Unanswered questions

Behind the Newsom-Lennar-Chronicle offensive on Hunters Point lie serious issues that are hard to ignore


Bayview–Hunters Point resident Espanola Jackson says her phone rang off the hook after the San Francisco Chronicle printed her photo — but none of her concerns — under the headline "Residents Like Plan to Revitalize Area." It was part of the newspaper's extensive coverage of Mayor Gavin Newsom's plan to rebuild the community around a football stadium.

"People called to say, 'You need to sue the Chronicle,' " Jackson told the Guardian. Newsom wants to entrust Florida-based developer Lennar Corp. with cleaning up the five highly contaminated Hunters Point Shipyard parcels. Jackson finds this plan worrisome because, as the Guardian recently revealed ("The Corporation That Ate San Francisco," 3/14/07), Lennar was cited multiple times last year for failing to monitor and control dust and asbestos at Parcel A, the first and only piece of the shipyard that the Navy has released to the city as ready for development. Lennar is also being sued by three employees for allegations of racially charged whistle-blower retaliation in connection with the problems on Parcel A (see "Dust Still Settling," 3/28/07).

Beyond her problems with Lennar, Jackson worries that Newsom's plan doesn't account for climate change or the true cost of shipyard cleanup.

"Because of global warming, that entire area is going to be underwater," Jackson said. "And if Michael Cohen [of the Mayor's Office of Base Reuse] and the rest of them are really interested in cleaning up the area, they should send a resolution to the Board of Supervisors requesting that Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Nancy Pelosi appropriate $5 billion, which is what it will really take to clean up the shipyard."

Jackson was also frustrated that neither the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board, which is composed of local residents, tenants, and environmental and community groups, nor the regulators overseeing the cleanup have been consulted by the mayor in his haste to try to keep the 49ers in town by quickly building a new stadium.

Jackson, who bought a home in the Bayview 34 years ago, said residents want a thorough cleanup, not a rush job. That was what city residents said in November 2000 when they overwhelmingly approved Proposition P, demanding that no transfer of property take place "until the entire Shipyard is cleaned to residential standards."

"It's a landfill, and it needs to be removed," Jackson said.

Yet Lennar, which won the contract to redevelop the shipyard, is in a worsening financial position to deal with unexpected challenges at the site. The company's profits plummeted more than 70 percent in the first quarter of 2007 because of the slumping housing market.