Promises and reality

Lennar's campaign mailers sound great, but do they paint a false picture of what voters can really expect from Prop. G?
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sarah@sfbg.com

The Lennar-financed "Yes on G" fliers jammed into mailboxes all across San Francisco this month depict a dark-skinned family strolling along a shoreline trail against a backdrop of blue sky, grassy parkland, a smattering of low-rise buildings, and the vague hint of a nearly transparent high-rise condo tower in the corner.

"After 34 years of neglect, it's time to clean up the Shipyard for tomorrow," states one flier, which promises to create up to 10,000 new homes, "with as many as 25 percent being entry-level affordable units"; 300 acres of new parks; and 8,000 permanent jobs in the city's sun-soaked southeast sector.

Add to that the green tech research park, a new 49ers stadium, a permanent home for shipyard artists, and a total rebuild of the dilapidated Alice Griffith public housing project, and the whole project looks and sounds simply idyllic. But as with many big-money political campaigns, the reality is quite different from the sales pitch.

What Proposition G's glossy fliers don't tell you is that this initiative would make it possible for a controversial Florida-based megadeveloper to build luxury condos on a California state park, take over federal responsibility for the cleanup of toxic sites, construct a bridge over a slough restoration project, and build a new road so Candlestick Point residents won't have to venture into the Bayview District.

Nor do these shiny images reveal that Prop. G is actually vaguely-worded, open-ended legislation whose final terms won't be driven by the jobs, housing, or open-space needs of the low-income and predominantly African American Bayview-Hunters Point community, but by the bottom line of the financially troubled Lennar.

And nowhere does it mention that Lennar already broke trust with the BVHP, failing to control asbestos at its Parcel A shipyard development and reneging on promises to build needed rental units at its Parcel A 1,500-unit condo complex (see "Question of intent," 11/28/07).

The campaign is supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and District 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell, as well as the Republican and the Democratic parties of San Francisco. But it is funded almost exclusively by Lennar Homes, a statewide independent expenditure committee that typically pours cash into conservative causes like fighting tax hikes and environmental regulations.

In the past six months, Lennar Homes has thrown down more than $1 million to hire Newsom's chief political strategist, Eric Jaye, and a full spectrum of top lawyers and consultants, from generally progressive campaign manager Jim Stearns to high-powered spinmeister Sam Singer, who recently ran the smear campaign blaming the victims of a fatal Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo.

Together, this political dream team cooked up what it hopes will be an unstoppable campaign full of catchy slogans and irresistible images, distributed by a deep-pocketed corporation that stands to make many millions of dollars off the deal.

But the question for voters is whether this project is good for San Francisco — particularly for residents of the southeast who have been subjected to generations worth of broken promises — or whether it amounts to a risky giveaway of the city's final frontier for new development.

Standing in front of the Lennar bandwagon is a coalition of community, environmental, and housing activists who this spring launched a last minute, volunteer-based signature-gathering drive that successfully became Proposition F. It would require that 50 percent of the housing built in the BVHP/Candlestick Point project be affordable to those making less than the area median income of $68,000 for a family of four.

Critics such as Lennar executive Kofi Bonner and Michael Cohen of the mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development have called Prop.