No one was really surprised when commissioners for the Redevelopment Agency and Planning Department voted last week to only give the public a Scrooge-like 15 days to review a six-volume, 4,400-page draft environmental impact report for Lennar Corp.'s massive 700-acre Candlestick Point redevelopment project.
Everybody knew that Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom's top economic advisor, wanted to jam this proposal through the certification process by early June in a last-ditch effort to win back the 49ers, even though the team has said it wants to go to Oakland if the City of Santa Clara doesn't vote to build a new stadium.
The decision gives the public until Jan. 12th to submit written comments on the DEIR. A broad coalition of community and environmental justice groups asked for a 45-day extension.
And the entire process — including condescending remarks by commissioners, a fight, the forcible removal of several members of the audience, and statements from developer allies that were, at best, highly misleading — can only be described as a farce.
The rush to approve the document is entirely political. Santa Clara voters go to the ballot June 8 to decide if they want to build the 49ers a fancy facility near Great America. But June 8 is the same day, according to a spreadsheet maintained by city Shipyard/Candlestick planners, that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve the EIR for Lennar's proposal.
The city's DEIR envisions building a new 49ers stadium on the shipyard — a position that would allow thousands of luxury condos to be built on the site where the team currently plays, including a significant slice of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.
To meet the increasingly artificial-looking June 8 EIR deadline, Cohen signaled he'd only be able to squeeze out 15 extra days for draft EIR review.
LENNAR'S PAID SUPPORTERS
With Cohen nowhere in sight at the DEIR hearings last week, his deputy, Tiffany Bohee, was left to kick off Redevelopment's Dec. 15 and Planning's Dec. 17 DEIR hearings.
"Time does matter for this project," Bohee told commissioners, claiming that the project has been vetted exhaustively, including at least 177 public meetings — when the truth was that the public had never had an opportunity to review the complete draft EIR, a binding legal document, before its recent release.
"The consequence of delays is that it precludes the city's ability to get ahead of the Santa Clara election in June," Bohee said.
Bohee's introduction was followed by a string of "no delay" and other off-point comments from representatives of the San Francisco Labor Council, the San Francisco Organizing Project, SF ACORN, and other groups that signed a community benefits agreement with Lennar in May 2008 that promised them millions of dollars in work and housing benefits — provided they show up at public meetings and support the development.
SF Labor Council vice president Connie Ford told commissioners that her organization "looks forward to the day when much-needed resources and support comes our way."
A dozen residents of the Alice Griffith public housing project talked about their deplorable living conditions.
Asked by Redevelopment commissioner London Breed what the impact of a DEIR review extension would have on the planned rebuild of the Alice Griffith project, Bohee said, "It will jeopardize our ability to get any city decision on the project by June. As a result, delays to Alice Griffith could be indefinite."
But that's a stretch — at best. According to Lennar and the city's own schedule, new Alice Griffith replacement units won't be available before 2015 at the earliest. An additional 30 days of environmental review at this point will make no difference.