The plan to redevelop the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco passed a major hurdle today when the city’s redevelopment and planning commissions approved the project’s environmental impact report at a joint meeting.
The Planning Commission approved the certification of the environmental report by a 4-3 vote, while the Redevelopment Commission approved it by a unanimous 7-0 vote.
Proponents and opponents of the project packed the City Hall room where the meeting was held, forcing officials to open an overflow room to accommodate the dozens of people who spoke during a public comment period.
The 500-acre project would be San Francisco’s largest redevelopment project since Golden Gate Park, according to Michael Cohen, director of the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
It would include 10,500 new housing units and close to 1 million square feet of retail space. More than 320 acres of new parks would be developed, and at least nine sports fields are being planned.
Opponents of the project claimed toxins would not adequately be removed from the former U.S. Navy shipyard site, now a federal Superfund site.
So far about 88 acres have been cleaned up and signed off on, and an additional 150 acres have been cleaned but are undergoing testing and certification, Cohen said.
Alex Tom of the Chinese Progressive Association argued that the plan was moving forward too quickly, and cited the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an example of a disaster that was caused by insufficient government regulation.
“We need to be fully confident that it’s clean, that it’s not toxic,” Tom said. “The same thing is happening (in the Gulf). People went through this whole process cutting corners.”
Other speakers claimed toxins from the shipyard property were already making nearby residents sick, and that the proposal would endanger future generations.
The Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and a former city supervisor, asked the two agencies to “not be intimidated by simplistic, reductionistic thinking that would suggest that everyone in Bayview/Hunters Point is sick because of the shipyard.”
Brown cited a couple who attend his church and who have lived “within spitting distance of this shipyard,” and are about to celebrate 60 years of marriage.
Officials from the two commissions said after the public comment period that issues about toxins in the shipyard were not necessarily under their jurisdiction, saying it was the concern of the Navy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Brown argued that this plan has been properly studied and has undergone a long process.
Miami-based Lennar Corp. was chosen to develop the site in 1999, and the project has been developed over the past decade.
“This issue has been vetted,” and not approving the plan would “make it a paralysis of an analysis,” Brown said.
Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, also argued in favor of approving the plan, saying it would help create jobs in the area.
Lennar has pledged to give more than 50 percent of construction and infrastructure jobs to local residents and to provide support for residents to purchase homes in the area.
“On behalf of the council, I believe it’s time,” Paulson said.
The vote came at about 9:20 p.m. after about a six-hour public comment period, followed by about two hours of discussion between the commissioners.
“This is a project that can reconnect the Bayview/Hunters Point and Candlestick Point areas to San Francisco,” Planning Commission President Ron Miguel said just prior to the vote. “They literally have been disconnected for decades. It’s wrong, it shouldn’t have happened.”