'Can I buy your park?'

Critics challenge bill allowing luxury condos on Candlestick Point parkland
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sarah@sfbg.com

Saul Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology, recently donned his best suit and a sandwich-board saying "Can I buy your park?" then headed to some of the city's most popular open spaces: Dolores Park, Golden Gate Park, Crissy Field, and Ocean Beach.

Bloom's quest? Pose as a developer and videotape reactions to a fictitious proposal to sell 25 percent of the parks for housing, a ruse designed to illuminate how the city and its master developer, Lennar Corp., have never been nearly that honest about their plan to get the state to sell 25 percent of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area so Lennar can build luxury condos on prime waterfront parklands.

Predictably, responses to Bloom's poll were mainly negative, occasionally violent. "A couple of people tried to clock me over the head," Bloom recalled. "They got aggressive. They said 'You're an asshole, man.' But the predominant reaction was 'I love my park.' People asked, 'Why do you want to sell them?' They feel there's not enough open space."

Perhaps the most chilling response came when Bloom told folks about the city's actual plan to build condos at Candlestick Point SRA in the Bayview District. "Their response was, 'Oh, it's in the Bayview? Who cares?'" said Bloom, who fears that apparent indifference to the plight of the Bayview may explain why the city and Lennar see Candlestick Point SRA as a development opportunity.

Arc isn't the only group accusing Lennar and the city of not properly informing the public that a vote for Proposition G, which was billed as the "clean-up the shipyard initiative" during the June 2008 election, was also a vote to push Senate Bill 792, state tidelands legislation that authorizes the Candlestick Point sell-off.

Introduced by State Sen. Mark Leno in February, SB 792 has since been amended and approved by the full Senate and is currently scheduled for a hearing by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Aug. 19. Passage by the committee is virtually certain, given that it only delays legislation based on fiscal impacts.

But even some Prop. G supporters, including Bloom, are now raising questions about the deal.

San Francisco's Park, Recreation, and Open Space Advisory Committee (PROSAC) unanimously approved a resolution recommending that the city's Recreation and Park Commission and the sponsor of SB 792 require both the city and Lennar to "provide detailed accounting of the park and open space acreage in the Candlestick Project." The committee asks that no net open space in the region be lost in the transfer.

PROSAC claims it was in the dark about the deal and asked those who pushed Prop. G to "provide documentation of when PROSAC and any other relevant advisory committees were informed of the intention to purchase state parkland for the Candlestick Project." So far Lennar and the city have pointed to conceptual maps and a couple of notices of public meetings as evidence that the public was adequately informed before voting.

But according to Bloom, who studies the maps and attends the meetings, "There really is not anything other than two graphics, neither of which call out the alteration to the park boundary. You'd really have to know what you were looking for. And why would the city's own advisory committee be asking Lennar and the city for information if they were in fact told of this plan?"

Adding fuel to the fire is a July 21 resolution by Sups. Chris Daly and John Avalos, which argues that it should be official policy of San Francisco to oppose SB 792 in its current form and remind city lobbyist Lynn Suter "to accurately represent the City and County of San Francisco policy in Sacramento."

The resolution has been assigned to the board's Land Use Committee and likely won't be heard until September.