Final lawsuit challenging Hunters Point redevelopment project awaits a judge's ruling
POWER's counterproposal would allow large portions of the project to go through — rebuilding the Alice Griffith housing project and development on Candlestick Point — but Lennar considers it economically unfeasible. These portions of the project are not located on the shipyard but are included in overall plan.
"We want to see the project move forward with Alice Griffith and Candlestick Point," said POWER organizer Jaron Browne. "They've rebuilt housing projects at Cesar Chavez and other areas in the city — why can they only rebuild this one if they can redevelop the shipyard? It's a political game that Lennar has tied the rebuilding of it to this mammoth 770-acre development."
Lennar representatives wouldn't comment for this story. Community members have clashed with the megadeveloper over health issues in recent years. In 2008, Lennar was fined more than $500,000 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for allowing dust containing asbestos to settle on the surrounding neighborhoods. Then, in March, community organizations released a report showing e-mails from 2006 to 2009 between the EPA, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and Lennar revealing a possible cover-up of the asbestos exposure.
"They underestimated our understanding of what is happening here," Browne said. "The whole heart of this issue is that this is a Superfund site. Even if you remove the possibility of early transfer, they are still planning on doing work while remediation is still years to go on other parcels."
Longtime Bayview resident and Greenaction member Marie Harrison said that not only is the EIR too fraught with uncertainty, it's incomplete. "There are over 600 blank pages in that document," she said. "How can you approve an EIR that is supposed to tell you what is there, what the effects will be, and what the project will be? We kept asking the supervisors: How do you convince the community that they are doing something that is good and safe when the history shows otherwise?
During both court hearings, it was evident no clear definition of the project exists since it contains many variables to account for unknowns. Attorneys for Lennar and the city argue that the EIR effectively addresses each potential use and demonstrates a full knowledge of possible contaminants.
Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist for New Orleans-based Environmental Health Advocates, has worked with POWER and Greenaction to understand the breadth of contamination and the typical process of cleanup of a Superfund site. She pointed out that the Navy's cleanup plan is completely separate from the EIR submitted for the project.
"Those two documents don't agree with what development will be," Subra said. "Usually you wait much longer in the process to really know that the land is safe. In a normal Superfund process, you would first do an implementation of the remediation process, find out if it worked, then — years down the line — you would start thinking about development."
If the EIR is deemed inadequate, Lennar and the city will be required to further analyze the contaminants, outline cleanup strategies, and resubmit a new EIR. If the judge rules the EIR satisfies CEQA, the project can move forward.
"CEQA is one of the few really democratic processes," Browne said. "If you just have this one moment in 2011 when people are able to comment and weigh in, and then have 20 years where they are building within that, it's not really fair."