mn_hunters_point_0003_jc1.jpgA roomful of a couple dozen community members and urban planners met today in the Bayview District to discuss a tactful way to fight to have their voices heard as the city’s largest redevelopment plan for the Bayview-Hunters Point Shipyard works its way up the decision-making chain.

Two weeks ago, the city’s redevelopment and planning commissions approved the environmental impact report for the project, which would include 10,500 new housing units and close to 1 million square feet of retail space.

The plan to redevelop the shipyard has slowly made its way through various city agencies to the Board of Supervisors, and the Land Use and Economic Development Committee conducted informational hearings about it at a June 14 meeting.

Miami-based Lennar Corp. was chosen to develop the site in 1999, and has worked on the site for the past decade.

The 500-acre project would be San Francisco’s largest redevelopment project since Golden Gate Park, according statements made by city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development two weeks ago.

At today’s meeting, planners from across the continent – in town to attend a conference at UC Berkeley for planners, designers and policymakers – outnumbered the ten residents from the Bayview District in the audience.

But some of those ten voices were also the loudest in the Third Avenue office of the activist group, POWER, which hosted the discussion.

Espanola Jackson, 77, introduced by event organizers as the “Mayor of the Bayview,” opened the discussion by saying that the current plan seeks to “totally remake the neighborhood that we’re living in.”

The community has been divided over the project. Some worry about gentrification of the neighborhood, and others say continued exposure to toxins is tantamount to environmental racism.

Community members have complained of illnesses due to toxic materials kicked up by activity on the site, whose soils contain naturally occurring asbestos.

But they agreed they’ll need a united voice to see community input incorporated into the project.

One of the invited speakers at today’s meeting, academic Chester Hartman, who has authored more than 18 books on race and urban planning, stressed the importance of learning from San Francisco’s “history of eviction” of “low-income people and people of color.”

Hartman described Bayview-Hunters Point as “the last bastion of a significant African American” population, and said the effects of relocating the community would ripple throughout the city.

“The answer is not to move people out, but to change the conditions,” he said.

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