Assessing the deal - Page 2

Labor Council makes pact with Lennar that could save the floundering Prop. G
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And just who benefits from it?

The CBA purportedly commits Lennar to create 31.86 percent "affordable" housing units in the Bayview, contribute $27 million to provide affordable homes throughout District 10, rebuild the Alice Griffith public housing project, and give down payment and first-time homebuyer assistance on another 3 percent of the homes.

All told, Paulson claims the deal locks in an unprecedented 35 percent affordable housing into Lennar's mixed-use proposal for the Bayview. The deal also obligates Lennar to invest $8.5 million in workforce development in District 10, hire locally, pay living wages, and allow worker organizing with a card check neutrality policy.

"This legally binding agreement is a way we can insure that our community gets the benefits it needs," said SFOP co-president and longtime Bayview resident Eleanor Williams.

Paulson said May 22 the deal is still being "lawyered up" to ensure its enforceability, and ACORN's John Eller insists the deal was done with community input. "We have had numerous meetings in which the community was demanding accountability and clear commitments to the workforce and housing, including the possibility of home ownership," Eller told the Guardian.

But Julian Gross, director of the San Francisco–based Community Benefits Law Center, clarifies that the deal only becomes legally binding if Lennar builds a mixed-use project in Bayview/Candlestick Point. "A community benefits agreement gives people a way to work in a coalition," said Gross, who helped negotiate CBAs at Oakland's Uptown and Oak to Ninth projects, and at Lennar's development in San Diego's Ballpark Village in 2005.

Michael Cohen, director of the Mayor's Office of Economic Workforce and Development, said the city hopes to enter into its own legally binding agreement with Lennar over a mixed-use project by the end of 2009, once environmental reviews on the project are completed.

Given that the project is expected to take 12–15 years to complete, could Lennar change the CBA's terms after it starts to develop the Bayview? Yes, says Donald Cohen of the San Diego–based Center for Public Policy Initiatives, but only if both sides agree to any changes.

"In a private deal between private parties, those parties can agree to change the terms of the deal at any time," Cohen explained.

That's significant given the divisions over development within the Labor Council. As Paulson confirmed, the building-trade unions were pushing for outright endorsement of Prop. G and opposition to Prop. F, but he successfully pushed for the negotiations with Lennar, which lasted more than eight weeks and almost broke down several times, Paulson told us.

"I told them, I don't think that's where we are coming from because Prop. G doesn't contain guarantees on affordable housing or jobs," Paulson said of his initial response to Prop. G supporters.

The agreement appears to stretch the definition of "affordable housing," reaching up to those earning 160 percent of area median income, which is essentially market-rate housing for the low-income southeast sector.

Prop. F supporter Alicia Schwartz of People Organized to Win Employment Rights said that what labor's deal with Lennar means is that only 15.6 percent of the housing will truly be affordable to the folks who currently live in the Bayview. While "3,500 units sounds good," Schwartz observed, "Only 50 percent of them will be for families making 60 percent and less of area median income, while the other 50 percent are for 80 to 160 percent AMI.