Redevelopment requires “duty of loyalty” from Arc Ecology

Unlocking the Community Window's door
Arc Ecology's executive director Saul Bloom (right) unlocks door of Arc's Third Street office for D.10 candidate DeWitt Lacy

As a longtime member of the Mayor’s Hunters Point Shipyard Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), Scott Madison took exception to a "duty of loyalty" clause in Arc Ecology’s most recent contract with the Redevelopment Agency.

This new requirement in Arc's contract came up for discussion during the CAC’s July 12 meeting, Madison said.The rest of CAC did not rise up in support of his concerns, Madison adds. But he is convinced the requirement will harm the community that surrounds the 770-acre area that the city and Lennar want to develop with their massive Candlestick-Shipyard redevelopment plan.

The Board of Supervisors will consider that plan at their July 27 meeting, along with suggestions that Arc and the Sierra Club have been making for years. These suggestions include strengthening the terms governing the transfer of Parcel E-2, the most polluted shipyard site, and removing what Arc and the Sierra Club believe is an unnecessary bridge over the environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough.

Arc has been monitoring the environmental impacts of the shipyard since 1984, and has provided neighborhood groups with information and technical support related to cleanup and redevelopment since 1986. And more recently, Arc Ecology opened a “community window on the shipyard cleanup" on Third Street, which is also accessible online, to provide information and resources for more meaningful community involvement in the cleanup.

Arc hosts environmental education discussions and community workshops and submits written comments to the Navy about the cleanup and to appropriate agencies on related shipyard redevelopment and reuse plans.

“We are working with the BVHP community to ensure that the transfer, redevelopment, and reuse are to the maximum benefit of the neighboring community,” Arc’s website states.

But in the past few years, as Lennar’s political Candlestick-Shipyard juggernaut has been gathering speed, Arc has ruffled feathers in the Mayor’s Office by developing Alternatives For Study, a document that explores detailed alternativesto the current Candlestick-Shipyard plan.

None of ARC's alternatives are opposed to the development, but they all suggest ways to improve it, including an option that would not involve building a bridge over the slough, or a stadium on the shipyard, and would prevent the taking of 23 acres of state park land which Lennar wants so it can build luxury waterfront condos in the middle of the current Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, a plan that would be unthinkable if it was proposed for Crissy Field.

But the city, and in particular Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, view these alternatives, as signs of disloyalty, as they seek to rush Lennar’s massive 770-acre redevelopment plan over the finishing line, while arguing that any further amendments will make the plan more difficult for Lennar to shop around to investors, especially in light of the depressed economy.

The growing coziness between the city and the developer was put on full public display last week, when Sup. David Campos asked the project’s proponents to step forward at the Board’s July 13 hearing on the project’s EIR.

As Lennar Urban’s Kofi Bonner began to rise from his seat in the public seating area, Cohen, who had just finished answering Campos’ questions about the bridge and the project’s financing liabilities from the city’s bullpen in the Board’s chambers, raced over to the podium before Bonner had a chance to speak.

This uneasy closeness between city and developer, along with Arc’s extensive background in shipyard related matters, are why Madison believes the city’s residents are best served when Arc can express its opinions freely, even if that involves critiquing plans that the city seems to have grown increasingly defensive about, ever since it entered into a partnership with the Florida-based Lennar.

“Yes, it’s true that the city is paying for this contract with Arc, but it seems to me that this particular contractor’s responsibility should be primarily to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and not the city,” Madison said. “What if Arc reaches a conclusion that is odd with the developer, city agencies and other consultants? Would Arc be prohibited from making it public?”

Madison says the city has claimed that Arc would not be prohibited from such activities, and that the contract contains standard language. But he also adds that certain parties who are boosters for the city’s redevelopment plan object to what Arc and Bloom are doing in terms of raising valid science-based concerns.

“At the meeting, Al Norman said he hopes the Redevelopment Agency handcuffs Saul, not just by the hands but by the ankles,” Madison claimed.

And Bloom said that after his group made a video of him walking around wearing a "Can I buy your park?" billboard to illustrate what Lennar's plan will do to the only state park in San Francisco, he was told that if Willie Brown was still mayor, Arc would have lost its contract, and all department heads who had been supportive of awarding it to Arc, would have been fired, too

Bloom notes that under Mayor Brown, he was awarded several contracts and helped author Prop. P, the measure that voters approved in 2000, which called upon the Navy to clean up the shipyard to the highest levels practical.

“Even Willie understood the need for balance,” Bloom said.
Bloom protested the city's "duty of loyalty" requirement at the CAC’s July 12 meeting, but has apparently decided that the clause isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, because he has apparently since signed the contract. UPDATE: I just spoke to Bloom who told me that he has not yet signed the contract and is still working to get Redevelopment to see the problem with this requirement.

"At the CAC meeting, the committee endorsed the proposal to give us the contract," Bloom explained. "But it's up to the Redevelopment Commission to approve the contract, something they are set to consider at their September 7 meeting. We are making the argument that they need to think about the contract in broader terms."

And Madison notes that it’s common sense that if you want a truly independent voice advising Redevelopment on the shipyard cleanup plan, then that voice should be allowed to be genuinely independent.

“The fact that the city is paying the bill for the contract shouldn’t require an organization to sign an extraordinary Duty of Loyalty, which conflicts with its true loyalty to the surrounding community,” Madison said.

The Guardian’s recent immediate disclosure request to Redevelopment should reveal the exact terms of Arc’s Duty of Loyalty requirement. And Matt Dorsey, spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office says such clauses are rare.

“We are unaware of any confidentiality requirements being made, except in very rare circumstances, such as contracts related to the airport where there may be terrorist concerns,” Dorsey said. Stay tuned.