Lennar's litmus test

Lennar Corp. is proposing to build 10,500 new homes in southeast San Francisco, mostly on publicly-owned land. Will the Board of Supervisors stand up to its juggernaut?

Lennar Corp. is proposing to build 10,500 new homes in southeast San Francisco, mostly on publicly-owned land


None of the many stakeholders tracking the progress of Lennar Corp.'s massive Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment plan registered surprise when the Board of Supervisors received three appeals to the Planning Commission's June 3 certification of the project's final environmental impact report (FEIR).

Instead, everybody who has been watching the political juggernaut that has been pushing for quick approval of the project over the past month said they anticipated that the FEIR would be appealed, and perhaps litigated. But the real question is whether the project will be substantially changed.

In the seven months since the project's draft EIR was released, the Planning and Redevelopment Commissions have repeatedly rejected all arguments and recommendations made by its critics to improve or delay the plan, rushing the approval along on a tight schedule ("The Candlestick Farce," 12/21/09).

The rush job occurred even as numerous groups and individuals warned that the DEIR comment period was too short, ("DEIR in the headlights," 02/03/10) and complained that the city and the developer had dismissed crucial data and testimony while exploiting fears the San Francisco 49ers would leave town if the city didn't act quickly ("Political juggernaut," 06/02/10).

What's less clear is whether the Board of Supervisors has the political will to heed these appeals and correct what opponents say are serious flaws in the city's FEIR. The appeal that the Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, California Native Plant Society, and San Francisco Tomorrow filed June 21 lists nine deficiencies.

These included the FEIR's failure to look into an alternate Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route around Yosemite Slough or adequately assess impacts resulting from the landfill cap on Parcel E2 and the transfer of 20 acres of public shoreline land in Candlestick Point State Recreation Area (CPSRA) to build high-end housing.

"The FEIR failed to analyze those elements of the project's sustainability plan that could have significant environmental impacts, including two proposed heating and cooling plants (which appear to be power plants) to serve 10,500 housing units and a projectwide recycling collection system," the coalition further charged.

The appeal also voiced concern that the FEIR failed to adequately assess impacts resulting from the construction and maintenance of the development's underground utility matrix, impacts to the bird-nesting in the proposed 34-acre wetland restoration project at the state park, and delays to eight Muni lines.

But the Sierra Club-led coalition also indicated that by removing provisions for a bridge over Yosemite Slough, transfer of land in the state park, and compromised clean-up efforts at Parcel E2, resolution of many of these disputed issues could be expedited.

"If the Board of Supervisors acts promptly, revisions to the EIR may be made quickly and result in a minimal delay in the progress of the project," the coalition stated.

The Sierra Club's Arthur Feinstein told the Guardian that the coalition's top three concerns are "very important, but the six other issues are also very real."

"Here we have a city cutting 10 percent of its bus service while saying that eight bus routes will need to be improved because of the project, and admitting that the development will increase air pollution in a district that has the highest rates of asthma and cancer without identifying mitigations such as reducing parking spaces in the proposal," Feinstein said.

POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) also filed an FEIR appeal June 21 listing a broader range of environmental and economic justice-related concerns.