Environmental Justice Report
Fog City Journal Stories
SF Progressive Columns
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|University of California, Berkeley School of Law|
Law 272.2: Environmental Justice Fall, 2008 Professor Angela Harris
Savannah Blackwell, January 26, 2009
Final Project: Environmental Justice “Real World” Pathfinder: Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco
Please Note: The complete version of this report contains 224 footnotes, including references to sources for all quoted material and the vast majority of the factual information and data (with live links where possible), as well as other additional information. Due to technical issues, we are unable at this time to provide you with the footnoted version on this site. If you would like to review or obtain the complete, footnoted report with live links, please contact Savannah Blackwell at Savannah.Blackwell@gmail.com.
Located in the southeastern part of San Francisco, bounded on the north by Cesar Chavez Street, the county line on the south, U.S. Highway 101 on the west and the Bay of San Francisco on the east, the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood is home to roughly 35,000 residents whose ethnic and cultural diversity is the highest in the city. Roughly half of the population is African-American, 23 percent are Asian and Pacific Islanders, 17 percent are Latino and 10 percent are white. Income levels there are significantly lower than in the rest of the city, and the unemployment rate is significantly higher. Thirty-six percent of Baview residents have no high school diploma.
It is also the most polluted section of the city — the location of a sewage treatment plant that handles the vast majority of San Francisco’s wastewater flow, the heavily contaminated and abandoned U.S. Naval Shipyard, Superfund and Brownfield sites, one fossil-fuel burning power plant that closed only a few years ago and another on the border of the neighborhood that hopefully will shut down by the end of the year, and hundreds of light and heavy industrial companies. The number of dischargers of polluted air and water is four to 10 times higher per capita than in the rest of the city; the number of operations storing acutely hazardous materials is several times higher, as is the number of contaminated industrial sites.
All that pollutant-loading has taken its toll. Health surveys have shown that Bayview Hunters Point residents suffer from rates of cervical and breast cancer that are double those found in the other parts of the Bay Area, an asthma rate that is three times higher than in the rest of the state, and rates of hospitalization for congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes and emphysema that have been determined to be more than three times the statewide average. In addition, children living in the Bayview are far more likely to contract illnesses than children in the rest of the city, and infants are more likely to die.
Part of the reason why some of the city’s biggest LULUs are found in this three square mile section of the city can be attributed to the fact that, since the 1800s, the area has served as the main industrial zone of San Francisco. In the 1800s, shipping and cattle slaughtering dominated the southeast portion of the city, the latter inspiring an apt nickname for the area: “Butcher’s Town.” A partial list of polluting operations that has been or are still located in the Bayview include glue factories, a coal-burning gas manufacturing plant, tanneries and fertilizer plants. Auto-wrecking yards moved in to the area after the slaughter-houses left in the 1940. The Hunters Point Power Plant was built on Evans Avenue in the 1920s.
During World War II, many African Americans moved to the Bayview from out-of-state to work in the shipyard. By 1952, when U.S. Highway 101 was built, cutting the area off from the rest of the city, the neighborhood was becoming predominantly African American. That was the same year the city decided to construct a massive sewage treatment plant in the neighborhood.
In the late 1960s, the Redevelopment Agency took over the Fillmore/Western Addition neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal.” As a result, many African Americans were forced from their homes in a part of San Francisco that had served as the cultural heart of the city’s black community. Many of these families relocated to the Bayview, where housing was cheap. By that time and in the years following, the unchecked and increasing nature of the pollution bombarding the area — from both commercial and public enterprises – and the corresponding lack of public investment in the community, are believed by many activists and analysts to be the direct result of racism. In 2004, the city’s Civil Grand Jury published a report finding that the San Francisco United School District did not provide Bayview Hunters Point children with educational opportunities equal to those offered to students in other parts of San Francisco, due to the lack of basic educational infrastructure in the neighborhood: “There are deeply rooted social problems that result in part from systematic negligence dating back to World War II. The City of San Francisco has failed to invest significantly in this community for over 60 years.”
In 1966, the slaying of a black youth by San Francisco Police Officers caused riots in the Bayview and galvanized many in the community to get involved in the civil rights movement. Not long after, a national environmental movement began to take shape. A growing awareness and anger over racism’s connection to pollution, poverty, and violence made the Bayview, along with Richmond and Oakland, one of the birthplaces of the environmental justice movement. It has remained ground zero for this cause ever since:
"The Civil Rights Movement was born in places in places like Bayview Hunters Point, Potrero Hill, Midway Village and Richmond because poor communities and communities of color were tired and fed up with not being represented, not being heard, and not being given a place at the table. Then it was about the vote—now, it’s about the right to breathe clean air, live on safe ground, and raise our children without fear of the environment where they live and play." (Harrison, Marie, "The New Civil Rights Movement," S.F. Bayview, Date Not Available.)
The good news is that the list of activists, both residents of the neighborhood and those who do not live there but choose to focus on its causes, is far from short, and some have been involved for decades. On some fronts, they have had a marked level of success. Most are not attorneys, though their efforts are sometimes assisted by lawyers who offer their services pro bono or at greatly reduced rates. The level of cooperation among the groups often is quite high, though, at times divisions occur over whether a compromise should be accepted or what exactly should be the focus of action. The biggest battlefronts for environmental justice in the Bayview are associated, not too surprisingly, with the largest sources of pollution – namely, the sewage plant, the power plants and the shipyard, which is slated for a large-scale redevelopment project. I personally got involved with Bayview activists in the 1990s, while working as a reporter for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In the latter part of the decade, efforts to force officials to address pollution created by the power plants gained momentum. Many of the activists listed in this directory worked on that cause. It is my hope that this pathfinder will serve as a directory of resources for information and assistance – a guide for both residents and non-residents interested in finding out about pollution and development issues in Bayview Hunters Point.
Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant
750 Phelps Street Address, near Third Street and Evans Avenue San Francisco, CA 94124
Main Phone Number: (415) 648-6882
Number to call for a tour of the plant: (415) 695-7341 or email: WTPTours@sfwater.org
The following statistics poignantly illustrate why Bayview Hunters Point is the site of the most pitched battle for environmental justice in San Francisco: While the neighborhood represents less than five percent of the city’s total population, the out-dated sewage treatment facility located within its confines handles roughly 80 percent of San Francisco’s daily load of sewage before sending it through a pipe that opens up 800 feet into the Bay.
Foul odors emanating from the plant’s 50-acre site serve as a constant, unpleasant reminder that the Bayview literally has been the city’s dumping ground for decades.
Sophie Maxwell, the member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s whose district includes Bayview Hunters Point, lives within a few blocks of the Southeast sewage plant. In 2006, she told San Francisco Bay Guardian reporter Sarah Phelan that “every time [she] come[s] home and get[s] off the freeway, [she is] constantly reminded the plant is there.”
“You can smell it day and night,” Maxwell told Phelan. “It’s unacceptable.”
Originally constructed in 1952 with most of its operations placed outdoors, the plant was expanded in 1987 after a series of public hearings. To overcome residents’ resistance to the plans, the city agreed to construct a community college campus in the neighborhood. In addition, officials promised that the facility’s increased operations would not be noticeable and would result in “no odors.” The fact that those promises have not been kept is impossible to ignore on hot days when the aroma of fecal matter becomes especially repugnant.
Part of the problem can be traced to odors drifting from 11 open-air tanks where “debris and scum are skimmed off” and “heavier chunks” are allowed to settle to the bottom before being “scraped off as sludge.” The primary source of the stench, however, is nine huge, pancake-shaped digesters where a “bubbling brew” of solids gets treated. The digesters are located on seismically unsound ground across from residential housing, a situation that never would have occurred in more upscale parts of the city, activists say. Supervisor Maxwell has said that she does not know of anywhere else in the country where “you’ll see a wastewater treatment plant within 25 feet of people’s homes.”
Meanwhile, the situation with sewage is totally different on the southwest side of town, where the market value of the average home is significantly higher than in the Bayview. There, a state-of-the-art treatment plant stands on seismically safe ground off the Great Highway, in a spot a mile and a half away from the nearest residence.
Completed in 1993, the Oceanside facility handles 20 percent of the city’s daily wastewater load before sending it through an underground pipe releasing 4.5 miles out in the ocean, in an area where the city has special permission to do so. Thanks to a mostly underground, indoor and award-winning design as well as considerable ventilation, what’s going on inside cannot be smelled from the outside.
When it rains, the sewage system’s disproportionate impact on Bayview Hunters Point becomes even more apparent, in part because the city’s vast maze of underground pipes and tunnels is a “combined” system — meaning the conduits handle sewage and urban stormwater run-off simultaneously. During dry weather, roughly 80 million gallons of wastewater flow through the city’s system each day. When a good-sized storm hits, however, the total volume swells to 500 gallons, and the pipes become overwhelmed, resulting in flooding and smelly sewage overflows occurring some 10 to 20 times annually in the flatter parts of the city, primarily the Bayview.
Despite construction of huge wastewater storage boxes around the city’s perimeter in the 1980s and 1990s, during downpours the city releases a mix of six percent minimally treated sewage and 94 percent stormwater from 36 overflow points situated along San Francisco’s waterfronts. Twenty-nine of those are located near Bay waters in the city’s southeast quadrant. Clusters of the overflow outlets can be found in Bayview Hunters Point, including at Mission Creek, where houseboats are moored and kayakers paddle around, and Islais Creek, where people fish next to signs warning them that what they catch might be contaminated with mercury. Longtime residents talk of seeing “garbage, leaves, condoms and dead rats” floating in the creeks after heavy rains.
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) officials have speculated that the disproportionate number of overflow points in the southeastern part of the city can be attributed to historical ignorance: when the outlets were built, less was known about the impacts of wastewater contaminants on the Bay, and officials did not know that old docklands would one day be redeveloped.
To address the flooding and overflow issue, the problems at the Southeast treatment plant, and the fact that throughout the city’s underground system, the pipes – many of which are more than 70 years old with some dating back to the mid-nineteenth century – are crumbling and in need of repair, the SFPUC has been working since 2005 on a new Sewage System Master Plan that is expected to cost more than $3 billion and take 30 years to implement.
Options for relieving the burden on the Southeast Treatment Plant include closing the facility, partially or greatly limiting its operations while increasing flows to the city’s North Point Treatment Facility (currently used only in wet weather), and/or diverting part of the wastewater stream to the Oceanside plant. The latter alternative has the potential to draw opposition from residents living near any proposed new cross-town conduit, though SFPUC representatives have stated that such possible construction would occur only under city-owned rights-of-way. In May, 2008, staff at the agency recommended reducing the Southeast treatment plant’s load by 12 percent and diverting that portion to the Oceanside plant.
Whichever plan ultimately is chosen, the SFPUC has committed to replacing the nasty-smelling digesters. The rub, of course, is where the new digester facility will be located. One proposal calls for building new digesters on the south side of the existing Southeast sewage plant; the other would site a new digester facility on the back lot of Pier 94, which is owned by the Port of San Francisco. The latter idea would get the digesters away from homes, but the plan bears a considerably higher price tag: $1.3 billion compared to $700 million. While agency representatives have pledged to work with residents to find a solution acceptable to the community, some members of the SFPUC’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) already have made it clear they want the digester decision (as well as other choices that will be made as part of the sewage master plan process) to be based on public health and safety and environmental justice concerns, and not the relative cost of the proposals.
“I’m pushing for the pier,” Lantsberg said.
In July, 2007, when SFPUC staffers recommended keeping the flow to the Southeast plant at current levels and partially rebuilding and upgrading the facility, Jennifer Clary, spokesperson for Clean Water Action and a member of the CAC, took a dim view of the proposal.
“They’ll say it’s cheaper to keep this plant at its current site and do some cosmetic work and swear to the neighbors that [they] won’t be able to smell it,” Clary told S.F. Examiner reporter Bonnie Eslinger at the time. “A new plant would smell less, but if you’ve screwed the neighborhood this long and this much, how’s the neighborhood going to trust you?”
The environmentalists involved in the sewage plant issue as well as Supervisor Maxwell appear united in their determination to make sure that the Sewage Master Plan serves the cause of environmental justice in Bayview Hunters Point. Some, such as Clary and Lantsberg, have worked together for many years on pollution issues affecting the neighborhood.
To better interface with the community on the digester issue, a special, citizen-member task force has been created under the auspices of the CAC to focus solely on where the new facility should be sited. According to CAC Chair Lantsberg, a recommendation from the Digester Task Force is expected in roughly six months.
Activists are concerned that the Sewage Master Plan will amount to little more than a listing of capital improvement projects, without an overall re-thinking of wastewater management and a mind toward environmental justice.
Lantsberg and Clary have called for an “out of the pipe” approach:
"Just a few of the possibilities can include: compact facilities to treat our ‘wastewater’ closer to where it is first generated and where it can be reused rather than all in one community where it can become a nuisance; transforming our streets, parks, and schoolyards into a network of green healthy corridors that are vital parts of our drainage management system; and stormwater harvesting through green roofs, cisterns, and permeable surfaces." (Lantsberg, Alex, The Sewer Master Plan: Why San Francisco Needs to Think 'Outside the Pipe,'" SFBG editorial, Aug. 9, 2006.
While SFPUC officials have been receptive to the idea of “greening” the watersheds as a way to reduce both the rate and volume of flow into the system, there is considerably less interest within the agency for the kind of completely decentralized approach to treatment with a heavy emphasis on reuse and reclamation that is envisioned by activists such as Lantsberg and Clary. Instead, the agency’s representatives steadfastly have maintained the belief that treating wastewater in a few large facilities in the city makes for the best strategy. As Lantsberg sees it, a high level of community involvement and public support will be required to get the agency to “overcom[e] the institutional bias towards the status quo” and get a non-environmentally racist solution to the city’s wastewater issues.
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
(provides retail drinking water and sewer service to San Franciscans and hydroelectric power to city agencies)
1111 Market Street, 11th Floor San Francisco, CA 94103 www.sfwater.org
General Manager: Ed Harrington
Main Phone Number: (415) 554-3155
Community and Public Outreach: (415) 554-3289
Key Staff Contacts
Tyrone Jue, Interim Communications Director: (415) 554-3247; email@example.com
Tommy Moala, Associate General Manager for Wastewater Enterprise: (415) 554-2465; firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Kubick, Sewer System Improvement Project Director: email@example.com
Jon Loiacono, PUC Project Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
111 New Montgomery Street San Francisco, CA 94105-2618 (415) 369-9160 www.cleanwateraction.org
Spokesperson: Jennifer Clary, ext. 311; email@example.com
Jennifer Clary first got involved in the Bayview’s fight for environmental justice in the late 1990s, when she became part of the grassroots movement to close the Hunters Point Power Plant. At that time, the Dot Com Boom was causing unplanned over-development that disproportionately was affecting the city’s southeast sector, and Clary also became a vocal advocate for a more sustainable approach to urban planning that would protect longtime residents and neighborhoods from gentrification.
With Alex Lantsberg, Clary serves as co-chair of SFSWAle (see description below). She has been pushing for the eventual closure of the Southeast sewage treatment plant as a member of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee.
In 2003, Clary convinced Clean Water Action (CWA), a national environmental organization, to take up the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant issue as a local cause. The CWA project involves promotion of an environmentally just and sustainable use of all of San Francisco’s water resources, including as Clary put it, “working with community advocates and the SFPUC to develop policies and plans that will change our wastewater system from being a drag on the neighborhood to becoming a benefit.” Foundations and donations from members provide most of the funding for the project, Clary said.
Clean Water Action is one of the largest environmental groups in the country with more than one million members, volunteers and considerably staffing. Formed at the time of passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the organization uses a grassroots-based approach to pushing for passage and strengthening of national, state and local legislation aimed at protecting drinking water and air quality, restoring natural aquatic resources and ecosystems and cleaning up toxic sites. CWA’s founder, David Zwick, authored Water Wasteland with consumer advocate Ralph Nader in 1971.
The book attributed the existence of widespread water pollution to the ability of corporate polluters to have their way with elected representatives and government bureaucrats. Since then, CWA has fought to counter the influence of environmentally unfriendly industry interests on the American political system.
Recently, the organization has been engaged in a public awareness campaign to stop the U.S. Senate from passing an amendment to the Clean Air Act that would undercut the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce greenhouse emission regulations at a time of growing alarm over the effects of global warming.
San Francisco Sustainable Watersheds Alliance (SFWAle)
Co-Chair Alex Lantsberg: Alex@sfswale.org
Like Clary, Lantsberg’s first foray into the battle for environmental justice in Bayview Hunters Point occurred in the late 1990s when he, too, got involved in the push to shut down the Hunters Point Power Plant. A resident of the neighborhood for more than a decade, Lantsberg currently lives about one mile from the digesters. Thus, he personally experiences the plant’s impact on the community.
In 2000, Lantsberg directed the successful effort to pass Proposition P, a local initiative making it the official policy of San Francisco not to accept the transfer of any parcels of shipyard land from the U.S. Navy until the site is cleaned up to the highest possible level. Currently, Lantsberg works for the Carpenters’ Union, which is interested in the potential for construction work generated by the implementation of the city’s Sewage Master Plan.
Sustainable Watersheds Alliance (SFSWAle) has been described as an “environmental watchdog for a wise wastewater plan.” Formed in 1997 to focus on construction proposed for the city’s bayside waterfront, the group’s past and current work can be described generally as advocating for more ecologically sound wastewater treatment in association with large development projects. Its successes include getting the Port of San Francisco to develop an environmentally sensitive stormwater management plan for the southeastern waterfront area and the collaboration with Supervisor Maxwell and Tom Ammiano, a former supervisor who now serves in the state assembly, that led to establishment of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee.
SFSWAle has put together a “white paper” laying out policies the organization believes must form the basis of the city’s new Sewer Master Plan. Those goals include eliminating or greatly reducing the disproportionate burden of the current system on Bayview Hunters Point, addressing the impacts of climate change (which is projected to have a significant impact on the low-lying neighborhood), and fostering a “nature-based approach to wastewater management that prevents pollution, creates wildlife habitat, provides open space amenities and environmental education opportunities” as well as “a sustainable source of water for landscaping.” SFWAle collaborates with other activists; its work is endorsed by a long list of environmental and neighborhood groups, several of which are located in the Bayview. According to Lantsberg, SFWAle is funded “through the sweat equity of its volunteers,” but is planning to use funds from the city’s local jobs stimulus program to hire someone to provide staffing and organizational support.
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell
San Francisco City Hall 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors: (415) 554-5184
Maxwell’s Office: (415) 554-7670
Elected in 2000 when San Francisco returned to choosing its civic leaders on a district-by-district, as opposed to city-wide basis, Maxwell was part of a reform slate of candidates promising to provide an independent, anti-corporate and pro-neighborhood check on former mayor Willie Brown’s sweeping power over city politics.
Maxwell is the daughter of Enola Maxwell, a beloved civil rights leader and Potrero Hill-based activist who passed away in 2003. A former electrician, she played a role in the battle over the polluting Hunters Point Power plant. As the holder of District 10’s seat on the Board of Supervisors, she represents Bayview Hunters Point, Potrero Hill, Visitacion Valley, Silver Terrace, Dogpatch and the Portola.
Maxwell’s page on San Francisco’s official website (www.sfgov.org) says that during her time in office, she “has worked for more equitable distribution of public resources, increasing economic development opportunities for all San Franciscans, and nurturing and empowering [the] city’s most vulnerable residents” while advocating for “environmental justice, clean energy, and children’s health and educational programs.”
Progressive planning activists backed Maxwell’s 2000 bid for office, and since then, she generally has been viewed as tough on developers wanting to build in Potrero Hill, a neighborhood considerably more upscale than the Bayview. At the same time, however, she has been criticized by some factions of Bayview Hunters Point activists, particular those who are worried about gentrification and clean-up commitments, for being too willing to go along with demands made by the Lennar Corp. during its negotiations with the city to redevelop the shipyard. For example, in 2006 she supported Lennar’s decision to renege on building 400 units of rental housing in the Bayview. Recently, a move has been made to resurrect a failed, 2004 signature-gathering drive to recall her from office. Even though she will be termed out at the end of 2010, supporters of the recall say it is necessary to send a message to Maxwell that she has not put the best interests of Bayview residents first in her dealings concerning the shipyard.
Potrero Power Plant
1201A Illinois Street San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 695-2667 www.mirant.com
Plant Manager: Mike Montany
For decades, Bayview Hunters Point residents were subjected to air-borne contaminants constantly spewing from the two fossil-fuel burning power plants located in the city. Two of the oldest generators of electric power in the state, the Hunters Point Power Plant on Evans Avenue and the Potrero Power Plant produced more than 2,000 tons of air pollution annually and were considered by air quality officials to be San Francisco’s two largest stationary sources of such foul emissions. For years, neighborhood and environmental activists have believed the plants to be major contributors to the high rates of asthma, other respiratory illnesses and breast cancer that have plagued the community. Though the Potrero plant is not located within the confines of Bayview Hunters Point, its smokestack is situated in close enough proximity that daily breezes carry its sooty emissions to the area.
Two years after the California State Legislature passed AB 1890, the 1996 law that deregulated the generation portion of the state’s electricity industry, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) put its two San Francisco power plants on the auction block. Concerned that a new out-of-state owner would run the facilities at a higher capacity than PG&E, Bayview-based environmental justice activists seized on the sale as an opportunity to force an immediate, significant reduction in the plants’ operations. With legal help from Golden Gate University School of Law’s environmental justice clinic, the activists convinced officials at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to recommend that the city buy the plants with the idea of shutting down the Hunters Point facility and consolidating power generation at the Potrero site.
As plans to cinch a deal were rolling along, former Mayor Willie Brown stopped the movement in its tracks by reaching an agreement behind-the-scenes with PG&E lobbyists to decommission the Hunters Point plant as soon as it was no longer needed to sustain electric reliability in the city and, in the meantime, run the plant only when the Independent System Operator (ISO) indicated it was necessary to do so.
In 2000, PG&E shut down two units at the Hunters Point Power Plant, and in 2006, following completion of a series of new transmission projects and upgrades, the corporation closed the facility completely. As the land beneath the plant was the site of periodic spills of oil, asbestos, and other harmful ground pollutants over the years — making it the locale containing the largest amount of hazardous materials of any monitored by the city’s health department, PG&E pledged at the time of the facility’s closure to clean up the property to meet state environmental protection standards for residential use.
Once the Hunters Point plant closed down, activists shifted their focus to the Potrero Plant, which was purchased by the Atlanta-based Mirant Corp. in 1999. Under the terms of the 1998 agreement with PG&E, the city was barred from imposing any conditions on the sale, including environmental protections. Even so, Mirant officials say that in order to comply with recently increased standards set by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, they have greatly reduced the plant’s nitrogen oxide emissions.
For several years, efforts to shutter the Potrero plant were stymied by the Cal-ISO’s insistence that to make sure the lights stayed on in San Francisco, the city needed a local source of generation roughly equal to two-thirds of the 360-megawatt capacity of Mirant’s facility.
In 2007, SFPUC officials and a majority of the Board of Supervisors settled on a plan to install three new, gas-fired combustion turbines with a combined capacity of 200 megawatts near the site of the Potrero plant. While many Bayview activists were resistant to the idea of locating replacement generation near their neighborhood, some reluctantly accepted the proposal, since the new turbines would run cleaner than the old plant.
Meanwhile, Espanola Jackson, a longtime Bayview Hunters Point resident and environmental activist, kept insisting at public hearings that she recalled being told by a Cal-ISO official several years before that if a major, new transmission line were brought into the city, the Potrero power plant could be shut down without the need to replace it. She got Joshua Arce, the Executive Director of Brightline Defense, involved, and together they convinced other local environmentalists, including Greenaction’s Marie Harrison — another longtime Bayview Hunters Point community advocate — and members of the Sierra Club, as well as Van Jones, a nationally-known activist for environmental justice, to oppose the new combustion turbine project.
With the help of sympathetic members of the Board of Supervisors, the activists uncovered that the Cal-ISO’s assumptions of how much power needed to be generated in San Francisco were out-of-date and did not factor in the privately-funded Transbay Cable, which was expected to bring 400 megawatts of power into the city from Pittsburg and be up and running by February, 2010. In May, 2008, the environmentalists met with Mayor Gavin Newsom and convinced him to demand that the Cal-ISO re-calculate its numbers. Soon after, the agency acknowledged that the largest generating unit at the Potrero Power Plant could be shut down once the Transbay Cable “went live,” and in August, 2008, the Board of Supervisors dumped the combustion turbines contract.
About one year later, City Attorney Dennis Herrera settled San Francisco’s lawsuit against Mirant over the company’s failure to retrofit buildings on its property. As part of the agreement, Mirant officials pledged to close the plant by the end of 2010, pay $1 million for health initiatives in the neighborhood, and help the city get the Cal-ISO to agree to the mothballing of the entire facility – in exchange for expedited permitting from the city to allow redevelopment of the site. However, in September, 2009, the Cal-ISO announced it would not make any decision over whether to allow the remaining three units to be closed down until it got a report back from PG&E on its San Francisco re-cabling project. Roughly around that time, the agency also dropped its estimate of how much generation would be needed in San Francisco to 25 megawatts, an amount roughly equivalent to the capacity of a hospital generator.
Harrison and Arce vowed to fight the Cal-ISO if it continued to “hold the city hostage,” as Arce put it, by refusing to commit to allowing the Potrero Power Plant to be completely taken off-line. It appears they have been successful: On January 12, Yakout Mansour, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cal-ISO, wrote to Newsom and said the agency agreed that the remaining three units could be shut once PG&E finishes the re-cabling project at the end of the year, but he warned that the reliability of electricity service in the city may become jeopardized during storms or other emergencies. Arce has said that he and other activists need to stay vigilant and keep attending meetings of the Cal-ISO to make sure the agency sticks to its decision.
In his recent state-of-the-city address, Newsom announced that he hopes the land currently occupied by the Potrero Power Plant and the area around it will be developed into a hub for green business enterprises. Before that can happen, however, the heavily contaminated site must be cleaned up, a project for which PG&E bears legal responsibility. The soil contains tar-related, carcinogenic chemicals – at levels toxic to both humans and marine life — that have been seeping into the Bay for decades. PG&E officials have announced a plan to construct a barrier to stop the seepage and have set a tentative date for completing clean-up in 2012.
1095 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94103-1630
(415) 248-5010 www.greenaction.org
Marie Harrison, Environmental Justice and Green Energy Community Organizer: (415) 248-5010, ext. 107; firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 40 years ago, Marie Harrison moved to Bayview Hunters Point at a time when redevelopment of the Fillmore/Western Addition was forcing the relocation of many residents from the area, following the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s take-over of a neighborhood that was once the heart of San Francisco’s African-American community. That experience turned her into a tireless advocate for civil rights and environmental justice, and it also has led her to believe that the combined efforts of the Redevelopment Agency and the Lennar Corp. to overhaul the shipyard likely will result in gentrification and failed promises to clean up the site. In a recent comment to the city’s Draft Environmental Impact Report on the redevelopment of the shipyard, Harrison (and other Bayview activists who joined her response) challenged the assertion that new housing in the area would not be subject to flooding, given projections of rising sea levels made by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Harrison and the other activists raised the issue of whether rising sea waters would increase the movement and spreading of toxic chemicals found in the shipyard, including radioactive wastes, arsenic, PCBs and toxic heavy metals. They also pointed out that throughout history, corporate interests have violated the human and civil rights of people of color: “Predominantly white, rich developers have, through political subterfuge, stolen [our] land for development and left poverty-ridden population[s] without homes, property or jobs.”
In addition to taking a lead role in matters concerning development and the fight to close the Hunters Point and Potrero Power plants, Harrison has a long record of activism in a wide range of community issues, including efforts to improve public housing as well as convince the city’s public utilities commission to provide public power to residents. When she ran for District 10 supervisor in 2000, she was backed by the San Francisco Tenants Union and other progressive organizations, though her campaign foundered due to lack of funding.
For a decade, Harrison penned fiery columns in the San Francisco Bayview newspaper where she regularly took to task corporate polluters, lax government oversight agencies, and elected officials whose policies hurt the community. For example, when the Bay Air Quality Management District announced in 2004 that it was renewing PG&E’s permit to run the Hunters Point Power Plant, Harrison blasted the decision as “the most shocking display of cowardice by a state regulatory agency [she] ever had the misfortune to witness,” and she called on the community to “be strong and stay together.”
After joining Greenaction in 2001, Harrison spear-headed an effort to get mothers living in Bayview Hunters Point involved in assessing pollution in the community. The project resulted in the publication of Pollution, Health, Environmental Racism and Injustice: A Toxic Inventory of Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco in 2004.
Greenaction was founded in 1996 by Bradley Angel, after he quit Greenpeace in protest over the organization’s massive staff cuts and what he considered to be an abandonment of the group’s commitment to environmental justice. Greenaction’s first “action” was the Ward Valley stand-off, a 113-day protest over a proposed nuclear dump site that involved five Native American tribes and resulted in passage of a law prohibiting any such plan for the area. Intent on “mobiliz[ing] community power to win victories that change government and corporate policies and practices to protect health and to promote environmental justice,” the nonprofit seeks to adhere to the principles of environmental justice set forth at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held in Washington, D.C. in 1991. Greenaction focuses on grassroots mobilization, non-violent, direct action and conducting education and outreach campaigns aimed at holding corporate polluters and government officials accountable on issues of health and environmental justice.
To ensure its high ideals, Greenaction has a policy of never taking money from polluters or “other destroyers of the environment” and only gets involved in an issue upon request from members of the impacted community. For more than 25 years, it has partnered with Bayview activists in their battle over the power plants. For example, to keep up the pressure on Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to fulfill its promise to shut down the Hunters Point Power Plant, Greenaction and neighborhood activists physically blocked the gates to the facility in April, 2006.
Greenaction and Harrison have been active in efforts to force the Lennar Corp. to protect the community from huge clouds of dust caused by its construction activities. In June, 2009, Harrison and Greenaction organized a coalition of 200 religious, environmental and neighborhoods activists that delivered a giant “STOP WORK ORDER” sign to Lennar and blocked the front gate of the construction site.
Greenaction also has embarked on a campaign to “stop diesel pollution” in the Bayview. In addition to being located off two major highways, the neighborhood is home to a large post office where trucks idle in the parking lot, a host of trucking and commercial tour bus company headquarters where diesel trucks and buses are parked with their engines running, and several diesel bus depots.
Said Harrison, “Here in the Bayview, we really are bombarded.”
Espanola Jackson (415) 467-0535
A fixture of the community and known to many as the “Godmother of Bayview Hunters Point,” Espanola Jackson has lived in the neighborhood since 1948. She has been involved in a long list of environmental justice and civil rights causes over the decades, including efforts to protect shell mounds associated with the Ohlone — the Native Americans who lived in the Bay Area at the time of the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 1600s and 1700s. In addition to the role she played in the push to close the Potrero Power Plant, she was behind the efforts that resulted in the establishment of the city’s Human Rights Commission and the citizen-member Restoration Advisory Board, which was created to advise the Navy on issues associated with the shipyard.
More recently, she has spoken out against Lennar Corp.’s failure to monitor and control dust and asbestos while doing construction work at the shipyard, and she remains convinced that the corporation’s massive redevelopment project will result in gentrification of the neighborhood. “Only white folks will be able to afford the housing units that Lennar is proposing to build,” Jackson told San Francisco Bay Guardian reporter Sarah Phelan in 2007.
Last year, after reading in the newspaper that low-income homeowners were not taking advantage of local, state and federal solar panel rebate offers, Jackson decided to make herself the city’s “Solar Ambassador.” Brightline Defense’s Joshua Arce helped her with the paperwork, and a Berkeley-based organization called Grid Alternatives, which installs solar panels for low-income residents for free, got the system up and running. San Francisco’s local news channels reported on Espanola’s decision to “go solar,” an occasion she heralded as a demonstration of the efficacy of community cooperation.
1028A Howard Street San Francisco, CA 94103
Main Office Number: 1-877-837-0110 or (415) 837-0600
Email: info(at)brightlinedefense.org http://www.brightlinedefense.org
Joshua Arce, Executive Director: (415) 860-2150
After graduating from Hastings College of the Law, Joshua Arce worked for several years as a civil rights attorney focusing on housing and workplace discrimination. In 2005, with the proceeds from of a settlement with a national mortgage lender over an anti-Latino discrimination suit, Arce founded Brightline Defense. Two years later, he met Espanola Jackson (see above) and joined her in the battle to close the Potrero Power Plant. Brightline’s motto is “protecting and empowering communities,” and its mission is to promote sustainability and opportunities in underserved communities through public policy advocacy, partnerships, and when necessary, legal action. The nonprofit has a three-pronged focus: (1) advancing environmental justice, (2) ensuring job creation and retention, and (3) fighting off gentrification of low-income neighborhoods by advocating for the development of fair and affordable housing.
Recently, Arce and Brightline have gotten involved in efforts to help low-income residents reap the benefits of San Francisco’s program offering rebates for solar panel installation. With Chris Daly, the supervisor representing District Six (The Tenderloin and South of Market), Arce put pressure on Solar City, a company that had fallen through on its plan to use city funds to do job-training for Bayview Hunters Point residents, to hold to its promises.
Brightline started a project in early January to push for more “green” jobs in San Francisco and is lobbying city officials to commit to hiring low-income residents of underserved communities of color to work on publicly funded construction projects. Arce is concerned that Chapter 6 of the city’s Administrative Code, which includes the local hiring statute, has not been updated and has been removed from most of the city’s Department of Public Works contracts.
Brightline also plans to work with the cities of Oakland and Richmond to get their local hiring regulations in sync with current state law. In those efforts, Arce and Brightline is planning to work with a host of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Van Jones’ Green for All and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Our City, Greenaction, the Greenlining Institute, the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, and the Southeast Jobs Coalition. Several of those assisted in the fight to close the Potrero Power Plant.
Other Potrero Power Plant and Green Energy Contacts:
Office of City Attorney Dennis Herrera
Theresa Mueller, Deputy City Attorney: (415) 554-4700.
Before joining the city attorney’s office, Mueller worked for TURN, a consumer energy organization. She is highly knowledgeable on matters involving the electricity industry and is sympathetic to clean energy concerns as well as efforts to expand the city’s public power services to residents.
Spokesperson Matt Dorsey: (415) 554-4662
Power Plant Task Force: (415) 554-6075
Member Joe Boss: (415) 640-7677
For more than a decade, the citizen-member Power Plant Task Force has advised the city on issues related to the Potrero Power Plant and local energy generation in San Francisco. It is staffed by Jill Lerner of the city’s Office of Administrative Services.
Potrero Boosters www.potreroboosters.org
Tony Kelly, President: email@example.com
Founded in 1926, this neighborhood organization focuses on development, economic vitality and quality of life issues in The Potrero. President Tony Kelly has kept abreast of issues involving the Potrero Power Plant.
Sierra Club, SF Bay Chapter
John Rizzo: (415) 386-5138
Redevelopment of Candlestick Point and the Hunters Point Shipyard
Through a deal it struck with the city in 2007, Lennar Corp. is working on a development project for the southeastern waterfront that has been referred to as San Francisco’s “most ambitious urban renewal plan since the reconstruction that followed the 1906 earthquake and fire.” In exchange for free land, Lennar has pledged to invest $1 billion in transportation and infrastructure improvements to the area.
The project still needs final approvals from local, state and federal agencies. It will require extensive clean-up of the shipyard, major portions of which are heavily contaminated and classified as a federal Superfund site. In an area covering more than 700 acres, the plan calls for the construction of 10,500 residential housing units, 2.5 million square feet of research and development space, a 75,000-square-foot performance area, 300 acres of parkland, a 300-slip marina, retail stores and artist live/work space. Expected to draw 24,465 new residents to the neighborhood, the project would nearly double the size of the Bayview’s current population over the next 25 years. It has been called “the centerpiece of the city’s housing strategy.”
Mayor Gavin Newsom reached an agreement with the United Nations last year to construct a new, 80,000-square-foot center on shipyard land donated by Lennar that would include space for global warming and other environmental research as well as an incubator for green tech enterprises, and a conference center. Newsom has described the proposed center as a particularly apt use of land in an area that has suffered from a high level of environmental degradation and contamination – a plan “very much symbolic of old San Francisco being transformed into new San Francisco.” While Lennar and some city officials have hailed the project as a grand revitalization plan that will provide 30,000 new jobs, a long list of new or improved public amenities, the reconstruction of decrepit public housing and homeownership opportunities for people already living in the area, many activists and residents remain highly skeptical of these claims. Saul Bloom, the Director of Arc Ecology, an environmental organization that has studied issues associated with the shipyard for nearly 30 years, says that if you look closely at the plans, it is more likely that the project will generate about 500 jobs annually. How many of those actually will go to Bayview residents remains up in the air. “Best case, Bayview captures 20 percent of the work,” Bloom said. “That’s 100 jobs for the neighborhood out of 700 acres. If the whole purpose really is to lift the neighborhood out of poverty, just how does that occur?”
“As you start to work through all this stuff, what you see is that the plan is based on sheer mendacity,” Bloom said. “And that’s a real problem.”
Though the U.S. Navy already has spent $600 million cleaning up the shipyard, much remains to be done. In 2004, a fire ignited at a radiological dump that burned for three months; flames appeared there four times after that. The dump has been dug out and partially capped. When the navy excavated another dump containing the same kind of material, it removed the radiological pollution, but put the toxic pollution back into the pit before capping it, Bloom said.
Ridding the shipyard of contamination is a complicated undertaking, thanks to the area’s unique geological and geographic features. Heavy metals run down Hunters Point Hill; much of the shipyard is landfill, and periodic hydraulic dredging of the bay over the years has impacted the area as well.
“The problem with the shipyard is that the pollution, the heavy metals, arsenic…it’s not evenly spread and easily identified. It’s not coming from one source,” Bloom said. “You could be in the middle of the base and have no hit for nickel, and then go five feet to the south and find an extremely high hit. That makes it incredibly difficult to come up with a standardized approach.”
Given that Lennar got busted by the city’s public health department and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in 2006-07 for failing to follow procedures to protect the public from dust clouds while doing construction work at one of the parcels of land at the shipyard, there’s a vocal and sizeable faction of activists and organizations who absolutely do not believe that the shipyard will be cleaned up to a safe level:
"When these developers construct businesses, houses, condos, roadways, bridges, stadiums and shopping malls on this non-remediated Superfund site…future children and grandchildren will pay with a seriously-reduced natural habitat and fewer animal species. Toxic chemicals still planted in the soil may cause many to pay with their lives." (Harrison, Marie, Comments to the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard EIR)
The city released a draft of the Environmental Impact Report on the Candlestick Point/Shipyard project in mid-November of last year, and organizations and community members concerned about the project were told that the final deadline for comments would be Dec. 28. Given that the report is contained in six volumes totaling 4, 400 pages, and the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas and other winter festivals were coming up, a 32-member coalition of individual activists and several organizations, including Bloom’s Arc Ecology, the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, Literacy for Environmental Justice, and the Bayview Resource Center, requested that the public be given 90 days to respond rather than the 45-day minimum required by state law. However, both the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission and the Planning Commission voted in mid-December to extend the deadline only until Jan. 12. Letters asking Mayor Gavin Newsom not to “be a Grinch” that were faxed to his City Hall office over the holidays while he was vacationing in Hawaii went unheeded.
Many activists believe that Newsom is trying to rush approval of the EIR in a doomed attempt to convince the owners of the 49ers football team that the city can get a new stadium, one featuring a bigger parking lot and greater accessibility, built at the current Candlestick Park location — even though team representatives have decided they prefer to build a new stadium in Silicon Valley.
Newsom and Lennar Corp. hope to have the Hunters Point redevelopment project approvals in place by June 8 (the day residents of the City of Santa Clara are scheduled to vote on the 49ers stadium proposal), so they can position the city as the fallback option. For years, 49ers officials have complained about the inadequacy of the Candlestick Park stadium. City officials’ efforts to coax them into staying in San Francisco has led some Bayview activists to suspect the needs of the team will be put ahead of the those of the neighborhood, and the African-American community will “be sacrificed for a stadium.”
Based in Florida, Lennar Corp. over the past decade has been picking up development rights to abandoned military bases — sites the company sees as “the last frontier of undeveloped land in urban America” providing a chance to turn fat profits. Lennar has a contract to redevelop Mare Island in Vallejo and in San Francisco, city officials have handed it Treasure Island as well as the Hunters Point shipyard. Many activists worry about the fact that the corporation, which enjoys strong ties to the city’s local and national politicians, now controls the future of so much of the city’s shoreline, and they are alarmed by the degree to which Lennar has insinuated itself into cash-starved city agencies that should be providing oversight. Bloom noted that Lennar provides funding for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, whose director, Michael Cohen, has been pushing heavily for the project. In addition, Newsom’s campaign treasurer, Laurence Pelosi, used to be vice president of acquisitions for Lennar. Both he and Newsom are nephews of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. During the administration of former mayor Willie Brown, Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar Urban for Northern California, directed the economic development office now run by Cohen.
The possibility that the redevelopment plan will result in gentrification of Bayview Hunters Point is a major concern, given that the average asking price for a Lennar-built home at the former shipyard is estimated at $700,000. In early spring, 2008, when Lennar was working with city officials to get a measure on the June ballot calling for public approval of the conceptual plans (including a stadium) for the Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard area, activists led by Supervisor Chris Daly and the San Francisco Bayview newspaper gathered signatures for a competing proposal that would require that half of the new homes in any development at the site be affordable to low and moderate-income earners. Lennar officials said the requirement would render the project infeasible. By May, Lennar had spent more than $2 million on the campaign, but even with the backing of the political establishment — including Newsom, Pelosi and Sophie Maxwell, the supervisor representing the Bayview --Proposition G was still trailing in the polls. At that point, the company and labor leaders struck a deal in which the powerful San Francisco Labor Council would endorse Prop. G, in exchange for a promise from Lennar that 32 percent of the housing would be sold at affordable rates. Prop. G then beat Prop. F at the polls.
Activists involved in the proposed redevelopment of the shipyard – the ones who do not receive funding from Lennar Corp. — fall into two camps: Those adamantly opposed, and those who are concerned about various issues or are working against some aspects of the plan.
San Francisco Bayview
4917 Third Street San Francisco, CA 94124-2309
(415) 671-0789 www.sfbayview.com
Publisher Willie Ratcliff: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor Mary Ratcliff: email@example.com
Health and Environmental Science Editor Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai: asumchai@sfbayview
In addition to not trusting Lennar, many people of color living in the Bayview do not trust the city’s Redevelopment Agency. They recall the forced exodus of African-Americans from the Fillmore/Western Addition in the 1960s following the agency’s take-over of the area, and they have been disgusted with its inability to get Lennar to comply with environmental and public health and safety regulations as well as its decision to let Lennar back out of plans that would help prevent gentrification, such as the development of rental housing.
Willie Ratcliff is the publisher of the San Francisco Bayview, a hard-hitting publication dedicated to covering issues affecting people of African descent across the globe, throughout the United States, and in San Francisco. His wife, Mary, is the editor. The two purchased the paper in 1991, and since then, have dedicated its pages to waging war on City Hall and “the Third Hand in all its guises — joblessness, gentrification, police brutality [and] toxic pollution,” that, as Willie Ratcliff puts it, “has long been trying to pound [the Bayview] into oblivion.” The paper, now published monthly in paper form due to financial constraints, has been at the forefront of the most critical neighborhood battles; its pages are given over regularly to cleanup and development of the shipyard. (Note that the online version is updated daily).
The Ratcliffs see the planned overhaul of the Hunters Point-Candlestick Point area as part of a nation-wide effort to take over low-income neighborhoods and push out people of color. Willie Ratcliff has referred to Lennar’s project as “pure criminal thievery” and the developer’s deal with the city as a “conspiracy for rich developers and their political allies to destroy the last black neighborhood in the city.”
Financial investment should be made in the neighborhood, Ratcliff says, but city officials should provide public funding to existing Bayview businesses to improve and expand their operations. He doubts that the Lennar project will create many temporary or permanent jobs for residents, as he found that construction contracts generated by the city’s economic boom and the expansion of the San Francisco International Airport in the late 1990s and MUNI’s Third Street Light Rail Project in the early 2000s largely did not go to members of the community, despite the promises of former mayor Willie Brown.
In 2007, the Ratcliffs spearheaded a signature-gathering effort to force a referendum on the Redevelopment Agency’s 2006 take-over of a 1400-acre area of the Bayview and Candlestick Point. Though he and activists succeeded in getting enough sign-ons to qualify the initiative, they were stopped by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and ultimately, in court, over a technical issue: the signature gatherers did not carry the phone-book-sized redevelopment plan for the area on their clipboards. The Ratcliffs’ publication backed earlier efforts to recall Supervisor Sophie Maxwell for her unwavering support of Lennar and supports the current campaign to remove her from office.
The Ratcliffs continue to watchdog the Lennar project. The publication’s health and environmental science editor, longtime Bayview resident Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, regularly writes about what she and many like-minded activists say are inadequate provisions for de-toxifying the shipyard. Sumchai worked with Harrison and POWER (see below) in commenting on the project’s draft environmental report, which she has called “a very callous, negligent and dangerous document.” Additionally, the Ratcliffs strongly back the efforts of SLAM (Stop Lennar Action Movement), a coalition of activists that includes the Muhammed University of Islam (see below), Espanola Jackson, Greenaction, and POWER, as well as other church and community organizations. Aiming to stop “land grabbing and polluting” in the Bayview, SLAM worked on the signature drive to get Proposition F on the ballot in 2008. It sponsors town halls focused on issues involving the shipyard every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at 195 Kiska Road, next to the San Francisco Boys and Girls Club.
Muhammmed University of Islam
195 Kiska Road San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 641-0663 http://www.sanfrancisco.muischools.org
Minister Christopher Muhammed: (415) 971-0211
Dean Leon Muhammed: (415) 797-2420
The Muhammed University of Islam (MUI) is a small, year-round K-12 private school associated with the Nation of Islam. Its student body is mostly African-American, but it also includes Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Since 2006, when Lennar’s subcontractors started digging up asbestos-laden rock to prepare Parcel A at the shipyard for construction of 1600 condos, MUI Minister Christopher Muhammed has been a harsh and vocal critic of the developer and the government agencies charged with overseeing its work. He and other MUI representatives have appeared regularly at public hearings, where they have railed at officials over the clouds of asbestos-containing construction dust from the project that they say has harmed the health of the school’s students. The MUI school building is located directly across the street from Parcel A.
Before starting work at Parcel A, Lennar agreed to follow a strict plan for controlling dust set by the city’s Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). However, from 2006 through 2007, subcontractors working for Lennar repeated violated the plan, largely due to neglecting to wet down debris before trucking it off site and failing to have functioning air quality monitors for measuring asbestos levels. In 2008, BAAQMD settled with Lennar for $515,000, the largest penalty ever issued by the agency for asbestos violations. The prior year, MUI filed a suit against Lennar for violating California laws requiring companies to notify the public when their operations cause exposure (or possible exposure) to toxins. A trial is set for July. Over the past few years, experts with the local, state and federal health departments, the University of California at San Francisco, ARC Ecology, and most, recently, the federal Environmental Protection Agency say that while there was asbestos in the clouds of dust generated from development at Parcel A, the levels were not high enough to cause any significant, long-term health risks.
There is no question that MUI and Mohammed have been effective in raising public awareness about problems associated with the shipyard. Lennar representatives and some city officials, however, have complained that Mohammed and his colleagues use intimidation tactics. Last year, MUI representatives dogged Mayor Gavin Newsom at his press conferences, where they took the microphone and blasted him for environmental hypocrisy. DPH officials claimed that people associated with MUI harassed the agency’s outreach workers when they went out in the neighborhood to try and distribute information advising residents not to worry about asbestos exposure, and as a result, the program had to be shut down.
After MUI Dean Leon Mohammed was elected to the Navy’s Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) as co-chair in early 2009, the RAB voted to oust the DPH representative from its ranks and issue an order to shut down all construction at the entire shipyard. According to some accounts, over the next several months discussions at RAB meetings broke down due to constant in-fighting, “one half accus[ing] the other half of grandstanding at the cost of getting anything done, the other half accus[ing] the others of rubber-stamping the Navy’s plans,” and the Navy disbanded the group. Last November, when Supervisor John Avalos, who represents District 11 – the Excelsior, introduced legislation urging the U.S. Navy to reconvene the RAB, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell succeeded in watering the message down by getting a majority of her colleagues to agree to an amendment saying the Navy could have the option of establishing other, separate forums. The amendment enraged the MUI and SLAM members, and it inspired the decision to initiate another recall effort against Maxwell.
POWER (People Organizing to Win Employment Rights)
Bayview Office: 4923 Third Street San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 864-8372 www.peopleorganized.org
Co-Director Alicia Garza: (415) 864-8372, Ext. 305; Alicia@peopleorganized.org
POWER’s mission is to help San Francisco’s working class African Americans and Latinos “make change in our communities and build a vibrant movement for economic, environmental, racial and gender justice.”
The nonprofit, which relies on donations from foundations and community-minded businesses and individuals, was founded in 1997 in the wake of the passage of federal, so-called “welfare reform” legislation the prior year. The organization’s first major success was working with Tom Ammiano, a former supervisor who now serves in the state assembly, to establish San Francisco’s Living Wage Ordinance. The law is the only one of similar legislation in the country that protects welfare workers. POWER also led a community and labor coalition that succeeded in getting the city’s minimum wage raised from $6.75 to $8.50 per hour. That was one of twenty campaigns POWER has waged that sought to “improve the living and working conditions for welfare and domestic workers, low-income tenants, and other working class people of color.”
POWER’s Bayview Organizing Project began in 2005. It seeks to help the neighborhood’s low-income residents and workers influence housing and development decisions affecting the area so that they will benefit from such plans. According to the organization, the percentage of African Americans living in San Francisco has dropped by more than 60 percent over the last 10 years, thanks largely to rising housing costs and gentrification. POWER has been involved in efforts to pressure officials to deal with the dilapidation of mold-infested public housing in the Bayview, and it collaborates with SLAM and other organizations opposed to Lennar’s redevelopment project for the area.
POWER representatives work toward building grassroots-based movements within a community. For example, the organization recently opened its Bayview office to any residents or activists wanting to comment on the environmental impact report for the Lennar project, in an effort to make sure that those without computers or who needed assistance in expressing their thoughts would have a voice in the planning process. Last summer, POWER organized a letter writing campaign to urge the city’s elected representatives in Sacramento not to allow the state to turn over a chunk of Candlestick Park to the city, which would then sell it to Lennar for condo construction.
4634 Third Street San Francisco, CA 94124-2364
(415) 643-1190 www.arcecology.org
Executive Director Saul Bloom: (415) 643-1190, ext. 306
In the early 1980s, when Saul Bloom was working for Greenpeace, he was approached by some Bayview Hunters Point residents who had heard about a plan to re-activate the shipyard as part of the U.S. military’s nuclear arms program. The idea was to dock the U.S.S. Missouri at the base, load it with automatic weapons and launch boxes containing potentially as many as 400 cruise missiles, and thereby turn it into a floating arsenal of nuclear weapons that could be deployed anywhere in the world. Bloom founded Arc (Arms Control Research Center) Ecology to help Bayview activists fight the plan, and in 1987, the federal Base Closure Commission dumped it; four years later, the U.S. Navy closed the entire base.
During the struggle over the U.S.S. Missouri, the issue of how to clean up the heavily contaminated shipyard started to come up. Besides the technical issues, Bloom was concerned about “the disproportionate impact of the military structure on poor and minority communities,” which often can be found next to former bases. Arc Ecology started monitoring the environmental impacts of the shipyard in 1984. Two years later, members of Hunters Point neighborhood groups asked Bloom to consult with them on an on-going basis regarding issues connected to the site. Ever since, Arc Ecology has been providing Bayview residents with scientific information and technical support associated with the cleanup, transfer, and redevelopment of the Shipyard. It has been called “the leading repository of knowledge about toxins in the shipyard.”
Arc Ecology did not oppose Proposition G, and Bloom said he has seen enough evidence to believe that the shipyard will be cleaned up adequately to support the planned reuse of the site. “More money has been spent on clean-up on the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard than at any other base in the country,” Bloom said. “It’s not perfect, but it is better than most other bases.” Bloom attributes that to pressure from community activists and environmental organizations such as his own.
For several years, Arc Ecology had a contract with the city to monitor toxins at the shipyard and provide scientific information and technical support to Bayview residents. However, after Bloom spoke out against a plan to sell a large swath of what precious little parkland there is in the area to Lennar so it can build housing on the site, his contract was not renewed. Michael Cohen, Newsom’s economic development advisor, chided him for “not hav[ing] much concern for a developer’s who’s paying all these bills.”
“I told him our job is to be an independent analyst in this situation, not to basically give [Lennar] further dispensation,” Bloom said.
Offering “panoramic views of the wind-whipped Bay, San Bruno Mountain, and Yosemite Slough, the only unbridged waterway in the city’s southeast sector,” Candlestick Park State Recreation Area is a critical piece of open space in an area starved for greenery. Last summer, Mark Leno, a former supervisor who now represents the city in the state senate, sponsored a bill that would make it possible for the state to hand over one fourth of the park to the city, which would then sell it to Lennar for construction of 7,850 condos on the site. The proposed law inspired a lengthy list of neighborhood and environmental organizations to band together in opposition. Many of those activists supported Proposition G, but they have felt hoodwinked over the plan to take away part of the park, since, as Meredith Thomas of the Neighborhood Parks Council put it, “nowhere in the measure did it say that by voting for it, you are agreeing to sell parkland.” The SF Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposes selling parks to developers, campaigned heavily against the 2009 bill. Arthur Feinstein, the chapter’s local representative, pointed out that nowhere else in the city would officials allow a developer to build on dedicated parkland.
Arc Ecology has been working to restore Yosemite Slough through a collaborative project with several organizations, including Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocacy, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, and Literacy for Environmental Justice. The latter runs a plant nursery at Candlestick Park and is involved in ecological and health concerns in the southeast part of the city. The restoration project envisions an “integrated” park connecting the slough to the southern shorelines of the Hunters Point shipyard, but Lennar’s plans to build an 8-lane bridge over the waterway could jeopardize the concept. Although city officials and Lennar say the bridge only would be used during games at a rebuilt Candlestick Park stadium, Bloom and others suspect that the real plan is to open the bridge full-time to commuters, once a sufficient number of them move into the redeveloped shipyard: “What they’re doing is building an alternate business route without calling it that and without having it put it through agency review.”
This much is clear: the plans for Candlestick Park are going to drastically reduce the opportunities for area residents to observe wildlife.
India Basin Neighborhood Association
P.O. Box 880953 San Francisco, CA 94188 www.indiabasin.org
Chair Kristine Enea: (415) 609-5322; firstname.lastname@example.org
As IBNA Chair Kristine Enea puts it, India Basin is “a pocket of Hunters Point right along the shoreline.” The city’s easternmost mini-neighborhood, it includes the area sandwiched between Third Street and Cargo Way and the land between Innes Avenue and the waterfront — down to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Last year, the IBNA was named administrator of a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) to hire an expert to read, translate and comment on the U.S. Navy’s documents and records concerning clean-up of the shipyard. IBNA boardmember Alex Lantsberg is coordinator of the TAG. The organization is preparing to hold a community meeting to introduce the TAG consultant to the public; afterward it will host ongoing public forums where the consultant will present the Navy’s scientific data and technical information in plain language and answer attendees’ questions.
Enea says that while the IBNA generally supports the Lennar project, it does have concerns about various aspects of it — such as the adequacy of plans for mitigating increased car traffic and whether it will result in commercial development beneficial to the neighborhood. “Right now, we have no shops or restaurants, no ATM, no groceries, nothing beyond one liquor store and a few industrial businesses,”
Enea moved to India Basin in 2005 and is running to replace Sophie Maxwell as District 10’s supervisor. In addition to the issues raised by the IBNA, Enea is concerned about the adequacy of plans for open space, whether jobs created by the project actually will have a significant impact on employment in the area, and the lack of a public forum for discussing the Navy’s clean-up efforts since the dissolution of the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) in 2009. Regarding the latter, she says, “This [lack of a forum] does nothing to bolster the community’s trust in the cleanup or development process.”
Area Representatives to the State Legislature
State Sen. Mark Leno: (916) 651-4550
State Assembly Member Tom Ammiano
Press Secretary Quentin Mecke (415) 557-3013
Local Office: 455 Golden Gate Avenue #14300 San Francisco, CA 94102
Agencies Associated with Shipyard Development and Pollution Control
Lennar Urban for Northern California
President Kofi Bonner: (415) 995-4802
San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
(directs private investment to “blighted” areas)
The Redevelopment Commission, composed of seven members appointed by the mayor, governs the agency. It meets the first and third Tuesdays of every month at 4 p.m. in Room 416, San Francisco City Hall. Its meetings are broadcast on KPOO-FM 89.5.
1 South Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94103-5416
(415) 749-2900 www.sfredevelopment.org
Executive Director Fred Blackwell: (415) 749-2588; Fred.Blackwell@sfgov.org
Office of Economic and Workforce Development
(oversees programs aimed at attracting businesses to San Francisco and retaining existing ones)
San Francisco City Hall 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 448 San Francisco, CA 94102
Director Michael Cohen: (415) 554-6969
San Francisco Department of Public Health
(assesses and researches community health)
The Public Health Commission
(Composed of seven members appointed by the mayor. Meets twice monthly to set departmental policies.)
25 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102-6056
(415) 554-9043 www.dph.sf.ca.us
Director Mitch Katz: (415) 554-2603
Environmental Health Director Rajiv Bhatia: (415) 252-3982
Environmental Engineer Amy Brownell: (415) 252-3967 P
Public Information Officer Eileen Shields: (415) 554-2507
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
(regulates air pollution in the nine counties surrounding San Francisco Bay: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southwestern Solano and southern Sonoma)
BAAQMD is governed by a 22-member Board of Directors that meets on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 9:45 a.m. in the 7th floor board room at 939 Ellis Street.
939 Ellis Street San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 771-6000; 1-800-HELP-AIR http://www.baaqmd.gov
Communications Director Lisa Fasna: (415) 749-5170; email@example.com
California Department of Toxic Substances Control
(maintains a database providing community-specific information concerning environmental cleanups and facilities permitted to handle hazardous waste) http://www.dtsc.ca.gov
Ryan Miya, Berkeley Field Office: (510) 540-3775; RMiya@dtsc.ca.gov
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(assesses the presence and nature of health hazards at Superfund sites and helps reduce further exposures. ATSDR published a report taking issue with faulty dust monitoring equipment at Parcel A of the Shipyard. )
Senior Regional Representative Susan Muza: (916) 215-8100