Political juggernaut

City officials and the community battle over Lennar's massive development plan
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A complex plan to redevelop part of southeast San Francisco is moving forward on the fast track

sarah@sfbg.com

City officials are scrambling to secure final approvals to allow Lennar Corp. to move forward with its 770-acre Candlestick/Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment of San Francisco's impoverished and polluted southeast sector. But the community remains divided on the project, raising concerns that wary residents will end up being steamrolled by this politically powerful juggernaut.

Some groups say the project needs major amendments, but fear it will be rushed to the finish for political reasons. Others say they are hungry to work and desperate to move into better housing units, so they don't want all the myriad project details to slow that progress. And Mayor Gavin Newsom's administration is arguing that approving the project's final environmental impact report by June 3 is crucial if San Francisco wants to keep the San Francisco 49ers in town.

But many observers fear Lennar wants its entitlements now before its project can be subjected to greater scrutiny that could come with the November elections. Newsom, who made Lennar's project the centerpiece of his housing policy, will be replaced as mayor if he wins the lieutenant governor's race. And a crowded field of candidates, many of them progressives concerned about the project's impacts on the poor and the environment, are vying to replace termed-out Sup. Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes Lennar's massive territory.

"It's 180 percent about the 49ers," land use attorney Sue Hestor told the Guardian, referring to the city's proposed rush job, as evidenced by a rapid entitlement schedule that the Newsom's administration wants city commissions and the board to follow.

Under that schedule, which Hestor procured from the Mayor's Office, Planning and Redevelopment commissioners are expected to certify the project's final 6,000-page EIR, adopt California Environmental Quality Act findings, approve amendments to the project's original disposition and development agreement, and authorize land trust and open space reconfigurations — all during a June 3 meeting where public comment will likely last for many hours.

Saul Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology, a community-based nonprofit that tracks the development, says this schedule stretches the credulity that this is a deliberative process. "There's no way anyone could make a functional reasoned assessment," Bloom told us. "How do you have any meaningful public conversation under those circumstances?"

Michael Cohen, Newsom's chief economic advisor, asserted in an April 29 article in The New York Times that Lennar's plan is a "really, really good project," echoing the glowing praise he's heaped on the project since its conception.

"But there's nothing new in their proposal," Bloom told us. "That's because they haven't been listening to the public's concerns. [Cohen] says, 'Haven't we talked enough? The community's been waiting all these years!' But waiting to get what done?"

Lennar's project — which had early backing from Newsom, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and other political power brokers — was sold as creating "jobs, housing, and parks" and "revitalizing the abandoned shipyard" when voters approved the Lennar-financed Proposition G in 2008.

"Proposition G is from the community and for the community," Lennar's campaign promised. "You can turn the abandoned Hunters Point Shipyard into a clean, healthy, sustainable, livable neighborhood — a place where people can raise their children."

The shipyard once employed thousands of workers, including African Americans who were recruited from the South in the 1940s and '50s. But the district's economic engine fell into disrepair when the military left in 1974. Today the neighboring Hunters Point and Bayview neighborhoods have the highest unemployment and crime rates and the largest concentration of African American families in the city.

Comments

Great report Sarah, with one strong caveat-

The so called 'United Nations' climate center that you reference in the plan is not part of the United Nations at all and is instead a private, corporate sham being cynically hyped by the Mayor's office, Sophie Maxwell, and Redevelopment to paint the Shipyard plan as 'green' so they can more easily ram the project through the Board approval process.

In point of fact, the 'Global Compact' is a global greenwashing sales gimmick (created in the 90's) by and for multinational corporations like Coke, Nike and Nestle, which are members. The Compact is made up of thousands of global corporations which have managed to manipulate the UN into allowing them to use the UN name to cloak destructive corporate practices in false respectability.

On energy and climate the 'Compact' has promoted 'carbon trading and offsets' 'clean coal', nuclear power and genetically engineered 'biofuels'.

For details see http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=14549

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 02, 2010 @ 2:14 am

Is it possible to fit any more cliches into this sentence?:

"Fellow District 10 candidate Eric Smith concurred. "The powers that be are definitely moving this thing forward," he said. "And this is a monster train, a juggernaut that is gathering steam. But how it shakes out down the road remains to be seen. My whole mantra is that there needs to be greater transparency down the line. If I become the sheriff, I'll be shining a light on all this stuff.""

Is this what happens when you give a barely literate person access to a Thesaurus?

Posted by Brid on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 7:53 am

Agreed Brid.

Candidate Smith - instead of stating a long string of platitudes which take absolutely no position whatsoever on the issue...

Please explain to us all -exactly- what actions you intend to take to make certain that any Redevelopment project in the Bayview Hunters Point is safe and serves the local community.

The spotlight you speak of is now on YOU.

What is your concrete platform on this crucial issue?

Answer please.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 9:19 am