Political juggernaut - Page 2

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

But the city's final EIR for the project, which the Planning Department released mid-May, shows that 68 percent of the developer's proposed 10,500 new housing units will be sold at market rates unaffordable to area residents, and that many of these units will be built on state park land at Candlestick Point.

Lennar is also proposing to build a bridge across the environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough, significantly changing the southeast waterfront. Lennar says it plans to develop the project's remaining 3,000 units at below market prices, including one-for-one replacement of rundown Alice Griffith public housing units. Its proposal includes a dozen high-rise towers, 2.7 million square feet of commercial space, 1 million square feet of retail space, a performing arts theater, and an artists colony.

Lennar claims its proposal will create 1,500 construction jobs annually during the project's 20-year build-out, along with 10,000 permanent jobs, thanks to a United Nations Global Compact Sustainability Center and a vaguely defined green technology office park.

The project and its impacts are already an issue in this year's District 10 supervisor's race (see "The battle for the forgotten district," Feb. 23). Candidate Chris Jackson says Lennar's proposal is weak when it comes to creating well-paying, low-skilled green collar jobs. He supports Arc's proposal to including green maritime industrial use at the shipyard.

Arc recommends that the city's final EIR allow recycling and repairing of ships, including the Suisun Bay Ghost fleet — decommissioned U.S. Navy, cruise, and ferry ships — arguing that "ship recycling and repair are resurgent strategic industrial activities yielding employment opportunities for our existing pool of skilled and unskilled workers."

Jackson, who was elected to the Community College Board in 2008 and recently jumped into the District 10 race, wants the city to assert that the project is not a regional housing plan.

"It's a local housing plan for local residents," Jackson asserts. "It's not here to provide housing for Silicon Valley. It's for Bayview-Hunters Point and District 10 residents."

Jackson understands why some local residents want no delays on final EIR approval: "I can never blame folks in Alice Griffith public housing for coming out and saying 'no delays.' They really want something real, housing that is not rat and cockroach infested."

As a policy analyst (a position he's quitting to focus on the District 10 race) for the San Francisco Labor Council — which gave key backing to the project in the 2008 election — Jackson knows labor is frustrated by all the project meetings. "I try to tell them it's better to get this project right than rush it through and find out later that it goes against the interests of labor," Jackson said.

In May 2008, the Labor Council signed a community benefits agreement (CBA) with Lennar. Since then labor leaders have urged no delays on the project's draft EIR review. But Jackson believes the city must demand that financial consequences, such as liquidated damages, be a project approval condition if the developer reneges on the CBA.

"Right now the only push-back the city has is to threaten to kill the whole project if Lennar doesn't meet its timeline," Jackson said. "But people are really invested in this project, and I don't believe anyone would pull the trigger and end the entire development. We don't need to throw everything out; we just need to change them."

Jackson wants to see the inclusion of a special-use district that would create a cooperative land trust to ensure affordability and home ownership opportunities for local residents. "I love open space and sustainability, but I also want affordable housing and real light-industrial opportunities that can employ people living in the district now."