Let's Hear from Newsom on Lennar

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Wade Crowfoot of the Mayor's Office looks on as School Board member Eric Mar hands him the school board's unanimous resolution asking for a temporary shutdown of Lennar's site until health testing can be done. Crowfoot promised to "pass the message along" to Mayor Gavin Newsom...

Sup. Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi joined educators, spiritual leaders, and families and residents from BayviewHunters Point outside City Hall today to commend the San Francisco School Board for unanimously passing a resolution that asks the City to halt Lennar's BVHP construction at Parcel A of the Hunters Point Shipyard, at least until testing proves that it is safe.

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A dressed down Daly (there was no Board of Supes meeting today) joined the anti-dust rally outside City Hall

Sup. Chris Daly called the resolution “bold."

SFUSF Board Members Kim Shree-Maufus and Eric Mar, reminded the crowd that the School Board represents 57,000 children and said that they want “to move forward, whatever the mistakes, in a collaborative fashion.”

“Every neighborhood has the right to Precautionary Principle protections, whether in Bayview Hunters Point or in Pacific Heights," Mar said.

Antiwar activistsand Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan, who is running against Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2008 congressional elections, and has recently endorsed mayoral challenger Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, commended the BVHP community for its grassroots efforts to seek redress.

“True grassroots power comes from the bottom up,” Sheehan said. “Everyone deserves a healthy environment.”

Bishop Ernest Jackson, whose church sits close to ground zero of the shipyard construction said his community, “will no longer stand for racial and environmental injustice.’

Adela Flores-Balanos’ son, Octavio Salizar, told the crowd that he now has to use four inhalers daily. “Lennar is a bad corporation,” he said.

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Octavio Salizar told the crowd what he thought of Lennar.

Mayoral candidate Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai explained that she launched her mayoral challenge in March, the day after Mayor Newsom announced what Sumchai calls the “dirty transfer of the 420 remaining acres” at the Shipyard to meet the 49ers 2012 stadium deadline.

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“A dirty superfund site would be transferred to Lennar, which would be allowed to take responsibility for the site’s remediation” Sumchai said.

Activist Oscar Grande said, "We have the capacity, knowledge, history, and vision of what our neighborhoods can be. Tell the Mayor, he needs to stand up for us. It’s time to pay attention to us and respect us. We don’t need a hand-out.”

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Sup. Chris Daly warned the crowd that Lennar is getting ready, “to fund a ballot measure to expand its takeover of redevelopment to Candlestick Point.”

“There is a movement for the soul of this City that may be I its early stages, thanks to every day people’s struggles for their community," Daly said.

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Pastor Dan Zollberg of Saint Paulus Lutheran Church asked, “Where is the outcry, San Francisco?"

"The beast of corporate greed is alive and well in San Francisco and it’s consuming the welfare of our children right here in our prized San Francisco," Pastor Zollberg said.

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Rev. Will Scott of Grace Cathedral thanked BVHP resident Marie Harrison for alerting him of the dust issue.

"People across the Bay Area are going to write the Mayor and their congressmembers,” Scott said.

Bayview Grandparent Vivien Donahue said, “We are hoping Mayor Gavin Newsom will intervene in this matter. I see his first priorities are the children. You, as Mayor, know the true facts about the shipyard. I would like to hear you say your famous words, ‘This is unacceptable.’ You have a deadline for the clean up of your shipyard. So do we—for the testing of our children.”

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi referenced the Redevelopment Agency's unsavory history of displacing African Americans from the Western Addition.

"We should have required that the Redevelopment Agency do proper testing of people," Mirkarimi said.

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Describing the current BVHP redevelopment project, as “an economic juggernaut that will displace the people of BVHP outside of the City as longa s we allow this,” Mirkarimi added, " This is not just a question of disease and the challenges of health that people have faced for 25 years, but also about who will get to live in San Francisco.”

Demanding “full testing of people, especially of the children, Mirkarimi recommended that, “we should be taking over the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.”

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Green Action member, BVHP resident, mother and grandmother Marie Harrison stated, “Lennar has got to go.”

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Alex Tom of the Chinese Progressive Association pointed out that Asians and Latinos are living alongside African Americans in the BVHP and are equally at risk from dust and displacement.

Minister Christopher Mohammad of the Nation of Islam called the School Board’s 7-0 resolution to ask for a temporary work stoppage at Lennar's Parcel A site, , “a historic unanimous vote."
Mohammad accused Lennar of having “knowingly exposed the community.”

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“Lennar wanted to fast track its development by any means possible,” Mohammad said. ‘We’re thankful for SFUSD board members, who were under tremendous pressure, that by doing the right thing, they might be punished. They should know that as long as they do the right thing they are never alone, that they always have the community backing them.”

Noting that the Mayor, while not running unopposed, has high rating in the polls, Mohammad asked why Newsom doesn’t take that popularity and use it in this case.

“It appears you are sold to political interests, that you are a typical politician, always waiting to see which way the wind is blowing. Well, it’s blowing away from Lennar and towards bold politicians,” said Mohammad, indicating the SFUSD board members and Sups Daly and Mirkarimi.

Referring to the 49ers, Mohammad said, “We are your fans.” As for Carmen Policy, who Lennar has hired to try and get 49ers to stay in town, Mohammad said, "Policy needs to take on, as his policy, talking to this community. He does not want to sully his reputation with a corporation that has shown no disregard for human life, because of its bottom line.”

Last but not least came Archbishop King,who blasted the media for being all over the July 31 Board of Supervisors meeting that voted 6-5 not to urge a shutdown of Lennar’s site, but is now, claims King, "trying to smother the light” when the community and the School Board stood up.

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“All you had to do,”the Archbishop warned the City, “was to stop temporarily and test. But no, because of your arrogance, our children are being poisoned by Lennar. How swiftly can we stand for justice and truth?”

The rally over, the crowd headed inside and upstairs to the Mayor’s Office to hand deliver a copy of the School Board’s resolution to Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Though Newsom was seen striding into City hall moments before the press conference began, all the crowd found when they got to the Mayor’s Office was a pair of locked front doors and a couple of burly sheriff’s deputies.

When the Mayor’s Office doors finally cracked opened, out inched mayoral aide Wade Crowfoot like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

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"Thank you,” smiled Crowfoot as School Board member Eric Mar handed him a copy of the resolution. “Obviously, we take very seriously what the School Board passes, so we’ll be taking a close look.”

“You said that before and we never spoke again,” replied Alicia Schwarz of People Organized to Win Employment Rights. “We want to sit down with the Mayor within the week.”

Bayview parent Adela Flores-Balanos, who lives half a block from Lennar’s Parcel A construction, related for Crowfoot how her son’s grade averages plummet last year, "because he had so many dust-related asthma attacks, headaches and nose bleeds."

“I want you to assess the children, so my son can play basketball, Flores-Balanos told Crowfoot.

Bishiop Ernest jackson told Crowfoot, ‘We want the Mayor to come to a town hall meeting, and contrary to what the Chronicle says, this isn’t just the Nation of Islam. We are a cross section of the community, Christians, Buddhists, people from everywhere. And ask the Mayor not to lock the doors on us.”

Said Crowfoot: “I will commit to getting these messages to the Mayor.”

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While the community awaits Newsom’s response, here are some excerpts from Newsom’s recent endorsement interview with the Bay Guardian, in which the Guardian told the Mayor that we hadn’t “heard the Mayor’s Office come out and give [Lennar] hell.”

“Well, you should come into our—well, I know you’d love to—you should come into our meetings,” Newsom told us.

Asked why he doesn’t come out of City Hall and say something, Newsom replied, “Because we don’t have time to do that. We have CAC’s, we’re out there all the time, I hope you’re out at those meetings, you’ll see Michael Cohen, who is my principal on this, someone I have tremendous confidence in, someone that I trust is going to hold these guys, as the rest of my administration will, to all of these commitments.

Asked about Lennar’s ability to handle the environmental clean-up of the rest of the shipyard, Newsom insisted that Lennar is “not going to do the clean up.”

[While the Guardian believe Newsom’s comment to be true, in that Lennar won’t do the clean-up directly, we believe Lennar will however but delegate the clean up to its subcontractors, as it did at Parcel A, where Gordon Ball and CH2M Hill were ihired by Lennar. Ball is still on the job, despite numerous violations., including failure to properly run dust monitors, and failure to adequately water the site. CH2M Hill was however fired, after it came to light that they had not properly installed or managed the air monitors for 15 months. But a recent report from the California Department of Public Health indicates that whoever is doing the monitoring at the Parcel A site has been using the wrong monitors--ones designed for indoor use with no moisture, whereas this is a strictly outdoor site, with plenty of moisture when the site is being watered. The point here, is that though the Navy is currently doing the environmental clean-up on the rest of the Shipyard, and though community members, including those on CACs have been advocating for a continuation of this arrangement, it looks like the Navy would no longer continue to do so, if the early transfer, as requested by Lennar and the Mayor goes forward.]

Newsom also told the Guardian that he has “probably spent more time as Mayor in that community than any mayor ever.”

There are not three or four days that go by that I’m not out there in the community,” Newsom said. “I have a great sense of obligation, of moral obligation, to fulfill our promises down there, and the most significant thing we can do is clean up the old shipyard, and we have demonstrated an ability to do so, to a degree that no other municipality has ever been able to achieve, and I’m very proud of that, and I will continue to work until it’s done, and that’s lot more important than the debate, frankly, that is a legitimate debate, on asbestos and dust, uh which is something we’ve all been concerned about.”

Now, if all Newsom is willing to say all this to the Guardian, wouldn't it make equal, or even more sense for him to stand outside City Hall and say all these things to the BVHP community and the rest of the public, direct?