The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday passed a resolution urging the United States Navy to reinstate a community board to oversee its cleanup of the toxic Hunters Point Shipyard, but it wasn’t the victory that the community was hoping for.

The original proposal, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos, would have specifically advised the Navy to reinstate the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), a group of residents and activists who have acted as watchdogs to the Navy’s cleanup efforts to the Superfund site for more than a decade. The Navy had dissolved the watchdog group.

“There was a lot of concern from members of the community about accountability of the Navy towards the community, and the cleanup around the shipyard,” Avalos said, adding that the Navy dissolved the RAB board without following the required arbitration process.

“I took my name off the legislation because by amending the legislation we were saying it was okay for the Navy to dissolve the RAB”In a previous meeting, residents told supervisors that during a recent Navy cleanup asbestos was released, windowsills were filled with black dust and children suffered nosebleeds. The Navy had also recently requested to transfer the land back to the city early, before the cleanup was complete.

“All we ask is for clean air to breathe, and for them to protect us, but they just turned their heads,” resident Vivian Donahue had said, noting the neighborhood’s high rate of cancer.

Before the vote took place Tuesday Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents Bayview-Hunters Point, introduced an amendment saying that the Navy should reinstate the RAB “and/or provide other appropriate forums to ensure meaningful public participation in the cleanup process.” That resolution passed 9-2, with Supervisors Avalos and Chris Daly voting no.

“I took my name off the legislation because by amending the legislation we were saying it was okay for the Navy to dissolve the RAB,” Avalos said. “There wouldn’t be any way for the community to have real input into what the Navy is up to around the cleanup.”

Maxwell said the Navy dissolved the group because they felt it was dysfunctional, adding that the same group of people always showed up to RAB meetings, and that other groups in the community felt left out.

“It wasn’t getting the information out into the community,” Maxwell said of the RAB group. “And when people would come, it would be so mean and so ugly, that people would stop coming. The information still needs to get out.”

“You’re dealing with an enlivened community that’s ready to fight. If we can get signatures on the ballot, surely we can recall a deadbeat supervisor.”After the hearing, Maxwell said she would like to see the Navy initiate a new coordination process where the community would help to decide the next steps in the cleanup.

Bayview Hunters Point residents and RAB members who attended the hearing were furious and announced their intention to recall Supervisor Maxwell.

“We’ve been coming here for years trying to work out issues in Bayview Hunters Point, and it’s obvious that it fell on deaf ears,” said Daniel Landry, one of the RAB members. “You’re dealing with an enlivened community that’s ready to fight. If we can get signatures on the ballot, surely we can recall a deadbeat supervisor.”

Marie Harrison, one of the original RAB members, agreed. “People from my community who are suffering had hoped that you would remember your obligation to us,” she said.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • bloomsm

    Seriously? Someone calls Sophie Maxwell a “deadbeat” and urges her recall, over an advisory vote?

    First, let’s get this out of the way–Board of Supervisor advisory votes are the equivalent of legislative masturbation; feels good while you’re doing it, but at the end of the day, what have you got?

    Sophie Maxwell is hardly a deadbeat. Her district includes some of the most violence-plagued areas of our city. She represents a predominantly African-American district in a city that likes to pretend that African-Americans don’t exist (ask 10 people in line at Philz for the quickest way to get to the Bayview; see how many can figure it out without going online). Bayview and Hunter’s Point were overlooked during the great creation of wealth that occurred during the tech bubble, and the neighborhood suffers from neglect of resources and attention.

    The Navy’s environmental legacy is complex and isn’t served by histrionics, or by Supervisor Avalos’ decision to remove his name from the legislation. Recalls have never served this city well; they are a distraction and a form of “political payback”. A classic example of allowing the lust for argument to overshadow the need for a solution.

  • bloomsm

    Seriously? Someone calls Sophie Maxwell a “deadbeat” and urges her recall, over an advisory vote?

    First, let’s get this out of the way–Board of Supervisor advisory votes are the equivalent of legislative masturbation; feels good while you’re doing it, but at the end of the day, what have you got?

    Sophie Maxwell is hardly a deadbeat. Her district includes some of the most violence-plagued areas of our city. She represents a predominantly African-American district in a city that likes to pretend that African-Americans don’t exist (ask 10 people in line at Philz for the quickest way to get to the Bayview; see how many can figure it out without going online). Bayview and Hunter’s Point were overlooked during the great creation of wealth that occurred during the tech bubble, and the neighborhood suffers from neglect of resources and attention.

    The Navy’s environmental legacy is complex and isn’t served by histrionics, or by Supervisor Avalos’ decision to remove his name from the legislation. Recalls have never served this city well; they are a distraction and a form of “political payback”. A classic example of allowing the lust for argument to overshadow the need for a solution.

  • cynner

    @(ask 10 people in line at Philz for the quickest way to get to the Bayview; see how many can figure it out without going online).

    Seriously, why would they care? And I’m sure the reverse would be true for the 10 people hangin’ on da corner in the BayView if asked how to get to That Takes the Cake in Cow Hollow/The Marina.

  • cynner

    @(ask 10 people in line at Philz for the quickest way to get to the Bayview; see how many can figure it out without going online).

    Seriously, why would they care? And I’m sure the reverse would be true for the 10 people hangin’ on da corner in the BayView if asked how to get to That Takes the Cake in Cow Hollow/The Marina.