Lennar's plan illustrates San Francisco's redevelopment problem


Today, the Board of Supervisors confirmed that though they are elected officials, they have been told that they can't do anything except second a massive redevelopment plan for the Bayview that was developed, first by Mayor Willie Brown and then by Mayor Gavin Newsom's administrations. in cohoots with Lennar, an out-of-state private developer, and approved by a bunch of Brown and Newsom's political appointees.

"At this point, a deal has been done and the Board has been neutralized," Arc Ecology's Saul Bloom said today. "It says a great deal about the process."

Bloom spent today visiting the supervisors to explain the problems with the current Lennar plan, including a bridge that is proposed to be built across the environmentally sensitive Yosemite Slough.

"Sup. Ross Mirkarimi said the bridge plan reminds him of the exact same through way that was argued for during the Fillmore plan," Bloom said."That would never happen now, at least not overtly,

Bloom added that shopping the no-bridge alternative around to the Board today wasn't exactly uplifting.
"The sense we got was that we were dragging a dead body around."

So far, Board President David Chiu has taken major heat by deciding to suggest a narrower bridge rather than no bridge.

But at least he took a stand. That is more than can be said for those colleagues of his on the Board that sat silently through the July 13/14 proceedings, presumably making sure they can be reelected with the help of deep-pocketed developers.

Here's hoping that this latest redevelopment charade convinces the progressives on the Board to reform the Redevelopment Agency, so that private developers and political appointees can no longer trump the legitimate concerns of the residents of San Francisco and their duly elected supervisors

And no matter what people in the Bayview have been led to believe, the sad truth if that the promised jobs and housing aren't likely to happen any time soon.

"The developer is not going to be running hog wild out there," Bloom observed. "Part of the sad trick is that the only rush was for them to have control over the property."

Bloom predicts that the plan will ultimately be headed to court.
"They will have lawsuits and elections to contend with," he said. "The message that the environmental community takes away from all this is that it doesn't pay to play well. No matter how much you spend to try and ensure that litigation is not the only way to obtain the desired outcome, ultimately the message that comes back from the city and the developer is, 'Sue us!' That brings out the worst political conduct not the most appropriate."

The good news? Lennar's Treasure Island's EIR is on the street, and environmental justice advocates should be fully versed in reading such hefty tomes and figuring out where the body is buried. The bad news? Redevelopment and the Mayor's Office still control the process.


For as much as i have looked at this pending vote i have yet to hear a definitive statment about what it is that parties are seeking to amend from the EIR. If is just an objection to the bridge i would love to read some statement stating why the bridge is opposed, and if it is about jobs and housing i would like to see where promises where made, how they were made and where the current EIR might fall short.

Im keenly aware of prop F and prop G from the election in 2008 however without some express statment this argument simply looks like another potential roadblock to ANYTHING happening. What environmental justice is being sought out? what community justice is being railroaded? Of course jobs are wanted in the community, but if work were to start tomorrow would they be competently filled by the community? I've lived here and been here long enough to know that the "unemployment claim" is not really a rally cry but more often than not has become an excuse for apathy and quick money paths. Sure you would find some people to definitely step up, but the greater number who claim to want to work dont really want to work, have no desire to truly work, and no patience to learn a trade, or step into a career.

Simply put i am hearing outcry to this becoming closer to reality (in whatever timeline), without hearing exactly what the objections are, from a bridge, to jobs, to homes and like too often it seems people are jumping on hyping people to an ideal of being ingored, alienated, and at the same time the counterforces arent even educating, or highlighting the issues.

Posted by Guest Rob on Jul. 27, 2010 @ 9:51 am

Opposition's demands have been clear and unambiguous for years.

1) No construction until the entire project area is fully cleaned up to unrestricted residential standards, and all residents and workers are fully protected from asbestos exposure, with no disturbance of asbestos laden rock in the project.

2) No construction, bridges or otherwise, on wetland wildlife habitat, and no interference with ongoing wetland habitat restoration.

3) Real affordable housing, at least 50% of which is affordable to residents earning the median income -in- the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood (not Bay Area 'Area Median Income').

4) MANDATORY local training and hiring, by each trade, of at least 50%.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 27, 2010 @ 10:21 am

I'm fine with your demands except for this:

"3) Real affordable housing, at least 50% of which is affordable to residents earning the median income -in- the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood"

That is basically saying your other demands are irrelevant, as this demand means there is no project, ever.

There is no way any developer could both clean up the land and then do anywhere near 50% affordable housing. Any such demand is just a veiled attempt to kill the project, or any project, permanently.

Posted by lyqwyd on Jul. 27, 2010 @ 11:21 am

Nonsense, Lennar Corporation was just handed $3 billion in junk mortgages and underlying assurances by the FDIC and other federal agencies for a minuscule $250 million.

Quibbling over 50% affordable housing with that kind of bailout backing is absurd...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 27, 2010 @ 11:44 am


Thanks for laying out the objections, but until you listed them i couldnt find that list defined anywhere. With that said I have to wonder what alternatives exist as part of achieving the list, with or without looking at the true merits of the objections?

But since the objections are listed:

1)How far off would construction be delayed waiting for complete cleanup, versus parcel by parcel cleanup? The hill especially is solid rock, asbestos laden serpentine rock, how are they to develop the hill without excavating and disturbing the natural rock? Are there projections for asbestos exposure, beyond OSHA/EPA standards that are triggering this idea that all land must be cleaned to unrestricted residential standards when all of the land appears to not be going to residential uses?

2) I realize there has been efforts ongoing to restore yosemite slough, but yosemite slough is far from pristine. It was a dumping ground for a very very long time, that I can in no way conceive as being a vibrant wetland habitat at this point. It may very well become as such in the future, but is there something to show that building the bridge will disrupt existing wildlife, future wildlife, or if addiitonal measures can be taken as part of the design of a bridge, and if that has been paired against traffic needs for 10,500 homes, additional commercial and retail business as well as a needed truck route for industrial businesses?

3) 50% of all housing be affordable housing and based upon Bayview median income...simply isnt feasible, at least not for a private corporation, bailout money not withstanding. The bailout money is just something to argue about, but the bailout money wasnt granted for their future project sheet it was granted for their existing financial sheets. Just like it was granted to a number of other companies and banks who have in turn tightened lending, or alienated the public. If Lennar is having to do the full remediation, beyond what the Navy would do, while also creating housing that is 50% affordable (to Bayview Median) then expect a trailer park to be built. Last i read the Bayview median income was approximately $44,000/yr which means if we are talking about homes for purchase then 50% of the properties would have to sell around $200k in a city where even the DISTRICT median sell price for older established homes is approximately $540,000. So essentially this idea would be asking a publicly traded corporation to build new housing of year 20XX standards and prices and to sell them at no profit or loss and at 1/3 median market price. So what residents is housing being built for? Not just those that cannot afford to own, but also those that can barely qualify to own, and with that we are supposed to feel secure about that as the start blocks of a vibrant community? Home ownership has always been about achievement, and this isnt to say you dont provide housing for people to start off in, but let us never begin to reward people for not achieving especially in the name of "keeping people in a community" This project is supposed to be about opening up a community that has been neglected for decades, not about building it anew and closing it back off.

4) Mandatory training and hiring of each trade by 50%. Yet again another task that would force Lennars expenditures up in the midst of trying to take away any profits that might be gotten. It would different if all these acres were being developed by habitat for humanity but they arent. There are already trade training programs in the Bayview that exist, but to get this straight there is another expectation that 50% of hiring be local, presumably to bring jobs to those, who otherwise might not even apply, be in existing unions, or be skilled? With the number of jobs to be created by this development why is it not enough that workers apply, unless it is an attempt to make up for the number of unemployed who are unemployed for a combination of reasons that while may include a poor local economy also includes other more tangible reasons. Fact is a 50% training/hiring requirement is an attempt to mitigate gentrification, and keep those (not all) who have survived because they maintained the status quo of an neglected area and not of the populace at large. The City at large has an obligation to how it takes care of its citizens and the measure of one may be how it takes care of its poorest citzens, but even then those citizens have the expectation of giving back and forging a contribution, not of sitting idly by with hands out waiting for the next gift. Set aside some jobs, some apprenticeships, but not at 50%, but at a number to have those who want it, reach for it, because we all saw what happened during the light rail construction with traffic flaggers spending days on cell phones or hanging out with friends, removed from doing a job and collecting a paycheck only because of zipcode.

Posted by Guest Rob on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

First, all of these demands/warnings and -many- more can be found in excruciating detail in the Comments and Responses (C&R) section of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) at:


To your specific points:

1) Delay: There would be some delays - some just months - some years, but the alternative to the delays in that we will get at least hundreds, probably even thousands of residents and workers badly ill with cancers and mesothelioma. Worse even that this, the Natl Academy of Sciences has now predicted sea level rise by 2100 of 1-4 meters (3-13 feet). If any substantial toxic sites are left uncleaned, the combination of sea rise, a serious earthquake soil liquefaction event, and those toxins and radioactive materials; will all combine together to create a disaster event literally like Katrina, Love Canal, and PG&E's Hinkley CA all put in a giant geological blender, and turned on high. This is not hyperbole at all. It is what would actually happen.

1a) Asbestos: The European Union has declared that the type of asbestos in serpentine is so so deadly that, like plutonium and dioxin, it has no safe level of exposure. The EU has completely banned this and all other forms of asbestos. See: http://xrl.us/bhszrw and http://xrl.us/bhszr8 - and San Francisco was built on hills when engineering methods were far less well-developed. There is no reason whatsoever for this project to disturb asbestos laden rock. The Bayview and its views would be far more beautiful on hills anyway.

2) Wetlands, and Yosemite Slough: The point is that those the Bay coastal wetlands are in the middle of absolutely essential restoration projects. Wetland habitat badly needs to be restored to the coastline, both for reestablishment of wildlife, and because wetlands are a powerful mitigator of flooding and sea rise. The primary reason that the Katrina disaster was so devastating was that New Orleans has wiped out all of its wetlands. We need to restore ours to a -vast- extent. The bridge, condos and yacht harbors take us very dangerously in exactly the opposite direction.

3) Affordable Housing: As Supervisor Daly stated yesterday; if Lennar can't financially handle this, then we need to create serious revenue streams and infuse stimulus funding into City projects that will bring the entire project area up to 50% affordable to Bayview residents.

4) Local Hiring: There are thousands of competent local San Franciscans who are out of work and could be easily trained in a few weeks or months for almost all of the jobs on the site (including the initial waste cleanup). This wouldn't cost much more, if more at all, especially when backed up by existing and proposed City workforce programs. Local hiring is not negotiable. Our own residents, and the local businesses where they will spend their money, badly need this.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

Small correction. It turns out that I misread a National Academy of Sciences report and that the prediction of sea rise I cite above is not correct from that document.

However Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists have upgraded their prediction to 2 meters worst case scenario, and James Hansen, the most respected climate change scientist on the planet, who has a history of far better predictions than the IPCC, has predicted that the actual rise by 2100 could become as high as 5 meters; so the numbers in the blog entry above are essentially accurate and actually slightly conservative.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 29, 2010 @ 7:36 am

Reports from the sunny town of San Rafael say that they have had good success in attacking/stopping their city and county from "subsidizing" high density projects by using Article XXXIV (34) of the California Constitution and by arguing that every economic incentive given the developer, be it fee waiver, fee reduction, redevelopment financing or density bonus is an illegal subsidization of the project without approval by the voters of a specific "housing project" as required by Article 34.

The legislative history of Article 34 shows that the word "housing project" meant a specific government-subsidized project on a particular piece of real estate in a particular neighborhood. An old lawyer for a large L.A. area public housing authority called it the "Not in my neighborhood law", because the courts struck down attempts by public housing authorities to get a blanket approval of housing projects scattered across a wide swath of land in a city.

One can argue that the generalized development plans the San Francisco voters approved, at Lennar's request, did not meet the Article 34 test.

So I know it's repugnant to San Francisco progressives to attack low and moderate income housing projects, BUT do you want to defeat or materially complicate Lennar's project or not?

What is needed after the Commissioners' vote is the filing of a writ of mandamus with the Superior Court to compel Article 34 elections on each particular housing project proposed by Lennar (or their successor in interest) throughout Hunters Point, and a declaratory judgment action that the elections cannot be held until Lennar comes up with design particulars of each housing project. The need for "future elections" could put a severe crimp in Lennar's plans, let alone screw up all of Lennar's housing developments if it could be argued that the "subsidies" by the public are really spread across all of the housing projects, including those to be sold at market rate.

FYI here's Article 34 of the California Constitution, like it or not from a class-ist point of view:


Section 1. No low rent housing project shall hereafter be
developed, constructed, or acquired in any manner by any state public
body until, a majority of the qualified electors of the city, town
or county, as the case may be, in which it is proposed to develop,
construct, or acquire the same, voting upon such issue, approve such
project by voting in favor thereof at an election to be held for that
purpose, or at any general or special election.

For the purposes of this Article the term "low rent housing project" shall mean any development composed of urban or rural dwellings, apartments or other living accommodations for persons of low income, financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government or a state public body or to which the Federal Government or a state public body extends assistance by supplying all or part of the labor, by guaranteeing the payment of liens, or otherwise.

For the purposes of this Article only there shall be excluded from the term
"low rent housing project" any such project where there shall be in
existence on the effective date hereof, a contract for financial
assistance between any state public body and the Federal Government
in respect to such project.

For the purposes of this Article only "persons of low income" shall mean persons or families who lack the amount of income which is necessary (as determined by the state public body developing, constructing, or acquiring the housing project) to enable them, without financial assistance, to live in decent, safe and sanitary dwellings, without overcrowding.

For the purposes of this Article the term "state public body" shall mean this State, or any city, city and county, county, district, authority, agency, or any other subdivision or public body of this State.

For the purposes of this Article the term "Federal Government" shall mean the United States of America, or any agency or instrumentality, corporate or otherwise, of the United States of America.


Section 2. The provisions of this Article shall be self-executing
but legislation not in conflict herewith may be enacted to facilitate
its operation.


Section 3. If any portion, section or clause of this article, or
the application thereof to any person or circumstance, shall for any
reason be declared unconstitutional or held invalid, the remainder of
this Article, or the application of such portion, section or clause
to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected thereby.


Section 4. The provisions of this Article shall supersede all
provisions of this Constitution and laws enacted thereunder in
conflict therewith.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

p.s. Article XXXIV (34) of the California Constitution is not a "referendum" provision where people have to go out with petitions and get a requisite number of signatures to put a measure on the ballot.

Instead, Article 34 creates an affirmative obligation of every City and County to put "housing projects" as described in the Constitution on the ballot, for an up or down vote by the voters...with no burning of shoe leather by voters needed at all.

My friend, a realtor for a low income senior housing developer, says cities and counties routinely ignore Article 34 of the Constitution unless dragged into Superior Court and forced to comply. She's working on such a project right now, in Southern California, and says "There's no way the Council will put it on the ballot unless someone takes them to court." So nice to know that local elected officials are law abiding all across the state!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 7:00 pm