The corporation that ate San Francisco - Page 8

Lennar's failures at Hunters Point Shipyard highlight the risk of putting the Bay Area's prime real estate into the hands of profit-driven developers
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Newsom's campaign treasurer is another Pelosi nephew, Laurence Pelosi, who used to be vice president of acquisitions for Lennar and now works for Morgan Stanley Real Estate, which holds Lennar stock.

Both Newsom and Laurence Pelosi are connected to lobbyist Darius Anderson, who hosted a fundraiser to pay off Newsom's campaign debts. Anderson counts Lennar as his client for Treasure Island, Mare Island, the Hunters Point Shipyard, and Candlestick Point, another vast swath of land that Lennar controls.

Brown's ties to the agency and Lennar run equally deep, thanks in part to Lennar's Bonner, who was Brown's former head of economic development and before that worked for the Redevelopment Agency, where he recommended hiring KPMG Peat Marwick to choose between Catellus, Lennar, and Forest City for the Hunters Point project.

KPMG acknowledged all three were capable master developers, but the commission decided to go with the most deep-pocketed entity.

Clearly, Lennar plays both sides of the political fence, a reality that suggests it would be wiser for cities to give elected officials such as the Board of Supervisors, not mayoral appointees, the job of controlling developers.

DAMAGE CONTROL

Under the current system, in which Lennar seems accountable to no one except an apparently toothless Redevelopment Agency, you can't trust Lennar to answer tough questions once it's already won your military base.

Asked about asbestos at the Hunters Point Shipyard, Bonner directed the Guardian's questions to veteran flack Sam Singer, who also handles PR for Ruby Rippey-Tourk. Singer tried to dodge the issue by cherry-picking quotes, beginning with a Dec. 1, 2006, letter that the city's health director, Dr. Mitch Katz, sent to Redevelopment's Rosen.

Katz wrote, "I believe that regulatory mechanisms currently in place for Shipyard Redevelopment are appropriate and adequate to protect the public from potential environmental hazards."

The assessment would seem to be at odds with that of Katz's environmental health director Bhatia, who has been on the frontline of the asbestos fallout and wrote in a Jan. 25 letter, "The failure to secure timely compliance with the regulations by the developer and the repeated violations has also challenged our credibility as a public health agency able and committed to securing the regulatory compliance necessary to protect public health."

Singer also quoted from a Feb. 20 Arc Ecology report on asbestos and dust control for Parcel A, which stated, "Lennar's responses have been consistently cooperative." But he failed to include Arc's criticisms of Lennar, namely that its "subcontractors have consistently undermined its compliance requirements," that it has "not exercised sufficient contractual control over its subcontractors so as to ensure compliance," and that it was "overly slow" in implementing an enhanced community air-monitoring system.

Singer focused instead on Arc's observation that "there is currently no evidence that asbestos from the grading operation on Parcel A poses an endangerment to human health and the environment."

Lack of evidence is not the same as proof, and while Arc's Saul Bloom doesn't believe that "asbestos dust is the issue," he does believe that not moving the school, at least temporarily, leaves Lennar and the city liable.

"They formed a partnership, protective measures didn't happen, the subcontractors continue to be unreliable, and dust in general continues to be a problem," Bloom told us.

Bloom also recommends the Redevelopment Agency have an independent consultant on-site each day and bar contractors who screw up.