Lennar's massive redevelopment plan gets the green light despite unaddressed concerns
Mirkarimi said the problem with a process in which redevelopment law trumps municipal law is that it creates a shadow government in those few municipalities in California where the Board of Supervisors or City Council is not the same entity as the Redevelopment Commission.
"This is not the first time Redevelopment's plans have trumped the concerns of local residents," Mirkarimi said, referring to the agency's botched handling of the Fillmore District in the 1960s, which led to massive displacement of African and Japanese Americans.
"I've been told, 'Don't worry, Ross, this is not going to happen, we're not going to use eminent domain.' Well, jeez, that's a consolation, because even when we've exercised our legislative influence and given our blessing, [Redevelopment] unilaterally changed the plan after it left the board," Mirkarimi said, referring to Lennar's decision to replace rental units with for-sale condos when it first began work on the shipyard in 2006. "That suggests a condescending role in which the developer is able to go to the Redevelopment Commission and make a unilateral change."
Mirkarimi's concerns seemed justified after Cohen, Bonner, and Redevelopment Director Fred Blackwell huddled in a corner of City Hall during the board's July 27 meeting to decide which of the supervisors' slew of amendments they would accept. When Cohen returned with the amendments organized into three categories (acceptable as written, to be modified, and completely unacceptable), Mirkarimi's no-bridge amendment had been sorted into the "unacceptable" pile.
"With regard to your insistence on the economic reasons [for the bridge], please point to which document says that," Mirkarimi said, leafing in vain through the project materials.
Cohen mentioned "a lessening of attractiveness," "a lower-density product," and a reduction of revenue available through tax increment financing to pay for the bridge.
"Yes, but I'm still trying to look for the information and all I'm hearing is this pitch," Mirkarimi said. "The economic study is absent. There are no supporting documents here. This is why I feel it's justified for us to have a review of this."
Cohen rambled on about "rigorous public discussion over a number of years" and claimed that a "huge amount of studies had been done."
"But there is no economic study," Mirkarimi repeated.
The board then voted 6-5 against Mirkarimi's amendment after deputy City Attorney Charles Sullivan said that the only way to remove the bridge — since the project's environmental impact report had rejected that option — would be to reject the entire plan. "I wish we had been able to eliminate the bridge," Campos told the Guardian after the vote. "Part of the challenge we have is to reexamine how Redevelopment works and explore the potential for taking it over."
Daly believes the bridge has nothing to do with connecting the neighborhood to the city. "The idea is to allow white people to get the fuck out of the neighborhood," he said. "And it connects a different class of people to a new job without having to go through a low-income community of color. That's why the bridge is needed."
Mirkarimi said he was satisfied that he had dissected the arguments against the no-bridge alternative but fears that institutional memory is lacking on the current board. "A lot of my colleagues have not been involved in the debacle," he said, referring to decades of problems with redevelopment in San Francisco. But Maxwell was all smiles. "I did my homework a long time ago — that's why they couldn't touch the core of the project," she said. "They just added to and augmented it."