Representatives of the Ohlone tribe have added their voices to the outcry surrounding the environmental impact report on the redevelopment of the Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point area in San Francisco.
The 700-acre site slated for 10,500 housing units and various commercial developments is believed to contain Ohlone burial or ceremonial sites, according to Ohlone Chairwoman Ann Marie Sayers. Today marks the final day of public comment period for the environmental report.
“The San Francisco Planning Commission must consult with an indigenous people in a manner that will honor our ancestors,” Sayers said this afternoon at a news conference outside City Hall. “Native people, the original inhabitants of the city, are always left out of the planning process.”
Representatives from the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, as well as other American Indian groups and locals opposed to the redevelopment project gathered to protest the tribe’s alleged exclusion from the planning process surrounding the development.
State law requires that groups listed with the Native American Heritage Commission be notified when a public project might affect tribal ceremonial or burial sites, according to Alan Leventhal, an archaeologist with San Jose State University who works with the Ohlone on a variety of issues. He and other speakers contended that the city never contacted the tribe regarding the Hunters Point Shipyard project.
Joy Navarette of the San Francisco Planning Department said that tribal leaders are being contacted as part of the “general plan amendment process.” Letters were sent out Monday to individuals on a list the office received from the Native American Heritage Commission, she said.
The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, which includes Ohlone in the Bay Area, numbers about 550, according to Leventhal. They are not included in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ list of federally recognized tribes, a situation that today’s speakers said reflects a marginalization dating back to Spanish explorers’ arrival in the area.
Muwekma tribal Chairwoman Rosemary Cambra threatened legal action if the group is not given a voice in planning proceedings, promising “another Alcatraz Island occupation” at the redevelopment site.
Today’s news conference was organized by People Organized to Win Employment Rights, a local group that has been vocally opposed to the redevelopment.
POWER was a strong presence at public hearings on the project, asking for more time to review the 4,400-page environmental report. Organizers contend that toxins won’t be adequately removed from the former U.S. Navy shipyard site, now a federal Superfund site, and low-income residents will be squeezed from the area as the developer markets housing unites to higher-income buyers.
“Not only is the Ohlone voice kept out, people who live in Bayview-Hunters Point, they’re voice is being kept out too,” POWER spokeswoman Mishwa Lee said at the news conference.
Supporters of the project, being headed by developer Lennar Corp. say redevelopment will bring jobs, improved housing and cultural amenities to the impoverished area. The plan also calls for a possible new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers and the city is eager to finalize plans as the team considers relocating to Santa Clara.
According to the environmental report, the project site contains four likely shell mounds, potentially containing tools and artifacts from native occupants. The document notes that the site lies in Ohlone indigenous territory.