A day before San Francisco supervisors are scheduled to vote on a massive redevelopment project in the city’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, local groups sparred over environmental concerns while the mayor’s office trumpeted the project’s expected economic benefits.
Some residents remain worried the 720-acre project at the former Hunters Point U.S. naval shipyard, which is now a federal Superfund site, is being pushed through without proper environmental safeguards.
Others hope the project will bring a job boost to the economically disadvantaged neighborhood.
The proposal would add 10,500 residential units, nearly a third of which would be priced for low-income residents, as well as 320 acres of parkland and open space.
There would also be space for retail, entertainment and commercial units, and an optional site for a new football stadium should the San Francisco 49ers decide to remain in the city.
Neighborhood and environmental activists opposed to the project gathered on the steps of City Hall this afternoon, calling on the Board of Supervisors to reject the project’s environmental impact report and accusing city leaders of “environmental racism.”
“It’s going to affect all of us,” local resident and activist Esselene Stancil said of the redevelopment.
“Please consider health over wealth,” she said.
Joining the group today was Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist and 1999 MacArthur Fellow who has been working on behalf of Louisiana communities affected by the Gulf oil spill.
“Superfund sites are the worst hazardous waste sites in the United States,” Subra said.
She expressed concern the ongoing cleanup will continue during construction, when federal oversight is passed to the city’s Redevelopment Agency, “Who in turn can hand it off to someone else, such as (project developer) Lennar,” she said.
During the cleanup, both residents and construction workers will be exposed to toxins, Subra said.
“What we’re trying to avoid here is another Love Canal, another Katrina, another BP,” she said. She called for a more thorough cleanup with greater community involvement.
The environmental group’s rally was interrupted, however, by a counter-rally of Bayview residents wearing colorful T-shirts and touting the new jobs the redevelopment project would bring.
The rallies came as the city controller’s office today released an economic analysis of the redevelopment plan that estimated it would add thousands of new jobs.
The project would also contribute $4.3 billion to San Francisco’s economy over the 20-year construction phase and between $6.4 billion and $6.6 billion annually thereafter, the controller’s office said.
In a prepared statement today, Mayor Gavin Newsom said the redevelopment would create a “powerful economic engine” for both the Bayview District and the entire city.
The project “will transform an environmental blight into a new center of jobs, green technology investment, affordable housing and parks,” Newsom said.
“There’s no project more important to our city’s economic future,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing on an appeal of the project’s environmental impact report at 4 p.m. Tuesday. It will then vote on whether to accept or reject the certification of the report.
The city’s planning and redevelopment commissions approved the environmental impact report on June 3.
Subra said the report, while detailing the effects of each toxin at the site individually, did not address “the cumulative impacts” that all of the chemicals together could have on residents’ health.