After hearing from scores of passionate San Francisco residents, the city’s Redevelopment Agency today approved a 15-day extension of the public comment period for the environmental impact report on the redevelopment of the Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point area.
The public comment period, originally set for Nov. 12 to Dec. 28, has been extended to Jan. 12 as a compromise between those who wanted 45 extra days to review the 4,000-page document, and others who are eager to move the huge project ahead.
Board members also voted to continue this afternoon’s public hearing into their Jan. 5 meeting to gather more feedback once people have read and digested the hefty document.
The redevelopment, set on 700 acres in and around the shuttered Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, will include 10,500 new homes, 32 percent of which will be earmarked as affordable housing. Lennar Corp. is the lead developer on the project.
Other details of the plan, approved by San Francisco voters in June 2008 with Proposition G, include parklands, an art center, a performance venue, a bridge across the Yosemite Slough and a possible stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, according to Tiffany Bohee, a project manager with the city’s office of economic development.
“The Bayview community has waited over 30 years for this change,” she said.
Bohee hailed the plan as “one of the most important development projects in the city’s modern history” that would transform a “greatly underserved and isolated area.”
The city is eager to approve the environmental report before June of 2010, when Santa Clara residents will vote on their own 49ers stadium proposal, she said. Additionally, seemingly unrelated elements of the project, including workforce development and public housing improvements, cannot move forward until an approved environmental impact statement is in place.
“Everything stops until this process is complete,” Bohee said.
About 60 people spoke at today’s public hearing. In a brief statement in support of approving the environmental report, Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, noted that the environmental report “becomes a proxy war about the project itself.”
While the purpose of the hearing was strictly on the adequacy of the highly technical report, many people commented on the project itself. A variety of environmental groups aired concerns against a chorus of neighborhood residents desperate for the jobs and housing the redevelopment would bring.
Many residents of the run-down Alice Griffith Housing Project located in the area spoke out against extending the review period, saying it would delay their exit from the facility’s squalid living conditions. The redevelopment includes replacing the run down facility with new public housing.
Diane Wesley Smith, a Bayview resident and realtor who grew up in nearby public housing, asked why potential environmental concerns mean that Alice Griffith residents must remain in a facility with faulty water, sewage and heating systems.
“I resent that my people seem to be held hostage,” she said.
Bayview resident Rhonda Winter said she read the entire report, calling plans for the Yosemite Slough bridge “an environmental nightmare.”
She also said the plans include little mention of bicycle transit options.
Other speakers expressed concern about the chemicals and carcinogens that remain in the ground at the site of the formal naval shipyard. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed the land on its list of Superfund sites, the only property in San Francisco with this dubious distinction.
Board member London Breed said she supported a longer review period after hearing “a lot of inaccuracies in the public comment from both sides.”
Board member Francee Covington specifically asked city staff members to offer facts to counter assertions made by speakers on topics including affects to wildlife and eminent domain.
Some speakers commented that redevelopment and resulting gentrification can push black residents out of the city. Covington acknowledged many people’s fears stemming from the 1950s-era redevelopment of the Fillmore Street area in Western Addition, when the city used eminent domain to raze Victorian-style homes and build public housing projects.
“Sometimes people feel that we have learned nothing from Western Addition,” she said.
Covington said the Hunters Point project includes some “wonderful safeguards” for eminent domain “in stark contrast to the way it was used in Western Addition.”
The San Francisco Planning Commission will also hold a public meeting on the report Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall. The draft environmental impact report is available at the Planning Department’s Web site, http://www.sfgov.org/site/planning_inex.asp.