The battle for the forgotten district - Page 5

The future of San Francisco will be written in District 10. Who's ready to be the next supervisor?

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The Bayview's attractive to developers, but some fear the price will be the community's diversity and affordability.
PHOTO BY JUDITH CALSON

"There is no one homogenous voice in the community," Donaldson said. "The grass-roots organizing that brought about the recall effort was a result of a changing political structure in the area, but is not yet on par with other districts in town. We still allow our politics to be controlled from downtown."

Fellow candidate Eric Smith warns that the issues—and politics—are complex.

"People were emotional, angry, and desperate because they feel no one listens to them," Smith said. "That's part of the problem here; they would rather have a supervisor go down swinging for them, rather than watch one seemingly side with Lennar, PG&E and the mayor on issues contrary to their interests. That's the terrible irony and one of the biggest problems in District 10. Folks are so mad, they're willing to do whatever it takes to make them feel they have a voice in the outcome, even if it's potentially worse."

Smith cited the sequence of events that culminated last year in the Navy dissolving the community-based shipyard Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), which for years has reviewed technical documents and commented on the Navy's clean-up proposals. But in December, the Navy made its official decision to disband the RAB, citing dysfunctional behavior and off-topic discussions that got in the way.

"Some of the same folks who were frustrated by the process, tried to send a signal to the Navy that they weren't being heard and for all their well-intentioned efforts got the RAB dissolved," Smith said. "I truly feel for them, it's absolutely heartbreaking, but at times, they can be their own worst enemy."

One of the looming issues about the shipyard is that the land has been polluted and needs to be cleaned. The shipyard contains radioactive debris from ships towed to the shipyard, after a 90-foot wave washed over them during an atomic test gone awry. The Navy burned 610,000 gallons of radioactively contaminated ship fuel at the shipyard, and workers showered on the shipyard, raising concerns that radioactive materials got into the drains and sewers. And questions have been raised about radiological tests on animals at the yard.

 

LEAKS AND FLOODS

It's not just the shipyard that's toxic. Even the buildings that were constructed to house workers 50 years ago are a serious mess.

Realtor Diane Wesley Smith, who grew up in public housing projects, took me on a walking tour of Alice Griffith last week to see conditions that tenants will likely have to endure until at least 2014, if the city sticks to its plan to relocate people into a new replacement unit in the same geographical area, if not the exact same site.

What we found was pretty messed up.

"The water sometimes comes out brown and feels like sand. It's been like that for a year," one resident said.

"The water is cloudy, the bath tub isn't working and the sink keeps stopping up," said another.

A woman named Silvia showed us how the water from the tap in her elderly mother's kitchen flows out cloudy and then doesn't settle properly, like foamy beer.

"The roof's been leaking for years, the sewage backs up, but they just fixed the lights," Silvia said. A neighbor named Linda was using her oven as a heater.

"The toilet backs up a lot, and my grandson's been coughing a lot from asthma," Linda said.

"Roaches is always a problem," said a woman named Stormi, dressed in black sweats and a black T-shirt that read, "Can't knock the hustle."

"They're trying," said Stormi, a member of the Alice Griffith Residents Association, as a couple of Housing Authority trucks pulled up to do repairs.

"They promise that you will not have to leave your unit, but if they try to move us down to the waterfront, well, there's a reason there's no housing there, and it's because the land will flood," Stormi said.