Buyer beware of Candlestick-Shipyard project


Board President David Chiu has introduced five amendments to the city’s Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment proposal. All five are a good start, but longtime observers question if they are too little, too late, in the face of intense lobbying by a city and a developer intent on getting project approvals before a new Board and possibly a new mayor occupy City Hall in January 2011.

Chiu’s amendments address key concerns with the city’s proposed redevelopment plan, and they come as the Board prepares for its July 13 hearing into three separate appeals of the project’s final EIR certification, as well as amendments to the Bayview Hunters Point and Shipyard redevelopment plans.

Two of Chiu's amendments seek to address concerns about the clean-up of radiologically impacted waste at Parcel E-2 on the shipyard, and environmental impacts of a proposed bridge over Yosemite Slough.

Chiu’s other three amendments seek to finance the expansion of the Southeast Health Center, create a workforce development fund and analyze the feasibility of providing public power, including natural gas at the site.

But while all five amendments are welcome, some observers worry they do not fully address concerns about the project’s sustainability, financing and infrastructure.  But before we get to those concerns, let’s review Chiu’s five amendments in greater detail:

1. The Parcel E-2 amendment.
This amendment declares that the Board’s adoption of CEQA findings for the project “shall not in any way imply support of a cap for Parcel E-2.” 

As such, this amendment is a critical step towards insisting that the parcel get completely cleaned up, not just capped, as the Navy is currently proposing. On the other hand, it’s not a watertight demand to excavate and haul away all contamination from this parcel, which is the cleanup alternative that many in the community would prefer..

Instead, Chiu’s Parcel E-2 amendment declares that the U.S. EPA, California EPA and the Navy, “should pursue the highest practicable level of cleanup for Parcel E-2.”
And that the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency “should not accept the property unless and until that cleanup is satisfied.”

It also establishes that the Board shall conduct a hearing regarding final cleanup strategies for Parcel E-2 before a final remedy is selected, urges the U.S. EPA, California EPA and the Navy to participate in such a hearing, and further establishes that the Board shall conduct a separate hearing prior to any transfer of Parcel E-2 to Redevelopment.”

(There was some question as to why the Board was saying “should” in some parts of this amendment, and “shall” in others. The reason I heard was, you can’t force the Navy to do anything, but you can urge them, and you certainly can refuse to accept the property, if it is not cleaned up a city’s requirements.But this needs to be clarified.)

2. The Yosemite Slough Bridge amendment
Chiu notes that the city’s EIR for the project analyzed a non-49ers-stadium alternative that “includes an approximately 41 ft. wide bridge spanning the Yosemite Slough which is limited to bike, pedestrian and transit use.”
“However, in the event the San Francisco 49ers elect to build a new stadium on the shipyard site, the project will include a bridge spanning Yosemite Slough that is wider than 41 ft. across to accommodate game-day traffic,” Chiu’s amendment states.
(So, Chiu’s amendment doesn’t throw the bridge entirely out with the 49ers’ stadium, and that leaves environmental groups uneasy, afraid that the anticipated 25,000 new residents in the proposed development will subsequently push for legislation to allow for a wider, car-accessible bridge.)

3. The Southeast Health Center amendment
Chiu’s Southeast Health Center amendment demands that the developer contribute $250,000 to the Redevelopment Agency for a needs assessment study regarding the need to expand the center and the ongoing health needs of local residents, and, to the extent such expansion is needed, to help pay for predevelopment expenses associated with this expansion.
The capital costs for expanding the center would be funded through a combination of  tax increment dollars, a $2 million Wellness Contribution paid by the developer, and the City’s ability to finance savings that would accrue to the Department of Public Health by moving from leased space into owned space at the expanded center.

4. The Workforce Development Fund amendment
Chiu’s amendment would modify language in the current community benefits agreement to require the developer to contribute $8,925,000 to a workforce development fund to be used for programs “designed to create a gateway to career development, fiirst for residents of District 10 and secondly for “at-risk job applicants.”
(A member of the public suggested that veterans be specified as “at-risk job applicants,” an idea D. 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell seemed to support during yesterday's July 12 Land Use Committee hearing, which was where Chiu introduced his five proposed amendments.)

 5. The Public Power amendment 
Chiu’s public power amendment notes that the SFPUC confirmed the feasibility of providing electric service to the shipyard sire, but requires the agency to update this study and include the Candlestick site and include “an analysis of the feasibility of providing natural gas to the project site.”

But will these steps be enough to ensure that the development actually delivers on its promises of thousands of jobs, and hundreds of affordable housing units,? And is a bridge really necessary across Yosemite Slough, if the 49ers go to Santa Clara as planned?

Long-term observers of the project point to the first phase of the project, which began on the shipyard’s Parcel A, as a warning of where things might end up.

“We approved the fast-tracking of Parcel A based on a bevy of assurances and enthusiastic endorsements from the best and brightest this administration has to offer,” said a source who wishes to remain anonymous. “But what has happened since then, and what are we to learn from this experimental test case?”

This source noted that recent maps of the shipyard show that Parcel A, which the Navy conveyed to the city in 2004, has since been carved up into several new pieces.

“How did Parcel A get divided into two areas that don’t even border one another?” my source asked.

The answer appears to be that sections of the shipyard, including Parcel A,  have since been renamed as new and separate parcels, after it was discovered that shipyard sewers on those parcels contained radiologically contaminated material.

One of these sewer lines, as indicated on recent project maps, leads from a site now known as Parcel UC-3, into the Bayview. In other words, it appears to lead off the shipyard site and into the surrounding community. If so, this raises concerns that shipyard contamination is no longer limited to the shipyard in the Bayview, and could be impacting residents and businesses that are not covered by the Navy's clean-up commitments.

Either way, it seems that the Board could use an update on what happened on Parcel A, since it was conveyed, what’s the deal with UC-3, and other recently renamed parcels, before they consider an early transfer of the rest of the shipyard.

“How can we start Phase 2 of the project, when we haven’t completed Phase 1?” my source asked.

And since the Navy is still tasked with cleaning up the rest of the shipyard parcels, it would be helpful if the Navy updated the Board on what the Navy is proposing in its Records of Decisions for each of these parcels, including UC-3, before the Board votes on Phase 2 of the project.

My source also noted that since the project plans to use 100 percent recycled water at the site, it would be helpful to have an update as to how issues with sewer contamination and groundwater concerns might impact the project’s sustainability plans.

“These issues touch on half of the documents that make up the EIR, but are now obsolete, because of the issue of radioactive contamination on UC-3,” my source claimed.

And then there’s the question of fproject financing and who the developer for the project actually is, these days.

"The city’s exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) was with Lennar, so who is CP Development and why do we have an ENA with them?" my source asked."What happened to Lennar? And why would we be obligated to negotiate solely with this CP Development group?”

Now, hopefully the Board has greatly reassuring answers to all these questions, so that the community can rest assured that the supervisors really do understand the ramifications of a project that they are being asked to approve in what appears to be an awful hurry.

Yes, there are plenty of project supporters who keep on urging “no delays.” I understand their concerns. They want jobs, housing, parks and other promised community benefits. And I don't blame them.

But it’s up to the Board to ensure that it doesn’t get rushed into approving a project that perhaps doesn’t guarantee any or all of these things. So, let’s keep asking questions so the Board of Supervisors doesn’t end up with buyer’s remorse, but instead can truly claim to having secured a deal that really helps all the folks who currently live and work in the city’s southeast sector. Stay tuned.