlife, but the city’s EIR said these are insignificant because these critters are insignificant,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein noted that the city’s final environmental impact report did make a finding of overriding concern that the project will cause air pollution at levels that exceed Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) health standards.

“But [the city] decided that this was a regional problem, so they did not attempt any mitigations for the 25,000 new residents that this 700-acre redevelopment plan is supposed to bring into the Bayview — which already has the city’s highest asthma and cancer rate and the largest number of polluting sources,” Feinstein said. “But they could say that all buses going into the development need to be electrified, or they could limit the number of parking spaces the way they did at Octavia-Market and South of Market.”

Feinstein said the next step in this CEQA lawsuit in a pretrial negotiation session to see if a settlement can be reached. “We’re not looking for a long drawn out fight. We’re ready for one, but we’re also ready to negotiate because that’s how you achieve things.”

Feinstein also noted that the Sierra Club had to go to Los Angeles to hire a traffic consultant to work on its suit because Lennar has contracts with just about every shop in the Bay Area, thanks to its various projects at Hunters Point, Treasure Island, and Mare Island.

“The related problem is that the city is no longer looking at the project with a steely eye,” Feinstein said. “Instead, they have become the developer — except that they are working with Lennar and not reviewing Lennar’s plans with objectivity. By filing this lawsuit, we’re keeping the conversation about this project alive and reminding folks that you don’t have to take everything this mayor and his administration gives you.”

The Sierra Club/Audubon Society suit came four days after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the California State Parks Foundation entered into an agreement with Lennar to help prepare conceptual designs that reportedly will be used as the basis for the actual bridge over the Yosemite Slough.

Some critics interpreted the timing of CSPF’s announcement, which the Chronicle reported under a confusing “Environmentalists to help design span” headline, as an attempt by Lennar’s well-oiled PR machine to undermine the Sierra Club/Audubon Society suit.

They also questioned CSPF’s independence from Lennar, and from the Mayor’s Office, because Guillermo Rodriguez Jr. from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development sits on CSPF’s board. So does Peter Weiner, a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, which has contracts with Lennar. Representatives from Southern California Edison, Toyota, the Walt Disney Company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and several other companies that either have contracts with Lennar or have given to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s campaign for lieutenant governor campaign also sit on the park foundation board.

CPSF’s President Elizabeth Goldstein told us that “as park supporters and defenders, we consider ourselves environmentalists.” CSPF originally planned to fight approval of the project’s final EIR when it came before the board in July. But unlike the Sierra Club, CSPF pulled its appeal at the last minute.

Goldstein told the Guardian that the foundation reversed its decision because it had initiated what she characterized as “a fruitful discussion with Lennar.”

“We wanted to play that out,” Goldstein said. “And now we’re glad we did, because the design criteria look quite good and hopefully will be compatible with the project.”

“What we’ve agreed with Lennar about is a set of design criteria to be applied to the bridge, she continued. “These criteria are intended to make sure the bridge fits aesthetically into the park as much as is possible. Lennar asked us, and we agreed, to develop the first set of conceptual plans — obviously in cooperation with them — to make sure that they are, from their first iteration, as sympathetic as possible to the park.”

Goldstein said that some of these design criteria are “quite global.”

“Some are big arcs of things that are very important to us, such as impact from light, glare and noise,” she said, noting that they don’t want to see the proposed bridge lighted at night, à la the Golden Gate Bridge.

“We want the environment at dusk to be as unimpacted as possible,” she said.

Other CSPF concerns are more situation specific.

“We want safe, attractive, easy-to-use signage,” Goldstein said, referring to need to help users and neighbors find their way around and across the bridge. “We also talk about minimizing piers in the water at the slough, and if possible, eliminating them altogether since they impact vehicles and kayaks.”

Goldstein agreed that the foundation’s roots are not in political advocacy. “We were founded as a philanthropic land acquisition partner to the Department of State Parks.” But she noted that the group was involved in blocking a proposed toll road through Orange County and is a leading supporter of Proposition 21, which seeks to raise nearly $500 million a year for state parks by tacking on an $18 vehicle registration fee that would give all vehicles registered in California free access to the majority of state parks.

As Feinstein observed, “The CSPF does great work, but they are not usually advocates for conservation and biodiversity. That is what the club and Audubon Society does.”

Stuart Flashman, attorney for the Sierra Club and the Golden Gate Audubon Society, said that in the long run the lawsuit won’t stop the project from going forward. “But in the short term, if the court finds that the EIR wasn’t adequate and that there are significant impacts from the bridge that could have been avoided, then the city has to go back and redo that part of the EIR, a process that could take two to four months. And if they conclude, yeah, the impacts from the bridge are unavoidable, then they’d have to redo it to go around the slough.”

Flashman says he hasn’t seen the proposal CPSF and Lennar are working on. “But as part of this suit, we are required to sit down with the city and see if we can settle — and we are hopeful we can do that.”

Herrera’s gang injunction becomes part of D. 10 dialogue


As stated in this week’s article about City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s Viz Valley gang injunction, Herrera’s move gives D. 10 candidates an opportunity to show they are tracking all the issues in a district that is home to the city’s largest public housing site.

As C.L.A.E.R. Project director Sharen Hewitt put it at a debriefing session about the injunction, “D. 10 has been reduced to the Lennar issue, and that’s what’s criminal.”

And the injunction is becoming part of the dialogue in the D. 10 race, with eleven candidates in that race sounding off on the injunction, many of them critiquing Dennis Herrera’s approach and/or advocating for legal representation for those named in the suit, and more services in this historically neglected district.

Candidates Isaac Bowers, Kristine Enea, Chris Jackson, Nyese Joshua, Steve Moss and Marlene Tran attended Hewitt’s August 12 gang injunction debriefing.

And by meeting’s end, Bowers and Enea said they would help community members get legal representation.
“A lot of people being served, don’t know what an injunction is, or don’t show up at the hearing and then they become subject to the injunction,”  Bowers said.

Enea said she was glad that City Attorney Yvonne Mere clarified at the debriefing that the 41 young men named in Herrera’s filing could not be included in the actual injunction until they have been served.

“It was important to clarify the notice process,” Enea said.

Jackson said he’s committed to helping these men access job and education opportunities.
“If you i.d. folks as low-income gang members, there is a lot more you can do than simply hand over their names to law enforcement,” Jackson said.
“Before the City Attorney puts in a gang injunction, that office should talk about it with the community.” Jackson continued. “Ultimately this is about land use.”

“For the City Attorney to have a top down approach to gang injunctions is unfortunate,” Jackson said, noting that Herrera’s injunctions have been in predominantly
African American and Latino neighborhoods.

“And in terms of taking away people’s civil rights, it’s unacceptable, “ Jackson added, noting that the City Attorney’s list of targeted individuals is public information.

Reached by phone, Moss says he’d like to see a time limit imposed on gang injunctions. Currently, injunctions are indefinite, once they have been granted.

“I haven’t studied the precise details,” Moss said, noting that he went to Hewitt’s debriefing and has leaved through materials the City Attorney’s Office provided.
“Generally, no one likes gang injunctions because they potentially threaten civil liberties and sometimes the city gets it wrong,” Moss said, referring to cases where folks have been wrongly named in previous injunctions. “But in places where injunctions have been brought, they do seem to have reduced the violence and calmed down the district. I’d like there to be a time limit, a sunset clause.”

D. 10 candidate Marlene Tran said she thinks the injunction could help reduce violence in the neighborhood.
“I was trying to listen to the different input at the debriefing session,” Tran said. “But on TV, I heard that when Herrera talked to the Chinese press, he cited some 200 incidents in the proposed safety zone. About 100 of those incidents involved guns, and there have been ten homicides in three years. Those are really glaring statistics. And this morning I read that there is another injunction in Oakland, and they talked about success with gang injunctions in Salinas, where the homicide rate dropped from 50 to 5, compared to 2008/2009.”

Tran, who sits on the Community Advisory Board for the Police Department’s Ingleside Station, said she heard from Ingleside Captain Louis Cassenego that he wants to serve all 41 respondents named in the injunction peacefully.
“If this is done without any casualties to the district and the community, and if it prevents any further violence, then this is the way to go,” Tran said.

Tran expressed some due process concerns.
“If they spend that much personnel and time [on putting the injunction together], it should be done with due process,” Tran said.

But she feels the current level of violence in Viz Valley is unacceptable.
“I’ve lived here for twenty something years, and if you talk to residents and children, who wants to hear gun fire,” Tran said. “So I think we have to work for a peaceful community to prevent these problems. That’s why we call ourselves the emergent district.”

D. 10 candidate Ed Donaldson believes the injunctions are a product of neglect.
“It comes back to a question of overall neglect in the district,” Donaldson explained.  When you have that level of social and economic neglect, gang injunctions become “necessary’. But when you look at the resources coming into the district through local non-profits, which comes, I believe to $110 million a year, 80 percent of which is city money, paid mostly to non-profits that may not be based in the district, you have to ask, Are we getting what we paid for? And do these non-profits have enough integrity to make sure there is a level of impact to transform people’s lives? “

Donaldson says that, given the overall level of neglect in public housing, it’s not surprising the district has challenges.

“So, are we willing to invest in the neighborhood in a very transformative way, or are we going to continue to give money to police and prisons?” Donaldson asked.
He notes that every year, 1,600 men and women return to the southeast side of San Francisco, and there is a 71 percent recidivism rate among these folks.

“Why is this rate so high in a progressive city like San Francisco?” Donaldson said. “Part of the answer lies with our public housing policy: if you can’t get public housing, you can’t apply for a job, you can’t go to school to better yourself.”

Donaldson says there is a direct connection between the district’s homicide rate and the people getting out of prison, returning to the district and re-offending.
“So, what’s so hard about getting our arms around 1,600 people a year and stabilizing them? Because then a lot of stuff about public safety will go away.”

D. 10 candidate Tony Kelly believes that if there were gangs in Viz Valley, then Herrera’s injunction would be valid.
 “There is gang-like activity, but it’s small scale turf wars, shootings and retaliations, and it’s not organized,” Kelly said. “ Instead, you’ve got unorganized young black men with no other options, doing whatever it takes to get ahead. But instead of doing something constructive, the City Attorney calls them gangs.”

Kelly notes that the City Attorney claims that most of the individuals named in the Viz Valley injunction don’t live in the proposed safety zone.
“But according to what I’m hearing on the ground, a bunch of them do live here and/or grew up here,” Kelly said. “So, we want their families to get involved. They need safe havens. But combined with last year’s budget cuts, all this does is criminalize young people and pushes the problem around. As long as we have 40-50 percent unemployment, we are not going to solve our crime problem.”

DeWitt Lacy, also a D. 10 candidate, said he is concerned that gang injunctions are circumventing people’s due process rights.
“In a criminal case, you have the right to an attorney, but that’s not so in a civil action,” Lacy said.

Lacy worries that gang injunctions lend themselves to racial profiling.
“Folks have to stay in their house or quickly go to and fro because they can’t hang out in the neighborhood,” Lacy said. “A smarter approach would be to do community policy that Sup. Ross Mirkarimi introduced in the Western Addition. It’s been shown to have a positive impact on criminal activity. We should have officers walking around in troubled areas. The more we change a foot patrol pilot into citywide policy, the more we actually address serious issues and problems. Everyone understands the value that police bring and everyone wants to be able to rely on them. When we only use police to bring a punitive action it reinforces the notion that they are evil enforcers.”

D. 10 candidate Malia Cohen said she was concerned by Herrera’s approach.
“I think we need a more comprehensive approach, otherwise, we’ll simply be moving crime two blocks over,” Cohen said. “We need long-term, not short-term solutions.”

Cohen noted that there are Chinese and Russian gangs in town, as well as African American ones, and Latino gangs like the Nortenos and Sudenos.
“But the style of how each gang manifests is different, which makes African Americans an easy target. We need to have a uniform approach to how we deal with this.”

The 41 men identified in Herrera’s latest injunction all appear to be African American, and many have family ties and roots in Sunnydale, meaning the injunction impacts a much larger circle of folks than those simply named in Herrera’s filings.
“The impact on families caught up in this can’t be overstated,” Cohen said.  “Either they’ll have to take bus down to court, or drag down and pay hella money for parking, and for food, and even take a day off from work if they are employed. And then there’s the emotional effect. We could be using our resources in a more productive way. I understand that Dennis Herrera is ambitious, but this is playing on people’s racism. It’s tantamount to ethnic cleansing. Maybe Herrera wants to be seen as tough on crime, but ut how about being seen as big on compassion? Or big on fair? This is not going to help people get jobs and housing. And it prevents American citizens from being able to travel.”

Eric Smith, also a D. 10 candidate, says it’s right to question the injunctions.
“David Campos and Eric Quezada both expressed concerns about Herrera’s injunction against the Nortenos, when they were running in the 2008 race for D. 9,” Smith observed.
“They talked about the unintended consequences of that injunction in terms of deporting folks who then train the next generation in the ways of gangs.”

Smith questions how effective gang injunctions are in the long-term.
“They are a band-aid,” Smith said. “This is like putting a finger in the dike, or using a hammer to kill a flea. Because the root causes are not addressed. If you don’t deal with young people’s lack of education and joblessness, their hopelessness, their choicelessness, the gang becomes their family. So, if the city did community policing and had great youth programs, it would help.”

Smith, who is a professional jazz musician, wants to see more music, poetry and spoken word programs and activities in the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of untapped talent,” he said. “When you have arts, music and theater, those are life-saving opportunities.”

Also a bio-diesel advocate, Smith wants to see people who are returning to the community after a stint inside, being able to access green jobs, instead of doing more of the same stuff, only better, than the activities that landed them inside in the first place.

“I care about everyone in the district, but most of all about those who have been kicked to the curb and end up in gangs, on drugs, or dead.”

And D. 10 candidate Diane Wesley Smith believes there are better solutions than gang injunctions

“African American culture is almost opposite in terms of physical mannerisms and gestures and tone of voice, and that can be scary to someone who is used to being conservative,” Wesley Smith said, speaking to the rising tensions between some black and Asian residents in the district.

“I believe these things could be solved with town hall meetings, where there is food and translators so folks could talk things out, “ she said. “It’s never going to be worked out through the police. Only law enforcement benefits from these kinds of proceedings. We need to reach out and touch each other, so that the Chinese community knows that the black community has the same goals as they do, which are employment, housing and safety.”

“When we talk about violating people’s civil rights, posting people’s pictures on websites, preying on people’s fears, well, that’s how we got into the war,” Wesley-Smith said. “Unemployment. Lack of access to opportunity. Lack of education. No money for our schools, but an increase in spending on our jails. These all send the same message: You are not wanted.”

Wesley Smith is concerned that the gang injunctions will accelerate the mass exodus of blacks and people of color from San Francisco.
“We all want a safe San Francisco,” she observed. “The solution is more jobs, not war. People are just going to go more underground in face of these injunctions. Meanwhile, the kids in my district don’t have toilet paper or computer paper in their schools.”

“I understand that Dennis Herrera is a career politician, and time will tell what his true aspirations are, but this is not legislation we propose in a caring society,” Wesley-Smith concluded. “We’re not showing any of these kids any love. All we need to do is partner with business and government and work this out. Te thought that four men standing on a corner drinking an energy drink could be considered gang members is shocking. That’s how they perpetuated slavery, and that’s why blacks have problems today. All my nephews dress similarly. So, are we going to consider them gang members? The good and the bad kids dress the same. We need people and parents to understand that none of us can be safe, until we take care of those who have the least in our community. I’d venture that everyone who is a safety concern has not pursued their education, has not been assisted in pursuing education, and has not been assisted in pursuing employment.”

D. 10 candidate Lynette Sweet promised to call me back to talk about the gang injunction, and if and when she does, I’ll be sure to include her comments here. The same goes for Nyese Joshua, Geoffrea Morris and Steve Weber  who had not returned my calls as of blog time, and for any other D. 10 candidates that I was unable to reach for this article. So, stay tuned…

Crackdown on gangs — or civil liberties?



City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s Aug. 5 decision to file a civil gang injunction against two alleged gangs in Visitacion Valley is being hailed by top local law enforcement officials as an important weapon in a war between heavily-armed members of two rival gangs in the Sunnydale housing projects.

“I consider this another vital tool in the prosecution of violent criminals,” District Attorney Kamala Harris said in a City Attorney’s Office press release announcing the suit against the Down Below Gangsters (DBG) and Towerside Gang.

But in the middle of a heated race for supervisor in District 10, the gang injunction also has become a political issue — and infuriated civil liberties activists who say it’s unfair and won’t work.

Herrera’s complaint names and identifies 41 young black men using declarations from gang task force members, police reports, photographs of the men sporting tattoos, flashing hand signs, and wearing purported gang clothing — and even extracts from a letter that one listed individual sent to another alleged gang member, who was in jail.

If Herrera’s request is granted in court Sept. 30, it will be San Francisco’s fourth civil gang injunction. Herrera secured similar injunctions against the Bayview-Hunters Point Oakdale Mob in October 2006; the Mission District’s Norteños in 2007; and the Western Addition’s Chopper City, Eddy Rock, and Knock Out Posse in 2007.

The City Attorney’s Office claims a “cooling off” effect as a result of those injunctions. “Since Herrera launched the civil gang injunction program at the end of 2006, 46 percent of identified gang members (43 of 93) have gone without even a single arrest in San Francisco for crimes other than minor violations of the injunction itself,” Herrera’s office states.

It claims that the data also show progressive improvements over time. “Only 14 percent of identified gang members (13 of 93) were arrested for noninjunction crimes so far in 2010 — down from 41 percent in 2007,” Herrera’s office states.

But San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, civil rights lawyers, and community advocates worry that the injunction raises constitutional issues and practical problems that could be counterproductive in terms of Herrera’s stated effort to reduce violence in Visitacion Valley.

“The first difficulty you observe is that there is no right to counsel,” Adachi said, pointing to the three injunctions Herrera has already launched. “Instead, the burden is on the individuals named in the injunction to come forward and contest the injunction.”

Contesting an injunction is expensive and difficult, Adachi says.

“There’s a large amount of filing, and then there’s a hearing and a trial,” said Adachi, who represented individuals named in Herrera’s 2007 suit against the Norteños. “It costs between $10,000 and $20,000 to mount an adequate defense.”

Adachi claims Herrera’s past injunctions were mostly based on allegations and stale information that could have triggered more violence. “We saw that the city attorney based its injunction solely on what police officers had alleged, officers who in most cases were members of the Gang Task Force,” he said. “For instance, there was a woman who had been in a gang, but left years before. As a result of being named, her family was threatened and she was fearful there would be reprisals.” The woman’s name was ultimately removed.

Adachi represented a young man who had never been in trouble but found himself on Herrera’s Mission-based injunction list after he rapped about the Nortenos. “There was no evidence, but when we said there had been a mistake, the city attorney disagreed,” Adachi said. “In the end, a judge found there was insufficient evidence.”

Adachi worries about the impact on individuals mistakenly named in the suit. “When you name someone, that brands them. What we saw in other injunctions was that people lost jobs.”

He notes that only a few people came forward to challenge past injunctions. “But in at least four cases, people were found not to be gang members,” he said.

At the time of those injunctions, there was no way to get off the list. “So we worked with the ACLU to demand one and the City Attorney’s Office agreed,” Adachi said. “But I don’t know how many people have since filed paperwork.”

Ingleside police station Capt. Louis Cassenego told us that as of Aug. 20, 12 men had been served with the injunction — six allegedly from DBG, six from Ingleside.

“We had signage posted on utility poles, and no signs have been torn down,” Cassenego said. “And so far, the folks served have taken it in a matter-of fact fashion.”

But Sharen Hewitt, executive director of the C.L.A.E.R. Project, a community empowerment and violence prevention nonprofit, said she worries that people don’t understand the implications of being served and won’t take the trouble to opt out. “I talked to a young man after he got served and he tore up his notice,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt invited representatives from the City Attorney’s Office, Police Department, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Bay Area Legal Aid, and residents of the area to an Aug. 12 emergency debriefing. “We are sitting in the middle of a major war zone,” Hewitt said, referring to the meeting’s location at Britton Courts, a public housing project that Herrera claims is on DBG turf. “Although this situation threatens the community, it has also brought us together. And now we are trying to pull together a legal team.”

Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere explained that the suit seeks to ban criminal and nuisance conduct by creating a proposed safety zone that covers two-tenths of a square mile and encompasses both gangs’ alleged turf plus a buffer zone.

The injunction would impose a 10 p.m. curfew on the 41 men listed, who are a barred from trespassing, selling drugs, and illegally possessing firearms, loitering, displaying gang signs, and associating in public in neighborhoods surrounding the Sunnydale, Heritage Homes, and Britton Courts developments.

Some of this conduct is already against the law, but other activities, including assembling in groups, is typically protected by the Constitution, Mere explained.

Lt. Mikail Ali of the Ingleside station said many youngsters don’t want to be in a gang. “This is an out,” Ali said.

But some residents questioned whether some men on Herrera’s list are in a gang. “Who are you to say who is a gang member?” asked Sheila Hill, who was concerned that her son, the victim of a shooting a couple of years ago, was on the list. “Yes, they might have done something three or five years ago, but many of them have moved on, got married, and got a job. I don’t believe you guys are really checking your records.”

Mere disagreed (later clarifying that Hill’s son isn’t named by the injunction). “We looked at criminal records within the last five years, including shootings, shots fired, and weapons possessed, and it’s a pretty violent zone down here,” Mere said. Mere claims the war between DBG and the Towerside caused 10 murders in the last three years.

Leslie Burch, president of the Britton Courts Neighborhood Association and cofounder of the Visitacion Valley Peacekeepers, said a lot of the men named grew up together, playing sports, staying at each other’s houses overnight, and making affiliations.

“So I wouldn’t necessarily classify them as gangs,” Burch said. “They are just a bunch of friends who have common interests like music, sports, and hanging out together.”

Mere pointed to the opt-out option, part of a 2008 agreement between the city attorney, ACLU, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

“It’s an option for people to say, ‘No, you are wrong,'<0x2009>” Mere said. “They can submit letters from pastors and friends, and we’ll consider that between now and Sept. 30.

But Burch challenged some of the evidence posted at the City Attorney’s wesbite, including photographs of people sporting alleged gang tattoos and clothing.

“Take the T sign,” Burch explained “The city attorney says it represents the Towerside. But I had a nephew who was murdered. His name was Trayon, and some people wear the letter T in remembrance of him. I was in court with a nephew who was trying to explain that he is not a gang member just because he’s wearing a hat with a T on it.”

Hewitt noted that the injunction follows budget cuts that decimated local nonprofits and that funding is desperately needed for programs that provide young men with jobs and other alternatives to crime.

Hewitt also noted that the injunction gives District 10 candidates an opportunity to show the community that they are tracking all the issues in this pivotal race. “D-10 has been reduced to the Lennar issue, and that’s what’s criminal,” Hewitt said, adding that coverage of the race has so far largely excluded Viz Valley, even though it’s home to the city’s largest public housing site.

Indeed, the injunction is becoming part of the dialogue in the District 10 supervisor campaign. Candidates Isaac Bowers, Kristine Enea, Chris Jackson, Nyese Joshua, Steve Moss, and Marlene Tran attended Sharen Hewitt’s Aug. 12 gang injunction debriefing. By meeting’s end, Bowers and Enea said they would help community members get legal representation. “A lot of people being served don’t know what an injunction is or don’t show up at the hearing, and then they become subject to the injunction,” Bowers said.

Jackson said he’s committed to helping these men get access to job and education opportunities.

Candidate Tony Kelly said if there are gangs in Viz Valley, Herrera’s injunction would be valid. “There is gang-like activity, but it’s small-scale turf wars, shootings. and retaliations. And it’s not organized,” Kelly claimed. “Instead, you’ve got unorganized young black men with no other options doing whatever it takes to get ahead. But instead of doing something constructive, the city attorney calls them gangs.”

DeWitt Lacy, also a candidate, said he remains concerned that gang injunctions are circumventing people’s due process rights. “In a criminal case, you have the right to an attorney — but that’s not so in a civil action.”

Democrats divided


Update:This online article contains a correction concerning the DCCC’s vote on Sup. Sean Elsbernd’s Muni pay guarantees (Prop. G). In the print version of this article, the Guardian reported that the DCCC had voted “to recommend a no vote” on Prop. G. This is incorrect. The DCCC voted “not to endorse” Prop. G. As Elsbernd points out, “This is a key distinction.”


With fewer than 10 weeks to go until a pivotal November election, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) approved a package of endorsements at its Aug. 11 meeting, giving the nod to mostly progressive candidates and rejecting Mayor Gavin Newsom’s most divisive ballot measures.

This crucial election could alter the balance of power on a Board of Supervisors that is currently dominated by progressives, and that new board would be seated just as it potentially gets the chance to appoint an interim mayor.

That’s what will happen if Newsom wins his race for lieutenant governor. The latest campaign finance reports show that Newsom has raised twice as much money as the Republican incumbent, former state Sen. Abel Maldonado. But the two candidates are still neck-and-neck in the polls.

Although the DCCC supports Newsom in the race, it is resisting his agenda for San Francisco, voting to oppose his polarizing sit-lie legislation (Prop. L), a hotel tax loophole closure (Prop. K) that would invalidate the hotel tax increase that labor unions placed on the ballot, and his hypocritical ban on local elected officials serving on the DCCC (Prop. H).

Shortly after the vote, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Newsom called an emergency closed-door meeting with some of his downtown allies to discuss the upcoming election. “We just wanted to get on the same page on what’s going on locally, what’s going with the ballot initiatives, where people are on the candidates for supervisor,” Newsom told the newspaper.

DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin, who regularly battled with Newsom during his tenure as president of the Board of Supervisors, voted with the progressive bloc against Newsom’s three controversial measures. But he told us that he was glad to see the mayor finally engage in the local political process.

Sup. David Campos kicked off the DCCC meeting by rebuffing newly elected DCCC member Carole Migden’s unsuccessful attempt to rescind the body’s endorsement of Michael Nava for Superior Court Judge, part of a push by the legal community to rally behind Richard Ulmer and other sitting judges.

Things got even messier when the DCCC endorsed the candidates for supervisor. In District 2, the DCCC gave the nod to Janet Reilly, snubbing incumbent Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, who is running now that Superior Court Judge Peter Busch has ruled that she is not termed out (a ruling on City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s appeal of Busch’s ruling is expected soon).

In District 6, where candidates include DCCC member Debra Walker, School Board President Jane Kim, Human Rights Commission Executive Director Theresa Sparks, neighborhood activist Jim Meko, and drag queen Glendon Hyde (a.k.a. Anna Conda), the club endorsed only Walker, denying Kim the second-place endorsement she was lobbying for.

But in District 8, where candidates include progressive DCCC member Rafael Mandelman, moderate DCCC member Scott Wiener, and moderate Rebecca Prozan, the politics got really squirrelly. As expected, Mandelman got the first-place nod with 18 votes: the progressive’s bare 17-vote majority on the 33-member body plus Assembly Member Leland Yee.

Yet because Yee supports Prozan and David Chiu, the Board of Supervisors president who was also part of the DCCC progressive slate, had offered less than his full support for Mandelman, a deal was cut to give Prozan a second-place endorsement.

That move caused some public and private grumbling from Jane Kim’s supporters, who noted that Kim is way more progressive than Prozan and said she should have been given the second-place slot in D6.

A proxy for John Avalos even tried to get the DCCC to give Walker and Kim a dual first-place endorsement, but Peskin ruled that such a move was not permitted by the group’s bylaws. Then DCCC members Eric Mar and Eric Quezada argued that Kim should get the club’s second-choice endorsement.

But Walker’s supporters argued that Kim only recently moved into the district and changed her party affiliation from the Green Party to the Democratic Party, and Kim’s supporters failed to find the 17 votes they needed.

“District 6 has an amazing wealth of candidates and I look forward to supporting many of them in future races,” Gabriel Haaland told his DCCC colleagues. “I will just not be supporting them tonight.”

Wiener told the group he would not seek its endorsement for anything below the top slot. “I’m running for first place and I intend to win,” Wiener said, shortly before Prozan secured the club’s second-choice endorsement.

In District 4, the DCCC endorsed incumbent Carmen Chu, who is running virtually unopposed. The DCCC also endorsed Bert Hill’s run for the BART Board of Directors, where he hopes to unseat James Fang, San Francisco’s only elected Republican.

The body had already decided to delay its school board endorsements until September and ended up pushing its District 10 supervisorial endorsement back until then as well because nobody had secured majority support.

“I think it’s because they want to give members of the DCCC a chance to learn more about some of the candidates,” District 10 candidate Dewitt Lacy told the Guardian. “I don’t think folks have spent enough time to make an informed decision.”

D10 candidate Chris Jackson agreed, adding, “The progressives in this race have brought our issues to the forefront.”

“I think it’s appropriate,” concurred D10 candidate Isaac Bowers. “D10 is a complicated district. It’s wise to wait and see how it settles out.”

The main thing that needs to be resolved is which candidate in the crowded field will emerge as the progressive alternative to Lynette Sweet, who has the support of downtown groups and mega-developer Lennar Corp.

After the meeting, Walker said different races require different political strategies. “I think it’s hard in the progressive community, where so many of us know each other and even our supporters know the other candidates and are their supporters in other scenarios,” Walker said.

“But the Democratic Party makes decisions not just based on politics,” she continued. “So the endorsement is about being viable and successfully involved in Democratic issues. And even though I want to encourage everyone to run, and we have that ability with ranked choice voting and public financing, when it comes to straight-on politics, the goal is winning.”

Walker said the vote on D8 reflected the reality that Mandelman was having trouble getting the necessary number of votes. “I know Rebecca and I know Rafael, and Rafael was my clear first choice,” Walker said.” Rafael asked me to consider voting for Rebecca—and I voted for her as my second choice.”

Walker predicts she’ll have union support behind her campaign, while Kim, who leads in fundraising, will have independent expenditure committees that will support her campaign.

“My consultant says it’s a $250,000 race, and unfortunately the viability is based on that reality, the funds, the money,” Walker observed.

On the fall ballot measures, the DCCC voted to recommend a no vote on Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s measure to make city employees pay more for the pension and healthcare costs (Prop. B), Sup. Sean Elsbernd’s Health Service Board Elections (Prop. F,) and Newsom’s three controversial measures. And they voted “no endorsement” on Elsbernd’s measure to remove from the charter Muni pay guarantees (Prop. G). 

But the DCCC did vote to endorse a local vehicle registration fee surcharge (Prop. AA), Newsom’s earthquake retrofit bond (Prop. A), Sup. Chris Daly’s proposed legislation to require mayoral appearances at board meetings (Prop. C), Chiu’s measure to allow noncitizen voting in school board elections (Prop. D), Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s Election Day voter registration (Prop. E), former Newsom campaign manager Alex Tourk’s Saturday voting proposal (Prop. I) Labor’s hotel tax (Prop. J ), Mirkarimi’s foot patrols measure (Prop. M) and Avalos’ real estate transfer tax (Prop. N).

With just about everybody opposed to Adachi’s measure going after public employee unions, Walker observed that Adachi probably wishes he had done it differently now. But looking into the future, Walker sees opportunities for the party to come back together.

“There’s an opportunity to start a dialogue because everyone is hurting,” Walker said. “The more we don’t have a proactive solution, the more we get caught at the bottom.”

And in a feel-good vote for the frequently divided body, the DCCC also voted overwhelmingly to endorse the statewide initiative to legalize and tax marijuana (Prop. 19). Normally local party committees don’t take a position on state initiatives, but because the California Democratic Party took no position on Prop. 19, the DCCC had permission to weigh in.

As Peskin put it before the enthusiastic marijuana vote, “Raise your hands — high.”

D. 10 candidates split on Lennar’s plan


One of the key questions at the Potrero Hill Democratic Club’s forum for D. 10 candidates revolved around Lennar’s Candlestick Point-Hunter’s Point Shipyard redevelopment plan.

The current Board of Supervisors recently approved Lennar’s plan by a 10-1 vote (D.6 Sup. Chris Daly dissented). Following that vote, Mayor Gavin Newsom rushed to sign twelve pieces of legislation that approve and enable what could shape up to be the largest redevelopment project in San Francisco´s history.

“Today is a historic day for San Francisco and a testament to so many who have worked for more than a decade to secure this critical engine for our City´s economic future,” Newsom said in a press statement, after he signed off on the Lennar deal. “I want to thank Sup. Sophie Maxwell for spearheading this effort throughout her entire tenure on the Board of Supervisors and our State and Federal representatives including Speaker Pelosi and Senator Feinstein as we take a giant leap forward towards our shared vision of jobs, housing, and hope for the Bayview-Hunters Point community.”

But with Maxwell termed out in January, the successful candidate in the D. 10 race stands to inherit a plan that has been approved, but apparently isn’t funded yet. And by my accounting, the majority of the candidates who spoke at the D. 10 forum expressed reservations with Lennar’s proposal, with only a few firmly against it, and only a few firmly in favor of it. But read their comments, decide for yourself–and keep tracking this fascinating race!

Asked how she would have voted on Lennar’s plan, Lynette Sweet, who voted to make Lennar the shipyard’s master developer when she was a member of the Redevelopment Commission in 1999, said she would have approved it.
“I voted for it then, and I would have voted for it now,” Sweet said. “And I want to be the person who shepherds it through in the next eight years.” But Sweet also sought to reduce the many ongoing questions about the plan–including housing affordability levels, local job creation, air quality impacts, and the  Navy’s related shipyard clean-up–to one simplistic issue: the bridge over Yosemite Slough.

“There’s been a lot of controversy over a bridge,” Sweet said. “But we don’t give up on people for a bridge. We just can’t.”

Eric Smith said he was supportive of the plan and the community benefits agreement, but he voiced criticism of the project’s environmental Impact report (EIR).
“The project’s EIR wasn’t perfect,” Smith noted. “And I wasn’t a huge fan of the bridge, but I’ve walked around Alice Griffith [a dilapidated public housing project in the Bayview] and when you see folks with moldy pipes, broken ceilings, and rats, it moves you. So, I’m supportive of it, and I’m supportive of the community benefits agreement [that the SF Labor Council negotiated with Lennar] and the jobs it can bring.”

Nyese Joshua said she would have voted against the plan, starting years ago.
“I would have voted to stop that project in 2006, when the dust issue was going on,” Joshua said. “And it’s a misnomer to claim the Board voted 10-1 for Lennar,” Joshua contined, as she pointed out that five progressive supervisors on the Board voted against the bridge and for air quality analysis, greater affordability and greater workforce protections. But ultimately, this progressive core was unable to pass those amendments, because Sups. Maxwell, Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu, Michela Alioto-Pier and Board President David Chiu did not support them.
“That 10-1 vote is being called a pyrrhic victory,” Joshua added.

Kristine Enea indicated that she would have voted yes, but with reservations.
“I would have consistently voted yes to amendments, but there was no comprehensive transportation analysis,” Enea said.
Enea, who has served on the now disbanded Navy’s Hunter’s Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board, noted that she is “intimately familiar with the technical data,” surrounding the Navy’s shipyard clean-up plans.
“And I live a stone’s throw from the shipyard, and I believe we are safe,” Enea added.
“There is hope soon to be a restored public process on the Navy’s clean up,” Enea continued, referring to the Navy’s 2009 decision to dissolve the RAB.“But we need to be very vigilant that cleanup of Parcel E2.”

Malia Cohen said she would have supported Lennar’s plan,
“Lennar has dominated the lion’s share of our conversations,” Cohen said, noting that there are a bunch of redevelopment projects in the southeast. “So, we can’t be singular in our vision of what we want our community to look like. We can’t let Lennar dominate. But I’d have supported the project because I believe what Lennar represents is an extraordinary opportunity for us to pick ourselves up, organize and collectively voice what we’d like our community to look like. It’s imperative that Lennar’s plan moves forward, but it has to be environmentally sound.”

Steve Moss said he probably would have voted for the project’s EIR, but voiced concern about the lack of affordability within the project’s 10,500 units of housing.
“But nothing is more toxic than the shipyard than the conversation about the shipyard,” Moss added, noting that the Navy and US EPA have collectively committed to spend millions and millions on shipyard cleanup, but the community doesn’t trust the process.
“So, what went wrong with the conversation in a community that is clearly wounded?” Moss said. “We need to start having honest conversations. And we’re programming a lot of housing [within the Lennar development,] but not enough jobs.”

Stephen Weber said he would have voted for it.
“ I believe that we need it, that we can’t wait any longer,” Weber said. “But it goes back to oversight. It’s the responsibility of the city to make sure the developer and everyone connected to the development is held accountable and is made to follow through on procedures, and make sure affordable housing is mixed into the plan. It has to be a neighborhood built on diversity.”

Isaac Bowers said he’d have been in favor of sending the plan back to Redevelopment to be amended.
“This is a very difficult decision,” Bowers observed. “We all know that the area has suffered from many decades of neglect. But when I looked closely at the plan’s environmental impact report and the process, I didn’t think the range of alternatives for the bridge were sufficient. The demands for [greater oversight] of the shipyard clean-up were legitimate. The analysis of how many jobs in research and development was insufficient. There was no analysis of displacement. There were inadequate levels of truly affordable housing. We need to look at real jobs when we look at development. And the Redevelopment Agency has to be put back under the control of the Board. It can’t be allowed to put out fake projects that don’t benefit the community.”

Diane Wesley Smith suggested she’d have voted no when she pointed to Lennar’s “trail of broken promises.”
“And talk about collusion,” Wesley Smith said. “ I understand this was a done deal, five years ago.”

Geoffrea Morris said she would have voted no.
“There was a lot of money, a lot of power pushing the shipyard project,” Morris said.
“If this happened in any other community [in the city], it wouldn’t have happened,” Morris continued. And they wouldn’t have got rid of the [Navy’s community-based] restoration advisory board,” Morris added.”But ours is a poor community of minority people and a majority are African Americans.”

Chris Jackson said he would have voted yes, but with amendments.
“I would have supported the plan, but with amendments to ensure the full clean-up of the shipyard to residential standards, and to work towards on agreement on the bridge,” Jackson said.
 “We are a better city than just saying no,” Jackson continued, as he outlined ways to ensure that local workers get decent paying jobs, the community gets an expanded health clinic, the city includes a cooperative housing and land trust element to provide affordable housing, and the city is required to provide a supplemental environmental impact report.

Tony Kelly said he would have voted no–and noted that he was the only candidate to publicly testify against the certification of project’s EIR.
“I was the only candidate to testify against the environmental impact report and in support of the appeal [that three separate groups brought after the Redevelopment and Planning Commissions voted to certify the city’s EIR for Lennar’s plan],” Kelly said.
‘Michael Cohen, the Mayor of San Francisco,” Kelly half-jokingly continued, “has said the project is not going to be started to be built for at least 4 to 5 years. So, how can the city say, you must support the plan now, when it’s not going to happen for a long time?”

Marlene Tran said she can’t support the plan until the shipyard’s cleaned up.
Tran explained that initially, when Arc Ecology’s Saul Bloom gave the community a presentation about the plan, she was intrigued.
“It seemed to bring a lot of promises, but then Bloom presented ten of the deficiencies with the plan,” Tran said, referring to heavy metals and other toxins on the shipyard.
“I will make sure they will do the clean-up first,” Tran said. “If we go for it, and then construction workers and residents, get sick…well, there’s no way I can condone the project, until it’s absolutely clean. And what if the developer goes bankrupt?”

Espanola Jackson gave folks a history lesson
“When I learned that the shipyard was a Superfund site was not until 1990, because we was illiterate about environmental justice in a black community,” Jackson recalled. “I thought environmental justice was white kids chasing whales. But then I went to Monterey and learned about restoration advisory boards [RABs].”

Noting that the local community got its own RAB in 1994, Jackson recalled how former Mayor Willie Brown appointed Lynette Sweet to the Redevelopment Commission, before the Commission voted 4-3 in 1999 to select Lennar as master developer for the shipyard.
“Willie Brown brought in Lynette Sweet to be the swing vote to bring Lennar into the community,” Jackson said.

DeWitt Lacy said he wouldn’t have supported the plan, as it was, and given the Board’s limited ability to amend it under the city charter.
“I’d have supported the plan, if I’d had the power to amend the project’s environmental impact report and get it done right,” Lacy explained.
Lacy faulted the plan for carving up a state park, building a bridge over an environmentally sensitive slough, and not doing enough to ensure local jobs or guarantee benefits.
“Folks didn’t believe it was important for black folks to have state park land, but it’s important for our kids to have this,” Lacy said. “The state has spent $5 million to rehabilitate Yosemite Slough… And a ‘good faith’ agreement [around local hiring quotas] doesn’t get it for me. We have to have absolute certainties to make sure our people get the benefits.”

You can watch video of both the D. 10 forums, which were moderated by Keith Goldstein, here. And stay tuned for coverage of the endorsements and financing behind each candidates’ campaign. D. 10 is already shaping up to be one of the most fascinating and pivotal races in the fall.



SFBG Radio: New Venom


In today’s episode, Johnny Wendell’s guest, Johnny Venom, urges we use a ton of caution when considering Lennar’s Development plan-their track record in Chicago is dismal.

NewVenom by endorse

The deal is done


Mayor Gavin Newsom was quick to frame the Board of Supervisors’ 10-1 vote for Lennar Corp.’s massive redevelopment proposal for Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard on July 27 as a sign that plans to revitalize the Bayview are about to begin.

“Now we can truly begin the work of transforming an environmental blight into a new center of thousands of permanent and construction jobs, green technology investment, affordable housing, and parks for our city,” Newsom claimed in a prepared statement after the board (with Sup. Chris Daly as the lone dissenter) approved Lennar’s 700-acre project.

The proposal calls for 10,500 residential units; 320 acres of parks, retail and entertainment facilities, green-tech office space; and a San Francisco 49ers stadium if the team decides not to move to Santa Clara.

But Kofi Bonner, who worked for Mayor Willie Brown before becoming Lennar’s top Bay Area executive in 2006, said the vote means he can start shopping the plan around. “Now we have to find some money to move forward with the project,” Bonner told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Given the stubbornness of the recession, Bonner’s revelation that Lennar has yet to find all the necessary investors means local workers and public housing residents could be waiting a long time for jobs and housing in Bayview. If and when the project finally breaks ground, it will involve building condos in the Bayview’s only major park.

These realities undermine the claims of Lennar, which used the mantra of “jobs, housing, and parks” in 2008 to sell Proposition G but made no mention of a bridge over environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough or selling state parkland for condos.

Also disturbing, says Sierra Club local representative Arthur Feinstein, is the lack of any economic analysis to support Lennar’s claims that the bridge is needed.

Indeed, the only thing clear to longtime observers of the plan is that the much vaunted jobs won’t happen soon, most of the housing will be unaffordable to current Bayview residents, and Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, the only major open space in the Bayview, will be carved up so Lennar can build luxury condos on waterfront land.

These concerns have led the Sierra Club to threaten a lawsuit over issues on which Board President David Chiu was the swing vote in favor of the Lennar and Redevelopment Agency plan. Yet Chiu told the Guardian that the process got him thinking that it might be time to reform the redevelopment process.

“Now might be a good time to address concerns about the potential for inconsistency between Redevelopment and the city when it comes to land use and planning visions,” Chiu said. “And I have concerns about the tax increment financing process.” Tax increment financing allows the Redevelopment Agency to keep all property tax increases from the project, up to $4 billion, to use in redevelopment projects rather than into city coffers.

Chiu says the amendment he offered July 12, which narrows Lennar’s proposed bridge over Yosemite Slough by half, was based “on the belief that having a connection between jobs and housing is important. And I had understood that it would cost the developer an additional $100 million if the bridge was removed.”

But Feinstein counters that it’s hard to imagine that building a bridge over an environmentally sensitive slough will attract investors that support green technology. He is concerned that the development is expected to attract 24,465 new residents but that the Lennar plan fails to mitigate for transit-related impacts on air quality. “The Bayview already has the highest rates of asthma and cancer in the city,” Feinstein said.

Chiu says the supervisors can introduce separate legislation to address this concern. “It’s my understanding that an air quality analysis could be implemented by the board,” he said.

Although the board’s July 27 vote was a relief for termed-out Sup. Sophie Maxwell, its failure to support the no-bridge alternative, increased affordability standards, and an air quality analysis could result in expensive and time-consuming litigation, Feinstein warns.

And although Sups. Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, John Avalos, and Eric Mar supported all three of these amendments, they were ultimately thwarted by a redevelopment law that limits the city’s control of such projects.

During the meeting, Daly acknowledged that it would be impossible for Lennar to meet his 50 percent affordability amendment. But he noted that if the project becomes too expensive “there’s going to be a pretty new neighborhood with lots of white folks living in the Bayview.”

But after Michael Cohen, Newsom’s top economic advisor, said the project would not be financially viable with 50 percent affordability, Sups. Chiu, Maxwell, Bevan Dufty, Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, and Sean Elsbernd voted against Daly’s amendment.

These same six supervisors voted against Mirkarimi’s proposal to eliminate plans for a bridge across Yosemite Slough, even though Cohen was unable to point to any economic analysis to support Lennar’s claims that the bridge is necessary.

Arc Ecology owner Saul Bloom, whose nonprofit did studies indicating that an alternative route wrapping around the slough is feasible, says Lennar’s plan illustrates the problem that San Francisco has with development. “Elected officials couldn’t do anything,” he said, except give the nod to a plan he describes as “developed by a mayoral administration and approved by that mayor’s political appointees [on the Redevelopment Agency board],” Bloom said.

“The message that the environmental community takes away from all this is that it doesn’t pay to play well,” Bloom continued. “No matter how much you spend to try and ensure that litigation is not the only way to obtain the desired outcome, ultimately the message that comes back from the city and the developer is ‘sue us!’ That brings out the worst political conduct, not the most appropriate.”

Feinstein wouldn’t confirm that a Sierra Club lawsuit is imminent, but predicted that if the coalition — which includes Golden Gate Audubon, the California Native Plant Society, and SF Tomorrow — goes to court, it’s likely to win. “If we do litigate, we’ll probably do it on a wide range of issues,” Feinstein said. “They approved a fatally flawed document, and they could provide no documented evidence of the need for a bridge — and admitted that publicly.”

Feinstein contends that Lennar’s plan has been a runaway project from the get-go. “The idea was to march it through before the mayor is gone with little regard for process. And despite all the much vaunted public meetings, little in the plan has changed,” he said.

Feinstein added that he was disappointed in Chiu’s stance on the bridge. “There were five supervisors in the Newsom camp, but as board President, Chiu had a responsibility to be more vigilant,” he said. “We told him what’s wrong with the bridge plan, but he didn’t share our view.”

“This is a rare opportunity,” Maxwell said before the board’s final vote. “It focuses public and private investment into an area that has lacked it in the past. It’s unmatched by any development project in San Francisco. This project is large and complicated, no doubt. But let us not be fearful of this project because of its scale, because how else can we transform a neglected landscape?”

But project opponents say everyone should fear a deal that required the board to ask Lennar’s approval to amend a plan that was pitched by the Newsom administration and approved by a bunch of mayoral appointees on the Redevelopment Commission with little chance for elected officials to make changes.

Mirkarimi said the problem with a process in which redevelopment law trumps municipal law is that it creates a shadow government in those few municipalities in California where the Board of Supervisors or City Council is not the same entity as the Redevelopment Commission.

“This is not the first time Redevelopment’s plans have trumped the concerns of local residents,” Mirkarimi said, referring to the agency’s botched handling of the Fillmore District in the 1960s, which led to massive displacement of African and Japanese Americans.

“I’ve been told, ‘Don’t worry, Ross, this is not going to happen, we’re not going to use eminent domain.’ Well, jeez, that’s a consolation, because even when we’ve exercised our legislative influence and given our blessing, [Redevelopment] unilaterally changed the plan after it left the board,” Mirkarimi said, referring to Lennar’s decision to replace rental units with for-sale condos when it first began work on the shipyard in 2006. “That suggests a condescending role in which the developer is able to go to the Redevelopment Commission and make a unilateral change.”

Mirkarimi’s concerns seemed justified after Cohen, Bonner, and Redevelopment Director Fred Blackwell huddled in a corner of City Hall during the board’s July 27 meeting to decide which of the supervisors’ slew of amendments they would accept. When Cohen returned with the amendments organized into three categories (acceptable as written, to be modified, and completely unacceptable), Mirkarimi’s no-bridge amendment had been sorted into the “unacceptable” pile.

“With regard to your insistence on the economic reasons [for the bridge], please point to which document says that,” Mirkarimi said, leafing in vain through the project materials.

Cohen mentioned “a lessening of attractiveness,” “a lower-density product,” and a reduction of revenue available through tax increment financing to pay for the bridge.

“Yes, but I’m still trying to look for the information and all I’m hearing is this pitch,” Mirkarimi said. “The economic study is absent. There are no supporting documents here. This is why I feel it’s justified for us to have a review of this.”

Cohen rambled on about “rigorous public discussion over a number of years” and claimed that a “huge amount of studies had been done.”

“But there is no economic study,” Mirkarimi repeated.

The board then voted 6-5 against Mirkarimi’s amendment after deputy City Attorney Charles Sullivan said that the only way to remove the bridge — since the project’s environmental impact report had rejected that option — would be to reject the entire plan. “I wish we had been able to eliminate the bridge,” Campos told the Guardian after the vote. “Part of the challenge we have is to reexamine how Redevelopment works and explore the potential for taking it over.”

Daly believes the bridge has nothing to do with connecting the neighborhood to the city. “The idea is to allow white people to get the fuck out of the neighborhood,” he said. “And it connects a different class of people to a new job without having to go through a low-income community of color. That’s why the bridge is needed.”

Mirkarimi said he was satisfied that he had dissected the arguments against the no-bridge alternative but fears that institutional memory is lacking on the current board. “A lot of my colleagues have not been involved in the debacle,” he said, referring to decades of problems with redevelopment in San Francisco. But Maxwell was all smiles. “I did my homework a long time ago — that’s why they couldn’t touch the core of the project,” she said. “They just added to and augmented it.”

Board had to ask for Lennar’s approval…


Images by Luke Thomas

The Board of Supervisors found itself in the humiliating position July 27 of having to ask for the approval of Lennar and the city’s Redevelopment Agency before it could amend Lennar’s massive redevelopment plan for Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard.

If that’s not an argument for reforming how this city approaches redevelopment, I don’t know what is. Especially since the Board’s meeting illustrated only too well how thoroughly Lennar’s local executives, who used to work for the city under Mayor Willie Brown,  understand this game and how to outfoxed any resistance to their ongoing effort to eat San Francisco whole.

“This is a rare opportunity,” Sup. Sophie Maxwell said ahead of the Board’s 10-1 vote (Sup. Chris Daly was the lone dissenting voice) to approve Lennar’s entire plan. “It focuses public and private investment into an area that has lacked it in the past,”continued Maxwell, who represents the district that encompasses the shipyard and Candlestick Point. ” It’s unmatched by any development project in San Francisco. This project is large and complicated, no doubt. But let us not be fearful of this project because of its scale, because how else can we transform a neglected landscape?”

But who wouldn’t be afraid of a deal that found Maxwell, Board President Chiu and Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, Bevan Dufty and Sean Elsbernd joining forces to vote against Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s proposal that Lennar be required to include a non-bridge alternative?

And who wouldn’t be doubly afraid, given that these six supervisors took that vote after Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, was unable to point to a single document to support his claims that Lennar’s $100 million bridge over an environmentally sensitive slough is actually needed?

Talk about scary.

To his credit, Mirkarimi did a good job of illustrating what’s wrong with a process that allows a private developer like Lennar to pitch plans and get mayoral appointees to approve them, but doesn’t allow San Francisco’s elected officials to make any amendments unless the developer and Redevelopment agree.

At the root of this travesty is the fact that redevelopment law trumps municipal law, a power imbalance that creates a shadow government in those few municipalities in California where the city council or board of supervisors is not the same entity as the Redevelopment Commission.

San Francisco is one such municipality, and, as Mirkarimi explained, this is not the first time that Redevelopment’s plans have trumped the concerns of local residents.

“I’m the supervisor for the Fillmore, the first urban renewal laboratory took place in my district, and I vowed to never let it happen again, ”Mirkarimi said, referring to the massive displacement of African Americans and Japanese Americans that took place when Redevelopment decided to makeover the Fillmore in the 1960s.

“I’ve been told, “Don’t worry, Ross, this is not going to happen. We’re not going to use eminent domain,’” Mirkarimi continued. “Well, Jeez, that’s a consolation! Because even when we’ve exercised our legislative influence and given our blessing, [Redevelopment] unilaterally changed the plan after it left the Board. That suggests a condescending role in which the developer is able to go to the Redevelopment Commission and have a unilateral change.”

Mirkarimi was referring to how proposed rental units on Parcel A, the first parcel of shipyard land released for redevelopment, became for-sale condos at Lennar’s request, without the Board having any recourse, even though the area surrounding the redevelopment is ground zero for the city’s last remaining African American community and home to other low-income communities of color.

Deputy City Attorney Charles Sullivan explained that the s supervisors would require the approval of the developer and Redevelopment to amend Lennar’s latest plan, under Redevelopment law. Failing that, their only recourse would be to reject Lennar’s plan in its entirety–a nuclear option that only Daly seemed prepared to carry through.

Sup. David Campos noted that the city’s legal advice had been “somewhat of a moving target.” His comment suggested the Board had  been misled in the critical weeks before this final vote, including ahead of the Board’s July 14 vote to accept certification of the project’s final environmental impact report.

“When a number of us raised questions about the EIR, we were told we couldn’t, but that we would probably be able to make changes to the substantive plan,” Campos recalled. “But now we are getting a more complicated answer.”

Deputy City Attorney Sullivan said the situation was complicated, because some of the proposed amendments “don’t involve a simple stroke of the pen.”

But Campos pointed to the fact that Board President Chiu had introduced an amendment that only allows for a 41 ft. bridge across Yosemite Slough, thereby halving the width of the 82 ft. bridge that Lennar is proposing to build.

That amendment, which Chiu introduced July 12,  leaves the door open for the 82 ft. version of the bridge, if the 49ers indicate interest in a new stadium on Hunters Point Shipyard, a possibility the city claims is still alive, even though Santa Clara voters approved a new stadium for the 49ers this June.

“So, why can you amend the plan to include a scaled-down version of the bridge but not eliminate it altogether?” Campos asked.

“You can make that motion by voting not to approve the project,” Sullivan said.

“So, the change has to point to something already embedded in the project?” Campos asked.

“Or not be a rejection of everything that’s already been brought forward,” Sullivan replied.

After Mirkarimi proposed his no-bridge alternative, along with a slew of other amendments that Daly, Campos, and Sups. Eric Mar and John Avalos had been working on to strengthen the proposed development, Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, huddled somewhere in City Hall along with Kofi Bonner,  Lennar’s top local executive and Fred Blackwell, the head of SF’s Redevelopment Agency to decide which of the Board’s amendments they would accept.

Cohen returned with the amendments organized into three categories: acceptable as written, modified, and completely unacceptable.

And predictably enough (to anyone  tracking Lennar’s insistence on a bridge) Mirkarimi’s no-bridge amendment had been tossed into the “unacceptable” pile.

“With regards to your insistence on the economic reasons for the bridge, please point to which document says that,” Mirkarimi said, leafing through the project materials that were piled on his desk.

Cohen mentioned a number of factors, including an alleged “lessening of attractiveness,” “a lower density product” and a reduction of property tax revenue that would be available through tax increment financing to pay for Lennar’s proposed bridge.

“Yes, but I’m still trying to look for the information, and all I’m hearing is this pitch,” Mirkarimi replied. “The economic study is absent. There are no supporting documents here. This is why I feel it’s justified for use to have a review of this.”

Cohen talked some more about “rigorous public discussion over a number of years.”

“But there is no economic study,” Mirkarimi repeated. At which point a deafening silence pervaded the Board’s venerable chambers, much as if the emperor had shown up without his proverbial clothes.

Deputy City Attorney Sullivan broke the silence by indicating that the only way for the Board to move a no-bridge alternative forward would be to stop all project approvals and send the plan back to Redevelopment.

And Mirkarimi reminded the supervisors that at the Board’s July 13 hearing, Cohen had said that there was no conclusive evidence around the need for the bridge.

But then the Board voted 6-5 against Mirkarimi’s proposal, a move insiders said was more about not pissing off Labor, which hopes to create jobs for iron workers, and not pissing off Lennar, whose control runs deep and wide, and less about being convinced of the actual need to build over the last unbridged waterway in the city’s southeast sector.

And a couple of amendments later, the Board gave its blessing and it was all kisses and hugs and applause in the Board Chambers, even though the folks from Dwayne Jones Communities of Opportunities (COO) program, who usually show up to support the plan, strangely weren’t in attendance, rumoredly because their program has been cut off at the knees in the last few weeks, following Jones resignation as COO’s director.

“I wish we had been able to eliminate the bridge,” Campos told me after the Board’s final vote. “I think part of the challenge we have is to reexamine how Redevelopment works and explore the potential for taking it over.”

Mirkarimi was satisfied that he had dissected the arguments against the no-bridge alternative, but feared that institutional memory is lacking on the Board, and that without fundamental Redevelopment reform, the city is in danger of seeing this kind of travesty repeated, over and over.

“A lot of my colleagues have not been involved in the debacle,” Mirkarimo said, referring to how Redevelopment’s infamous role dates back five decades, and how Lennar has been working the local political scene for longer than most of the Board’s current members.

But Maxwell was all smiles.
“I did my homework a long time ago, that’s why they couldn’t touch the core of the project,” she said. “They just added to and augmented it.”

With Maxwell’s days on the Board drawing to a close, I asked what she’s contemplating doing next.

“Sophie is looking into water policies and conservation,” Maxwell said. “Without blue there is no green.

It was about then that Mayor Gavin Newsom released a press statement that blabbed on in vaguely frothing terms about what would happen next.

“Now we can truly begin the work of transforming an environmental blight into a new center of thousands of permanent and construction jobs, green technology investment, affordable housing and parks for our City,” Newsom said

His words came shortly before Bonner said that Lennar would now start looking for investors, and shortly after Cohen admitted that it could be years before anything in Lennar’s plan actually gets built. But none of them mentioned that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are planning to sue the City over the bridge, an outcome that could have been averted, Sierra Club officials warned, if the No-bridge alternative had been  included in the final redevelopment plan.

Stay tuned….


Lennar’s plan illustrates San Francisco’s redevelopment problem


Today, the Board of Supervisors confirmed that though they are elected officials, they have been told that they can’t do anything except second a massive redevelopment plan for the Bayview that was developed, first by Mayor Willie Brown and then by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administrations. in cohoots with Lennar, an out-of-state private developer, and approved by a bunch of Brown and Newsom’s political appointees.

“At this point, a deal has been done and the Board has been neutralized,” Arc Ecology’s Saul Bloom said today. “It says a great deal about the process.”

Bloom spent today visiting the supervisors to explain the problems with the current Lennar plan, including a bridge that is proposed to be built across the environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough.

“Sup. Ross Mirkarimi said the bridge plan reminds him of the exact same through way that was argued for during the Fillmore plan,” Bloom said.”That would never happen now, at least not overtly,

Bloom added that shopping the no-bridge alternative around to the Board today wasn’t exactly uplifting.
“The sense we got was that we were dragging a dead body around.”

So far, Board President David Chiu has taken major heat by deciding to suggest a narrower bridge rather than no bridge.

But at least he took a stand. That is more than can be said for those colleagues of his on the Board that sat silently through the July 13/14 proceedings, presumably making sure they can be reelected with the help of deep-pocketed developers.

Here’s hoping that this latest redevelopment charade convinces the progressives on the Board to reform the Redevelopment Agency, so that private developers and political appointees can no longer trump the legitimate concerns of the residents of San Francisco and their duly elected supervisors

And no matter what people in the Bayview have been led to believe, the sad truth if that the promised jobs and housing aren’t likely to happen any time soon.

“The developer is not going to be running hog wild out there,” Bloom observed. “Part of the sad trick is that the only rush was for them to have control over the property.”

Bloom predicts that the plan will ultimately be headed to court.
“They will have lawsuits and elections to contend with,” he said. “The message that the environmental community takes away from all this is that it doesn’t pay to play well. No matter how much you spend to try and ensure that litigation is not the only way to obtain the desired outcome, ultimately the message that comes back from the city and the developer is, ‘Sue us!’ That brings out the worst political conduct not the most appropriate.”

The good news? Lennar’s Treasure Island’s EIR is on the street, and environmental justice advocates should be fully versed in reading such hefty tomes and figuring out where the body is buried. The bad news? Redevelopment and the Mayor’s Office still control the process.

The bridge isn’t the only problem with Lennar’s plan


I’m glad to see the New York Times circle back to the Candlestick-Shipyard development with an article that was a tad more critical than their previous piece.

But while I enjoyed NYT’s joke about how the proposed bridge over the Yosemite Slough “has become a 950-foot-long chicken bone that keeps getting stuck in San Francisco politicians’ throats,”  I’m afraid the Board is in greater danger of choking on the bones of red herrings that they have been fed about this project,  along with last week’s bombshell that the Board won’t be able to amend Lennar’s plan, after all, when it votes July 27 on this massive proposal..

D. 10 candidate Tony Kelly says if that bombshell turns out to be true, it’ll be another example of what he calls, “The bait and switch and switch,” on the deal.

“I’m worried that the Board is getting advice that is less about a case of not being able to vote, and more a case of, if you vote, you could open up the city to liability,” Kelly said.

“Back in 2008, folks were told, just vote for Prop. G because it’s just a concept and we’ll have a robust conversation about the plan itself, but they’ve been running away from that promise ever since,” Kelly explained. “And during the EIR hearings, we were told that folks were simply approving the environmental impact report, not the plan itself.”

Kelly’s critiques of Lennar’s plan and the process by which it has been winning final approvals helped him win former Board President Matt Gonzalez’s endorsement last week in the pivotal race to replace termed-out D. 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell.

But Kelly worries about the fallout that the next D. 10 supervisor will be left to mop up, if the Board goes ahead and approves Lennar’s plan, as is.
“What I’d dread to see happen is that this plan get bullied through on an up and down vote, and then a fifth, or even a tenth of people’s concerns prove to be true, and the next D. 10 supervisor spends the next 4-8 years apologizing to the people of the Bayview, because they won’t be able to do anything else for the area, and this plan keeps lumbering along and doesn’t even work,” Kelly explained.

He says he wants to know who can amend the plan, if it’s not the Board and when.

“ My concern is that after the July 27 vote, the city and Lennar will never have to come before the Board again,” Kelly said, pointing to the uncritical endorsement of the project EIR that the Planning and Redevelopment Commissions, the lead agencies on the plan, made June 3, and who would likely be tasked with any additional studies and findings.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi confirmed today that the Board has been told that it has limited reach because of Redevelopment law, which supercedes municipal law.”
“But, nonetheless, I’m going to try to make some amendments,” Mirkarimi said.

He noted that the five amendments that Board President David Chiu introduced July 12 during a Land Use Committee hearing were “very benign.”

‘They mostly restated what was already in the project agreement or project EIR,” Mirkarimi said. “So, they don’t amend much, because they are statements of what has already been evaluated or pre-agreed to by Lennar and the city. And they are very benign because they do not require any changes to the plan.”

Mirkarimi observes that the current process by which the city is trying to push this deal through is designed to lock the Board out.

“There are larger questions in play here about our relationship with the Redevelopment Agency and redevelopment law,” Mirkarimi continued. He notes that San Francisco is one of only a few counties in California where the Board is not the same entity as the Redevelopment Agency.

“It’s long overdue that we return to the idea of having the Board have authority over the Redevelopment Agency, it’s been a problem for 40 years,” Mirkarimi said,  referring to Redevelopment’s disastrous handling of the Fillmore, which resulted in the massive and mostly permanent displacement of the Western Addition’s African American community—a negative consequence that many fear will be repeated by the plan for Candlestick-Hunters Point.

“There is a real capitalization on a starving population which is desirous of and at times desperate for positive changes and for jobs and housing, which is understandable,” Mirkarimi continued. “But absent of any alternative, it’s logical that this plan would move forward.”

In an effort to improve the plan, Mirkarimi says he will try to introduce a range of amendments at the Board’s July 27 meeting.

‘These include an attempt to make sure that whatever changes the Board makes are indeed enforceable,” he said. “And I am not satisfied with the discussion on the bridge, and how the gate has been left open on a bridge of any kind.”

Mirkarimi notes that there has been a lot of fanfare surrounding a community benefits agreement that various community-based organizations, labor and the project proponents entered into, in spring 2008.

“But I think they can do better, especially in reaching out to a community that has a high ex-offender population, and connecting to other disadvantaged communities throughout the city,” Mirkarimi said.

He also wants to ensure that if public power is not implemented, or fails, then Community Choice Aggregation program would automaticcally take over.

Mirkarimi is further concerned that there is nothing in the current plan that defines the percentages of housing units offered for rental and for home ownership.

“We are proposing to build 10,500 units but we have no idea what percentage is rental,” he said, noting that he also has concerns about air quality, air monitoring and parcels of land that have not yet been cleaned up to residential standards.

“Parcel E-2 is the most famous, but it’s not the only one,” he said. “The bridge and Parcel  E-2 have become major distractions in that they have sucked the oxygen out of other areas of these gargantuan project.”

So, is it true that elected officials on the Board can’t amend a plan sent to them by the Redevelopment Agency, whose commissioners are all political appointees of the mayor?

“It’s a yes or no vote, if you will,” a deputy City Attorney told the Guardian, on background, noting that the Board could tell Redevelopment that it doesn’t like the plan and wants the Agency to make some changes and bring it some amendments.

“Ultimately, the Board has the final say, but it has to have gone through the Redevelopment process and its PAC (project area committee) and have seen a plan that has been referred to it by the Planning Commission,” the deputy city attorney continued.“So, they could communicate their dissatisfaction and the agency would have to take their view into account. It’s not that the Board has no authority, but it can’t decide unilaterally.”

The City Attorney’s Office also confirmed that under Redevelopment Law, local jurisdictions can decide how to implement redevelopment plans.

“In a number of jurisdictions, the city council has made itself a Redevelopment entity, just as our Board is also the Transportation Authority in San Francisco,” the deputy said.“And if the same body proposes the plan, it probably will be satisfied.”

The City Attorney’s office noted that if agencies that regulate permits to fill the Bay, as is  required to build a bridge over Yosemite Slough, deny the city those permits, then the city would require amendments to its planning documents, but no further environmental impact review would be required, if the bridge was gone.

With the Board’s July 27 vote around the corner, D. 10 candidate Tony Kelly says he has a bunch of concerns that include, but are not limited to the bridge, starting with the projects financing mechanisms.

Kelly points to the fact that city staff recommended and the Board approved July 13 that “significant blight in the project area cannot be eliminated without the increase in the amount of bonded indebtedness from $221 million to $900 million and the increase in the limitation on the number of dollars to be allocated to the Agency from $881 million to $4.2 billion.”

Kelly wants the city to explain to the Board how much tax increment financing money will be left for the Bayview, now that the area’s debt ceiling has been tripled.

“Does this mean that all BVHP property tax revenues for the next 30 years will go towards paying down this debt and nothing else?” Kelly asked. “And what will that mean for the rest of BVHP in terms of service and programs it won’t be able to afford?

Kelly would also like to see the Board request an audit of Lennar’s record on Parcel A. As Kelly points out, the Navy conveyed Parcel to the city in 2004, and the city gave Lennar the green light to develop 1,600 mostly luxury condos on that parcel, in 2006.

“But no one has ever done an audit of Parcel A,” Kelly said. “Given the scrutiny that the Board usually brings to five figure numbers, the supervisors should be demanding this information, since we are dealing with a ten-figure number ($4,220,000,000) in future.”

It would be helpful if the City would also brief the Board as to who it believes will be investing in the project,  including the investment companies’ names,  their board of directors, and whether these companies are based in the US. Rumors are swirling that some project proponents have entered into side-deals that involve limited liability companies that are selling Lennar’s proposed condos to folks in China, and that a $1 million investment in a condo could translate into a work permit for the condo owner or occupant.

Kelly worries that the city and Lennar’s joint redevelopment plan is being allowed to squeak past the Board’s financial review simply on the basis of vague estimates.
“They rely once again on promises that won’t show up,” Kelly said, pointing to a recent report that emerged from the Controller’s Office.

Arc Ecology’s Saul Bloom notes that the Controller used averaged figures in that report, an approach that neatly obscures the fact that many of the project’s alleged and benefits– will not be created or felt for years. Bloom for his part is hoping the Board can introduce a maritime uses amendment. This would allow relatively unskilled jobs to be created at the shipyard in short order, compared to vague promises of  building a green tech office park there, some day.

Last week, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor Michael Cohen suggested that plan amendments would delay project construction.

But Cohen was quick to add that, “702 acres of waterfront land in San Francisco is an irreplaceable asset. It’s not a question of if—but when—it gets developed.”

Others are less sure that Cohen’s much promoted vision will ever translate into reality.

So, here’s hoping the Board will grill Cohen and city staff over the financial details, including the internal rate of return (IRR) that Lennar is demanding, and what will happen to promised community benefits, if the IRR doesn’t pencil out. D. 10 candidates DeWitt Lacy, Chris Jackson and Tony Kelly have suggested that some form of liquidated damages  are needed, but if the City believes these are unnecessary, it should explain why.

And then there are questions about the impact on air quality of the traffic related to an additional 24,500 residents and 10,000 workers into the city’s southeast.

Personally, I was fascinated by an April 2010 report from the Redevelopment Agency in which the agency discussed the challenges of driving piles through contaminated soil, which is what could happen if a bridge is built over the Yosemite Slough. In the past, the city made the argument that the NFL and the 49ers were requiring this bridge.

But last week, in the wake of Santa Clara’s vote in favor of a new stadium for the 49ers near Great America, the city began arguing that the bridge would make the project more attractive to financers, because employers want to get their employees quickly in and out.

This was the first time I ever heard city staff make that particular argument and they made it when it’s still not clear who these employers even are.

 So, let’s flesh out the list of potential employers, so the Board can determine if design decisions are being made in the interest of the local community or out-of-state businesses.

And then there’s the fact that it appears that this proposed $100 million bridge would only save commuters a few minutes, while permanently filling the San Francisco Bay.

Today, the Sierra Club, the Golden Gate Audobon Society, the California Native Plant Society and San Francisco Tomorrow released a report that asserts that the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard EIR “misrepresents the need for a bridge.”

“A statistical review demonstrates that a route around Yosemite Slough could be as efficient as a bridge route while being better for the environment,” stated a letter that the Sierra Club-led environmental coalition released today. “It’s time for the Board of Supervisors to reject the bridge alternative and insist that the feasible upland route around Yosemite Slough be seriously considered.”

The letter argues that a regression model result found in the Transportation Study Appendix F of the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Phase 11 EIR provides “no statistically significant evidence to support the claim that a 5 minute increase in transit travel time would lead to a 15 percent decrease in transit ridership, or, indeed, to any decrease in ridership.”

“Therefore, routing the BRT around Yosemite Slough is as consistent with a transit-first redevelopment goal as a bridge alternative, but without the environmental damage wrought by the bridge,” the Sierra Club-led report states in summary. “The results of the regression analysis used in the EIR and relied upon to support the bridge alternative have been misinterpreted in such a way that even if they were statistically significant they are off by a factor of ten: the decrease in transit ridership associated with 5 extra minutes of transit time would be predicted to be approximately 1.5 percent, not 15 percent,” it concludes.

“When the analysis [presented in the Sierra Club’s letter] is combined with previous analyses by LSA Associates (which estimate the increase in travel time would be approximately 2 minutes, rather than the 5 minutes in the final EIR) and other available information, one must reach the conclusion that the FEIR misrepresents the effect on travel time and ridership that would result from a route around Yosemite Slough. Overall, it poses further questions about the need for a bridge over San Francisco’s largest wetland restoration project.”

The Sierra Club-led report lands two weeks after Board President David Chiu introduced his July 12 package of amendments which seeks to narrow the bridge, not eliminate it, and require the Board to hold hearings before the Navy transfers Parcel E-2 to the city.

It’s a good idea for the Board to require hearings before E-2 is transferred to the city. But does this mean the Board will be able to direct the Navy, when it’s time to decide whether to cap or excavate the contamination in that parcel? The answer appears to be no. All the Board can do is to reject the Navy’s proposed solution.

But how would this work? What would happen then? And Parcel E-2 isn’t the only parcel on the shipyard where seriously nasty stuff has been found and is still be cleaned up.

The good news is that at this point, the project still doesn’t belong to the Board.

The bad news is that, as of tomorrow, it could belong to them, if the supervisors opt to approve Lennar’s plan with a simple up-down vote. And given the rush and the political pressure that the process has been subjected to since 2006, it’s almost certain that some scandal will engulf the project, some time in the future. And this Board of Supervisors’ names will be on it. Even if nothing ever gets built at the shipyard.

“How can the city say nothing will be built for years, because we have promised so much, when they say out of the other side of their mouth, that the only way that we can make these promises to the community, is if the community supports the plan?” Kelly asks. “On what planet do we think this makes sense? I think we are moving out of the solar system with every passing week.”

There’s no crime in members of the Board admitting tomorrow that they have not read the entire plan and don’t understand all the details. As the folks in Alameda humbly admitted last week, when they kicked out developer SunCal, it took them years to understand what was being proposed—including the fact that the project might leave their city in the hole, financially.

But it would be a crime for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to vote yes on this massive proposal without first having done that homework. Yes, I’ve heard supervisors say in the past they are deferring to Sup. Maxwell, since the project lies in her district. But Maxwell is termed out, and the project will impact all of the city, especially in terms of its ethnic and economic diversity, in future. So, as we’ve said, buyer beware!


Rumors fly that Board can’t amend Lennar deal, after all


For the past month, fireworks and deals have been going on at City Hall as the Board prepares to vote on Lennar’s massive redevelopment plan for Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard. And recently, the Board vowed to make a slew of amendments to the plan, even as they approved the project’s environmental impact report.

But now it’s beginning to look like the only winners could be the developer—and perhaps those folks at city hall who are staking their political careers on jamming this deal over the finish line, come hell or high water, before the November election comes around and they go into the private sector as real estate developers.

I say this because two weeks ago, the progressives on the Board were saying that they had been told that they couldn’t amend the EIR July 14, but that they could amend the actual redevelopment plan when it comes before them on July 27. It was for this reason, they said, that they decided to vote to accept the EIR in an 8-3 vote, with only Sups. John Avalos, Chris Daly and Eric Mar, voting to reject the project’s key environmental document.

But today, with less than two working days before the Board’s July 27 meeting, I’m hearing rumors that the Board will only be able to take an up and down vote, when they consider Lennar’s actual redevelopment plan.

In other words, the only way the Board would be able to change anything would be to reject the plan in its entirety.But everyone knows that this is a pigs-may-fly scenario, given the massive pressure the Mayor’s Office, labor and Lennar have been exerting on the Board.

So, if these “up-and-down-vote only” rumors turn out to be true, folks who care about environmental and economic justice better start sounding the alarm. Because there is a plethora of unresolved issues that Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, Chris Daly, Eric Mar, and Ross Mirkarimi identified July 13 as needing shoring up, before the actual redevelopment plan would ever pass their sniff test.

These concerns included fears that the project’s financing plan amounts to daylight bank robbery, that the proposed bridge across the Yosemite Slough is unnecessary, and that the amount of projected air pollution related to the development is unacceptable.

And then there’s the fact that the Controller’s “economic benefits” report only used averaged figures, and therefore did not give any details about how many jobs and benefits the project would create in this economically depressed community in the next few years.

And did I mention the part about liquidated damages and watershed concerns? Or the fact that there are no maritime uses in the current plan, even though these uses could translate directly into relatively unskilled jobs, if old ships were broken up at the shipyard.

But despite the hours of discussion on July 13 that the Board sat through last week, I do not recall anyone from the Mayor’s or City Attorney’s Office advising the supervisors that they would not be able to amend the actual plan when it comes before them July 27.

Right now, a lot of confusion is swirling as folks point to the fact that Board President David Chiu introduced five amendments at a July 12 Land Use Committee hearing that eight supervisors subsequently voted to accept. This move led the rest of the Board to believe that they too could make amendments to the final plan.

But a review of Chiu’s amendments and the project’s EIR suggests that these changes are in fact repackaged pieces of the EIR, and that the move misled other supervisors into believing that that they would have a chance to amend the actual redevelopment plan.

So far, no one from the Mayor’s Office has returned my calls seeking clarification on this process. But if it turns out that the only way the Board can have input is to kick the plan to the curb, or ask the Planning Commission to make new findings, then democracy in San Francisco has been replaced with an empty charade.

“The Board can make changes along the line that David made in the Land Use Committee, “ Chiu’s legislative aide Judson True told me today. But he wasn’t clear on the process next week, and suggested that I call Cohen’s office, which I did (only to find myself shunted to Cohen’s voice mail.)

So, what gives? And why would the Board allow an out-of-town developer in partnership with the Mayor’s Office to sidestep its responsibility in this way?

“We were told we could not make amendments to the EIR, but could make amendments to the plan that we will be voting on this Tuesday,” Campos told me today, noting that he and Mirkarimi were prepared to make changes July 13, but were then told they could not do that.

“The biggest fear I have with this project, and any project this size in this economy, is that a lot is promised, but will anything get developed, or will we be stuck holding the bag,” Campos added.

Similar questions led the Alameda city council to kick developer SunCal to the curb last week. Ironically, the move could open the door to a developer like Lennar to try and swoop in and pick up the pieces in the island city across the Bay from San Francisco.

But folks in Alameda are pointing to San Francisco as an example of how difficult it is to nail down developers, noting that Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top financial advisor, recently admitted that investment money is scarce, even though the city’s EIR for the project has been approved.

Actually, Cohen went a step further by intimating that all the benefits that the community wants out of the plan would deter investors even more—comments that were perhaps just a precursor to this potential bombshell that the Board won’t actually be able to amend the deal, after all? Stay tuned.

Sunset for Suncal in Alameda


Alameda Island resident and community organizer Gretchen Lipow says the effort to oust developer SunCal, which threatened to sue the city last night when it was clear the jig was up, began two years ago.

“We divided the city into grids and went out and walked the streets, starting when SunCal brought their initiative out,” Lipow recalled, referring to Measure B.

SunCal, which was Alameda chose in 2007, after other developers including Lennar pulled out of the competition to be the island’s next master developer, succeeded in alienating many city residents, when it introduced Measure B, which included multiunit housing, a provision that violated a 1973 law banning anything larger than a duplex on the island.

And SunCal then succeeded in alienating city staff over its failure to provide promised transit plans and financing details, as the Measure B vote approached. In the end, Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson and Councilmember Frank Matarrese both withdrew their support for SunCal’s measure, which bombed in February, losing by 85 percent.

Meanwhile, Lipow and other community members began working on an alternate plan, in recognition that it’s hard to fight a plan if you don’t have a counter plan in its place.

“I won’t call it a vision because that word has become horribly abused in this process, but we have been working on an alternate idea that we felt was much more compatible with the nature and land out there, in what is a somewhat isolated area,” Lipow said.

She recalls how at the time the community first got together to fight SunCal, the developer had not yet put what she calls “their anti-slow growth measure” on the ballot, but that when they did, the move only helped to crystallize all that was wrong with the developer’s approach.

“They tried to take the political decision-making out of the hands of the city,” Lipow said. “Talk about a land grab.”

Lipow says the community she represents did not agree with the developer’s “vision” for the former Alameda Naval Air Station.
“We do not see it as a condo village,” Lipow said. “That makes no sense. It’s a Superfund site that is still being cleaned up.”

Lipow said that along the way, folks on Alameda Island began to ask who was going to pay for SunCal’s proposed redevelopment plan—and realized that payment for a plan they didn’t want was going to end up coming out of their own pocket, and yet, there was little certainty if anything would ever end up being built.

“It’s all based on redevelopment bonds and speculation,” Lipow said. “And we see what’s going on in San Francisco, where the city is now saying they can’t get anyone to invest in the [Candlestick Point-Shipyard] deal.”

Lipow recalls how the community investigated SunCal.

“We found that its financial background is abhorrent,” Lipow said. “Since 2008, SunCal has filed about 30 bankruptcies and there are a hundred lawsuits against them. They collapsed with Lehman Brothers.”

Lipow points to a disturbing lack of information about SunCal’s financial partner, D. E. Shaw, who allegedly runs an underground hedge fund.

“No one knows this guy,” Lipow said. “There has never been on a single piece of correspondence between Shaw and the city.”

Asked if Alameda’s ouster of SunCal opens the door to other and perhaps equally spurious developers, Lipow said, “The community is now organized enough to have meetings, and we understand we need to come up with something.”

Redevelopment requires “duty of loyalty” from Arc Ecology


As a longtime member of the Mayor’s Hunters Point Shipyard Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), Scott Madison took exception to a “duty of loyalty” clause in Arc Ecology’s most recent contract with the Redevelopment Agency.

This new requirement in Arc’s contract came up for discussion during the CAC’s July 12 meeting, Madison said.The rest of CAC did not rise up in support of his concerns, Madison adds. But he is convinced the requirement will harm the community that surrounds the 770-acre area that the city and Lennar want to develop with their massive Candlestick-Shipyard redevelopment plan.

The Board of Supervisors will consider that plan at their July 27 meeting, along with suggestions that Arc and the Sierra Club have been making for years. These suggestions include strengthening the terms governing the transfer of Parcel E-2, the most polluted shipyard site, and removing what Arc and the Sierra Club believe is an unnecessary bridge over the environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough.

Arc has been monitoring the environmental impacts of the shipyard since 1984, and has provided neighborhood groups with information and technical support related to cleanup and redevelopment since 1986. And more recently, Arc Ecology opened a “community window on the shipyard cleanup” on Third Street, which is also accessible online, to provide information and resources for more meaningful community involvement in the cleanup.

Arc hosts environmental education discussions and community workshops and submits written comments to the Navy about the cleanup and to appropriate agencies on related shipyard redevelopment and reuse plans.

“We are working with the BVHP community to ensure that the transfer, redevelopment, and reuse are to the maximum benefit of the neighboring community,” Arc’s website states.

But in the past few years, as Lennar’s political Candlestick-Shipyard juggernaut has been gathering speed, Arc has ruffled feathers in the Mayor’s Office by developing Alternatives For Study, a document that explores detailed alternativesto the current Candlestick-Shipyard plan.

None of ARC’s alternatives are opposed to the development, but they all suggest ways to improve it, including an option that would not involve building a bridge over the slough, or a stadium on the shipyard, and would prevent the taking of 23 acres of state park land which Lennar wants so it can build luxury waterfront condos in the middle of the current Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, a plan that would be unthinkable if it was proposed for Crissy Field.

But the city, and in particular Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, view these alternatives, as signs of disloyalty, as they seek to rush Lennar’s massive 770-acre redevelopment plan over the finishing line, while arguing that any further amendments will make the plan more difficult for Lennar to shop around to investors, especially in light of the depressed economy.

The growing coziness between the city and the developer was put on full public display last week, when Sup. David Campos asked the project’s proponents to step forward at the Board’s July 13 hearing on the project’s EIR.

As Lennar Urban’s Kofi Bonner began to rise from his seat in the public seating area, Cohen, who had just finished answering Campos’ questions about the bridge and the project’s financing liabilities from the city’s bullpen in the Board’s chambers, raced over to the podium before Bonner had a chance to speak.

This uneasy closeness between city and developer, along with Arc’s extensive background in shipyard related matters, are why Madison believes the city’s residents are best served when Arc can express its opinions freely, even if that involves critiquing plans that the city seems to have grown increasingly defensive about, ever since it entered into a partnership with the Florida-based Lennar.

“Yes, it’s true that the city is paying for this contract with Arc, but it seems to me that this particular contractor’s responsibility should be primarily to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and not the city,” Madison said. “What if Arc reaches a conclusion that is odd with the developer, city agencies and other consultants? Would Arc be prohibited from making it public?”

Madison says the city has claimed that Arc would not be prohibited from such activities, and that the contract contains standard language. But he also adds that certain parties who are boosters for the city’s redevelopment plan object to what Arc and Bloom are doing in terms of raising valid science-based concerns.

“At the meeting, Al Norman said he hopes the Redevelopment Agency handcuffs Saul, not just by the hands but by the ankles,” Madison claimed.

And Bloom said that after his group made a video of him walking around wearing a “Can I buy your park?” billboard to illustrate what Lennar’s plan will do to the only state park in San Francisco, he was told that if Willie Brown was still mayor, Arc would have lost its contract, and all department heads who had been supportive of awarding it to Arc, would have been fired, too

Bloom notes that under Mayor Brown, he was awarded several contracts and helped author Prop. P, the measure that voters approved in 2000, which called upon the Navy to clean up the shipyard to the highest levels practical.

“Even Willie understood the need for balance,” Bloom said.
Bloom protested the city’s “duty of loyalty” requirement at the CAC’s July 12 meeting, but has apparently decided that the clause isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, because he has apparently since signed the contract. UPDATE: I just spoke to Bloom who told me that he has not yet signed the contract and is still working to get Redevelopment to see the problem with this requirement.

“At the CAC meeting, the committee endorsed the proposal to give us the contract,” Bloom explained. “But it’s up to the Redevelopment Commission to approve the contract, something they are set to consider at their September 7 meeting. We are making the argument that they need to think about the contract in broader terms.”

And Madison notes that it’s common sense that if you want a truly independent voice advising Redevelopment on the shipyard cleanup plan, then that voice should be allowed to be genuinely independent.

“The fact that the city is paying the bill for the contract shouldn’t require an organization to sign an extraordinary Duty of Loyalty, which conflicts with its true loyalty to the surrounding community,” Madison said.

The Guardian’s recent immediate disclosure request to Redevelopment should reveal the exact terms of Arc’s Duty of Loyalty requirement. And Matt Dorsey, spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office says such clauses are rare.

“We are unaware of any confidentiality requirements being made, except in very rare circumstances, such as contracts related to the airport where there may be terrorist concerns,” Dorsey said. Stay tuned.

Deal time



Lennar Corp.’s massive redevelopment plan for Candlestick Point-Hunters Point cleared a critical hurdle July 14 when the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to affirm the Planning Commission’s certification of the project’s final environmental impact report, with Sups. John Avalos, Chris Daly, and Eric Mar opposed

Board President David Chiu called the vote "a milestone." Termed-out Sup. Sophie Maxwell, whose District 10 includes Candlestick Point and the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, saw the vote as evidence that city leaders support the ambitious plan. Yet many political observers saw the vote as proof that Lennar and its Labor Council allies have succeeded in lobbying supervisors not to support opponents of the project.

"I’m concentrating on pushing this over the finish line," Maxwell said at the hearing in the wake of the vote, which came in the wee hours of July 14 after a 10-hour hearing. Supervisors can still amend Lennar’s development plan during a July 27 hearing and project opponents are hoping for significant changes.

Mar said he wants to focus on guaranteeing that the city has the authority to hold Lennar responsible for its promises. "I want to make sure that we have the strongest enforcement we can," he said.

Lennar’s plan continues to face stiff opposition from the Sierra Club, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the California Native Plant Society, San Francisco Tomorrow, POWER (People Organized To Win Employment Rights) and CARE (Californians for Renewable Energy).

Representatives for these groups, whose appeals of the EIR certification were denied by the board, say they are now weighing their options. Those include taking legal action within 30 days of the board’s second reading of and final action on the developer’s final redevelopment plan, which will be Aug. 3 at the earliest.

Supervisors are expected to introduce a slew of amendments July 27, when they consider the details of the proposal and its impacts on the economically depressed and environmentally polluted.

Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, admitted July 19 that all these various demands will likely delay project construction. "But 702 acres of waterfront land in San Francisco is an irreplaceable asset," Cohen reportedly told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It’s not a question of if — but when — it gets developed."

Chiu already has introduced five amendments to the plan in an effort to alleviate concerns about shipyard toxins, Lennar’s limited financial liability, a proposed bridge over Yosemite Slough, and the possibility that local residents will need more access to healthcare and training if they are to truly benefit from the development plan.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi told the Guardian that he expects the board will require liquidated damages to ensure the city has some redress if the developer fails to deliver on a historic community benefits agreement that labor groups signed when Lennar was trying to shore up community support for Proposition G, the conceptual project plan voters approved in June 2008.

Mirkarimi said the board would also seek to increase workforce development benefits. "Thirty percent of the target workforce population are ex offenders. So while they might get training, currently they won’t get jobs other than construction," Mirkarimi observed.

He supports the health care access amendment and the public power amendment Chiu introduced July 21, pointing to Mirkarimi’s previous ordinance laying the groundwork for public power in the area. "This ordinance established that where feasible, the City shall be the electricity provider for new City developments, including military bases and development projects," Mirkarimi said. "PG&E was ripped when we pushed that through."

But Sierra Club activist Arthur Feinstein isn’t sure if additional amendments will help, given intense lobbying by city officials and a developer intent on winning project approvals this summer before a new board and mayor are elected this fall.

"Chiu’s amendments gave us what we asked for over Parcel E-2" Feinstein said, referring to a severely contaminated section of the shipyard for which Chiu wants an amendment calling for a board hearing on whether it’s clean enough to be accepted by the city and developed on.

But Feinstein is less than happy with Chiu’s Yosemite Slough amendment, which would limit a proposed bridge over it to a width of 41 feet and only allow bike, pedestrian, and transit use unless the 49ers elect to build a new stadium on the shipyard. In that case, the project would include a wider bridge to accommodate game-day traffic.

"The average lane size is 14 feet, so that’s a three-lane bridge. So it’s still pretty big. And it would end up filling almost an acre of the bay," Feinstein said.

Feinstein thanked Mirkarimi and Campos for asking questions that showed that the argument for the bridge has not been made. "But it’s disappointing that a progressive Board would be willing to fill the Bay for no reason," Feinstein said.

He concurred with the testimony of Louisiana-based environmental scientist Wilma Subra and environmental and human rights activist Monique Harden, who challenged the wisdom of the Navy digging out toxins while the developer installs infrastructure at the same site.

Subra said contamination is often found at Superfund sites after they have been declared clean when contractors to later dig into capped sites and expose workers and the community to contamination. Harden said the plan to begin construction on some shipyard parcels while the Navy removes radiological-contamination from shipyard sewers is "like a person jumping up and down on a bed that another person is trying to make."

But Cohen, who has aggressively pushed the project on Newsom’s behalf, countered that there is no scientific evidence to support such concerns. "It’s a very common situation," Cohen said. "It’s the basis for shipyard artists and the police being on the site for many years … It’s safe based on an extraordinary amount of data."

But Feinstein pointed to his experience working for the Golden Gate Audubon Society at the former Alameda Naval Station. He recalls how a remediation study was completed, but then an oil spill occurred at the site, which had been designated as a wildlife refuge.

"The military didn’t know about everything that happened and was stored on site, and it’s easy to miss a hot spot," he said. "And who’ll be monitoring when all these homes are built with deeds that restrict the renters and owners from digging in their backyards?"

Feinstein said he’s concerned that only Campos seemed to be asking questions and making specific requests for information around the proposed project’s financing

"Lennar is paying city staff and consultants and promising labor huge numbers of jobs. When you are throwing that much money around, it’s hard for people to resist — and the city has been co-opted," Feinstein said. "And how much analysis and resistance can you expect from city commissions when the Mayor’s Office is the driving force behind the project? So we don’t have a stringent review. The weakness of the strategy of ignoring our bridge concerns is that when we sue, we may raise a whole bunch of issues."

Arc Ecology director Saul Bloom says Chiu’s bridge proposal "screwed up the dialogue. We were close to a deal," Bloom claims. "But while that amendment allowed one board member to showboat, it prevented the problem from being solved."

Bloom is concerned that under the financing deal, the project won’t make any money for at least 15 years and will be vulnerable to penalties and bumps in the market — an equation that could lead the developer to build only market rate housing at the site.

"It’s a problematic analysis at best," he said.

"The bigger the development, the more it benefits people who have the capacity to address it — and that’s not the community," Bloom said. "So there’ll be more discussion of the bridge, and that’s where the horse-trading is going to be."

He also said the bridge has now taken on a symbolic value. "The thing about the bridge is that it’s not actually about the bridge any more," Bloom added. "It’s about Lennar telling people, ‘You will support us.’ If they get the bridge, it will give them free rein, an unencumbered capacity to do as they see fit. They are willing to make deals, but they have to have the bridge because it defeats the people who have been the most credible and visible — and then they have no opposition."

Board accepts EIR, but vows to amend Candlestick-Shipyard plan


Text by Sarah Phelan, images by Luke Thomas

At the end of a ten-hour hearing to appeal the final environmental impact report  for the city and Lennar’s massive Candlestick-Shipyard redevelopment project, the Board voted 8-3 to accept the FEIR, with only Sups. John Avalos, Chris Daly and Eric Mar voting to reverse certification of what they said was a flawed document.

But the vote does not mean the Board has voted to accept the city and the developer’s final redevelopment plan. That plan will come before the Board on July 27, and the supervisors are expected to introduce a slew of amendments, in addition to  five amendments that Board President David Chiu introduced earlier this week.

These amendments are intended to address longstanding concerns about toxins at the shipyard, limited liability on the part of the developer, the questionable need for a bridge over Yosemite Slough, the reality that Bayview residents may be cut out of any upcoming jobs, and the desire to nail down efforts to use public power at the site

“We can’t do the amendments here, we are frozen out, all we can do is an up and down vote on the EIR for now,” Sup. Ross Mirkarimi told the Guardian last night. 
Mirkarimi anticipates that the Board will seek additional mitigations, such as requiring liquidated damages to shore up a community benefits agreement that Labor entered into with Lennar in May 2008.

Mirkarimi said the Board would also seek to increase workforce development benefits.
“Thirty percent of the target workforce population are ex-offenders, so while they might get training, currently they won’t get jobs other than construction,” Mirkarimi observed.

Mirkarimi was proud of the Public Power amendment that Chiu has already lintroduced, pointing to an ordinance that he and then Sup. Gerardo Sandoval introduced and Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law, in March 2006. This public power ordinance established that “where feasible, the City shall be the electricity provider for new City developments, including military bases and development projects.”

“PG& E was ripped when we pushed that through,” Mirkarimi said.

During yesterday’s marathon hearing, the supervisors grilled city staff on issues that have proved to be key sticking points, as the city seeks to win final project approvals, even though they cannot address these issues with amendments until the July 27 meeting.

The Board questioned the wisdom of moving forward with development on the Shipyard, as the Navy continues to clean up radiological contamination and other toxins at the site, including Parcel E-2, which contains some of the nastiest pollution at the yard.

“Why not just wait until the CERCLA process is completed?” Sup. Campos asked, referring to the fact that the Navy is responsible for shipyard clean up, under CERCLA, which is also known as the Superfund Act.

Campos question came after acclaimed environmental scientist Wilma Subra and national environmental human rights lawyer Monique Harden, challenged the sanity of having the Navy digging out toxins while a developer simultaneously installs infrastructure at the same site.

Subra, who works in Superfund sites throughout the U.S, warned the Board that it’s very common to find contamination at these sites after they have been declared clean.

“So, the number of samples isn’t the magic answer,” Subra said, referring to the city’s constant refrain that the Navy has taken thousands of samples at the site. Subra also warned that it is not uncommon for a contractor to dig into an area that has been capped, thereby potentially exposing workers and the community to contamination and resulting in legal stand-offs, as various parties argue as to who has responsibility to fix the resulting mess.

Harden, who is based in New Orleans but also has an office in D.C., expressed concern over the plan to begin construction on some shipyard parcels, even as the Navy continues to remove radiologically contaminated sewers and other deep infrastructure at the site.
“That’s like a person jumping up and down on a bed that another person is trying to make up,” Harden said

But Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s chief economic advisor countered that there was no scientific evidence to support Subra or Harden’s concerns.

“It’s a very common situation, especially on brownfields,” Cohen said, (though the Shipyard is a Superfund site that’s been contaminated with radiological waste that was sandblasted off ships returning from a Bikini Atoll atomic testing experiment gone awry.)

“It’s the basis for shipyard artists and the police being on the site for many years,” Cohen continued. “It’s safe based on an extraordinary amount of data.”

But Cohen did agree that language in Chiu’s Parcel E-2 amendment should be changed from “should” to “shall” to indicate that city oversight is a requirement, not a request, when it comes to final decisions over the transfer of this particular parcel.

Mark Ripperda of U.S. EPA assured the Board that his agency is not going to permit transfer of parcels for development until cleanup is completed.
“We are not going to allow any transfer until we are convinced it’s safe,” Ripperda said.

Sup. Eric Mar chastised the EIR for its apparent failure to adequately discuss the impacts of the proposed development on schools in the surrounding area.

“There is less discussion of the impacts on schools than there is of the A-Bomb, which was held at the Shipyard for 1 to 2 days,” Mar said. “The analysis seems very weak.”

And Daly expressed frustration that the Board was being asked to take a decision when it lacked sufficient information about and understanding of the project.

“How do we know it’s safe? ” Daly asked, noting that, “Money talks, bullshit walks.”
(His point resonated as City staff scrambled to find key information within the 7,000 pages of comments and responses in the massive FEIR documents, and Amy Brownell of the city’s Public Health Department rattled off a series of measurements and schedules that few on the Board seemed to understand.)

“The risks are acceptable,” Brownell said. “And the only people allowed on the property [during the development] will be the ones doing the work.”

The Board also challenged the need for a bridge over the environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough, especially in the wake of the June 2010 election in which Santa Clara voters approved building a new stadium for the 49ers near Great America.

“One reason I’ve been given for [the need for the bridge] is the financial viability of this project,” Campos said.

Cohen replied that if the city does not to build the bridge, “it elevates the financial risk.”

“Parcel C [on the shipyard] has been zoned for green tech, and for major employers, having that direct connectedness to BART and the T-Third is very important.”

Cohen also indicated that, thanks to the project’s huge reliance on tax increment financing, the loss of the bridge would translate into lost property tax revenues.

“Some of the repayment comes from generation of tax increment financing, so the failure to have a bridge here, degrades the potential of property tax revenues, and so you get much less tax increment,” Cohen stated.

The Board also expressed concerned that under the current terms of the deal they are now set to consider July 27, the developer has limited liability—an arrangement that has got supervisors worried that the city, and Bayview residents whose increased property taxes will help pay for the development, could end up on the wrong end of the financial hook.

Campos pointed to the disposition and development agreement (DDA) that the city drew up with Lennar.
“I’m specifically worried about a provision that on the face of it limits the developer’s liability,” Campos said, pointing to language that seems to say that “monetary damages are inappropriate”—conditions that Campos deemed, “Very unusual.

Cohen responded that the deal reflects the reality that, “the Navy, not Lennar is responsible for the cleanup.”
He added that the city retains the legal ability to sue, various remedies and, ultimately, “the right of reverter” (which folks call the “nuclear option” since it involves kicking out the developer, but losing everything in the process.)

“This is an incredibly frontloaded project,  in which we have the ability to terminate the developer at the cost of millions of dollars,” Cohen said.

But while the city and the developer ultimately affirm EIR certification, the decision left the Bayview community deeply divided, with many concerned that the FEIR failed to address their concerns, while others rejoiced, believing that they will benefit from jobs that will be created during the development’s 10-15 year build out and beyond. Only time will tell how it all plays out, but stay tuned as the Board prepares to try and make the plan the best it can in face of all these competing concerns.