Question of intent - Page 3

As lawsuits and regulators probe Lennar Corp.'s negligent approach to development on Hunters Point, a new campaign seeks to give the embattled corporation even more control over SF
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TAD is building the affordable units while Lennar develops the market-rate homes.

Neither Walker nor Boyd disclosed this conflict of interest at a July 31 Board of Supervisors hearing where they and the busloads of people Lennar helped ferry to City Hall created the illusion that the community was more concerned about keeping work going on Parcel A than temporarily shutting down the site while the health concerns of people in the Bayview were addressed.

Referring to reports from the city's Department of Public Health, which claimed that there is no evidence that asbestos dust generated by the grading poses a threat to human health, Walker and Boyd warned that even a temporary shutdown of Lennar's Parcel A site would adversely affect an already economically disadvantaged community. There is no way to test for whether someone has inhaled asbestos that could pose long-term risks, and Lennar supporters have used that void to claim all is well.

But even if community benefits such as home-building contracts, better parks, and job training opportunities do trickle down to Bayview–Hunters Point residents, will those opportunities outweigh the risk of doing business with a company that has endangered public health, has created deep divisions within an already stressed community, and is struggling financially?

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Minister Christopher Muhammad, whose Nation of Islam–affiliated nonprofit filed the Prop. 65 suit "individually and on behalf of the general public," described Lennar as "a rogue company that can't be trusted."

"I'm concerned about the health of the community, as well as the other schools that border the shipyard," Muhammad said. "Our contention is that Lennar purposefully turned the monitors off. If you read the air district's asbestos-dust mitigation plan, it appears that there was a way to do this grading safely. And the community went along with it. The problem was that Lennar was looking at their bottom line and violated every agreement. They threw the precautionary principle to the wind, literally. And the city looked the other way."

And even if Rev. Walker truly believes the June 2008 Bayview ballot measure is "a chance for all of us to move forward together," does it make financial sense, against the backdrop of a nationwide mortgage meltdown, to give Lennar permission to build thousands of homes at Candlestick Point when this measure doesn't even specify what percentage of the 8,000 to 10,000 proposed new units would be rented or sold at below-market rates?

Lennar/BVHP has already reneged on promises to build rental units at its Parcel A site, and on Aug. 31, Lennar Corp., which is headquartered in Miami Beach, Fla., reported a third-quarter net loss of $513.9 million, compared to third-quarter net earnings of $206.7 million in 2006. Its stock continues to tumble, hitting a 52-week low of $14.50 per share on Nov. 26, down from a 52-week high of $56.54.

On Nov. 2, Reuters reported that Standard and Poor's had cut Lennar's debt rating to a junk-bond level "BB-plus" because of Lennar's "exposure to oversupplied housing markets in California and Florida." And on Nov. 16 the Orange County Register reported that Lennar is shelving a condominium-retail complex in Long Beach and keeping high-rise condos it built in Anaheim vacant until the housing market bounces back.

Redevelopment Agency executive director Fred Blackwell, who was hired Aug.