Promises and reality - Page 5

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

"It would be San Francisco's version of a concrete bunker around Chernobyl."

Cohen of the Mayor's Office downplays the contamination at the site, telling us that on a scale of one to 10 among the nation's contaminated Superfund sites, the shipyard "is a three." He said, "the city would assume responsibility for completing the remaining environmental remediation, which would be financed through the Navy."

But those who have watched the city and Lennar bungle development of the asbestos-laden Parcel A (see The corporation that ate San Francisco, 3/14/07) don't have much confidence in their ability to safely manage a much larger project.

"Who is going to take the liability for any shoddy work and negligence once the project is completed?" Mirkarimi asked.

Lennar has yet to settle with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over asbestos dust violations at Parcel A, which could add up to $28 million in fines, and investors have been asking questions about the corporation's mortgage lending operations as the company's stock value and bond rating have plummeted.

To secure its numerous San Francisco investments, including projects at Hunters and Candlestick points and Treasure Island, Lennar recently got letters of intent from Scala Real Estate Partners, an Irvine-based investment and development group.

Founded by former executives of the Perot Group's real estate division, Scala plans to invest up to $200 million — and have equal ownership interests — in the projects, which could total at least 17,000 housing units, 700,000 square feet of retail and entertainment, 350 acres of open space, and a new football stadium if the 49ers decide to stay.

Bonner said that, if completed, the agreement satisfies a city requirement that Lennar secure a partner with the financial wherewithal to ensure the estimated $1.4 billion Candlestick Point project moves forward even if the company's current problems worsen.

Meanwhile, Cohen has cast the vagaries of Prop. G as a positive, referring to its spreadsheet as "a living document, a moving target." Cohen pointed out that if Lennar had to buy the BVHP land, they'd get it with only a 15 percent affordable housing requirement.

"Our objective is to drive the land value to zero by imposing upon the developer as great a burden as possible," Cohen said. "This developer had to invest $500 million of cash, plus financing, and is required to pay for affordable housing, parks, jobs, etc. — the core benefits — without any risk to the city."

But Cohen said the Prop. F alternative means "nothing will be built — until F is repealed." He also refutes claims that without the 49ers stadium, 50 percent affordability is doable.

"Prop G makes it easier to make public funds available by repealing the Prop D bond measure," Cohen explained. "But Prop. G also provides that there will be no general fund financial backing for the stadium, and that the tax increments generated by the development will be used for affordable housing, jobs, and parks."

But for Lennar critics like the Rev. Christopher Mohammad, who has battled the company since the Islamic school he runs was subjected to toxic dust, even the most ambitious promises won't overcome his distrust for the entity at the center of Prop. G: Lennar.

In a fiery recent sermon at the Grace Tabernacle Community Church, Mohammad recalled the political will that enabled the building of BART in the 1970s. "But when it comes to poor people, you can't build 50 percent affordable. That will kill the deal," Mohammad observed.

"Lennar is getting 700 prime waterfront acres for free, and then there'll be tax increment dollars they'll tap into for the rebuild," he continued.