mn_hunters_point_0003_jc1.jpgA massive redevelopment project at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Candlestick Point in San Francisco has cleared a major hurdle, gaining a judge’s approval of most of an environmental study.

The 702-acre project by the city’s redevelopment agency and Miami-based Lennar Corp. will include 10,500 housing units as well as offices, stores and parks on the southeast shore of San Francisco.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith on Monday upheld most of an environmental impact report on the plan, rejecting several challenges in a lawsuit by two citizens’ groups.

But at the same time, Goldsmith barred development of some sections of the shipyard–estimated by one lawyer to amount to at least 235 acres–until a multi-year cleanup of contamination is complete.

Lennar and the city had envisioned a so-called early transfer of several parcels of land from the Navy to the developers, under which the developers rather than the Navy would complete the cleanup of hazardous waste caused by ship building and repair.

But Goldsmith said that because the EIR did not discuss a possible cleanup by the developers instead of the Navy, the document could not be used as a basis for allowing an early transfer of the contaminated land.

Instead, the judge said, Goldsmith said the development of those parcels may not proceed until “the remediation process is complete and approved by regulating agencies as safe for human health and development.”

Meanwhile, however, the remaining portions of the project “may move forward,” the judge ruled.

Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar’s urban development division, called the ruling “a great victory for the city and the residents of Bayview Hunters Point.”

“We are gratified that Judge Goldsmith has concluded that the Environmental Impact Report is not only adequate but provides a way forward to protect human health, “Bonner said.

“As the Navy completes cleanup of individual parcels, we will be ready to begin development,” he said.

The report was required by the California Environmental Quality Act. Its adequacy was challenged by People Organized to Win Employment Rights, known as POWER, and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

One of their lawyers, George Torgun of Earthjustice, said that the shipyard parcels that the city and Lennar proposed for possible early transfer covered at least 235 acres of the facility.

“We feel we did prevail on a key issue,” Togun said. “Our contention was that the shipyard should be cleaned up before redevelopment happened.

“The community supports the cleanup and redevelopment of the area and they welcome the jobs it will bring,” he said, “but they want some assurance that the site will be safe and the redevelopment work will not harm the workers on the project and surrounding residents.”

Torgun estimated that the Navy’s completion of the cleanup will take several years.
POWER spokesman Jaron Browne said, “This ruling to block early transfer is an important win for this community that had been dealt a stacked deck. It is a victory for our health, for our families, and for our future.”

The project includes 421 acres of the shipyard and 281 acres of adjacent Candlestick Point, where the Candlestick Park stadium would be demolished and the Alice Griffith public housing would be renovated.

Another 75 acres of the shipyard known as Parcel A is a separate development project that is already under way.

Formerly one of the largest shipyards on the West Coast, the Hunters Point facility was operated by the Navy from 1941 to 1974. The Navy also conducted a military nuclear research laboratory at the yard from 1946 to 1969.

From 1976 to 1986, the Navy rented the yard to a private ship repair company, the Triple A Machine Shop.

Pollution at the site includes fuels, solvents, lead paint and radioactive waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA classified the shipyard as a Superfund, or most highly polluted, site under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act in 1989.

The two environmental groups filed their lawsuit challenging the EIR after the document was approved last year by the San Francisco Planning Commission, Redevelopment Commission and Board of Supervisors.

In Monday’s ruling, Goldsmith rejected additional claims in which the groups argued that the report was confusing because it covered too many variations of projects and that it failed to consider the possible impact of liquefaction of soil in the event of an earthquake.

Goldsmith issued the ruling as a tentative decision. Under state law, the two sides now have 15 days to suggest changes, after which the judge will issue a final ruling.

The decision can be appealed, which would result in a further delay of the project.

Torgun said the plaintiff groups have made no decision on whether to appeal.

Greenaction spokeswoman Marie Harrison said her organization will hold a meeting with Bayview Hunters Point community members within the next few days to go over the ruling and discuss possible next steps.

“We will follow through with what community members want,” Harrison said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!