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Revised plans for Hunters Point Shipyard development approved amid cleanup concerns

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The U.S. Navy in 2012 found that a contractor charged with cleaning up radioactive contamination at the former Hunters Point Shipyard mishandled and faked data. A more recent review by the Environmental Protection Agency found even more widespread issues with soil samples. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A revised master plan for Phase II of the Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment project was greenlit by the San Francisco Planning Commission Thursday, despite mounting concerns about contamination at sites slated for development into housing and commercial spaces in the coming years.

“The technical overlays of what may have happened in the environmental [cleanup] is a separate issue that will be resolved on its own terms,” Commissioner Kathrin Moore told the San Francisco Examiner following a unanimous vote to recommend approval of the updated plan. The plan is now scheduled to go before The City’s Board of Supervisors.

The revisions aim to increase education, hotel, retail and work spaces, and add some 172 additional units of housing to the shipyard and Candlestick Point. The updated plan also calls for retaining and building upon some of the shipyard’s original structures that were initially slated for demolition.

Plans for the shipyard’s redevelopment were approved in 1997 and currently include some 12,100 homes, as well as commercial, educational and green spaces.

For more than two decades, the site was used as a radiological defense laboratory and as grounds for the dumping of radioactive materials. In recent years, a $1 billion cleanup effort has been tainted with fraud.

The commission’s vote to move the project forward by approving the design plans and planning code amendments came a day after Tetra Tech, the U.S. Navy contractor tasked with radiological testing and cleanup at the Shipyard, disputed reviews conducted by both the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that called the integrity of the cleanup effort into question.

The Navy found that Tetra Tech employees mishandled and faked data in 2012, and an internal review last year revealed that nearly half of the soil samples produced over the past decade have potentially been falsified or manipulated. The EPA’s review, which became public earlier this month, raised even greater concerns about potential falsification of nearly all samples taken from two parcels of the Shipyard slated for transfer.

On Wednesday, Tetra Tech offered to pay for a third-party investigation to prove that it followed proper procedures in regard to the cleanup in the dispute areas.

But environmental advocates are calling for “comprehensive retesting” of all parcels of the Shipyard, including those already deemed safe and transferred to The City for development. More than 300 homes have already been constructed on Parcel A, which has been deemed safe, during Phase I of the redevelopment project, which was approved in 2005.

On Thursday, Moore said that environmental and safety concerns don’t have “anything to do with do with approval [of the plans] and should not overshadow it.”

That sentiment was echoed by her fellow commissioners as well as community stakeholders.

Commissioner Dennis Richards has previously acknowledged the botched cleanup as what he called “the elephant in the room.” Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Richards told the San Francisco Examiner that he recently visited the site and was impressed by the development.

“There is housing being built. It’s real. There are portions of the site that need to be remedied,” he said. “It’s a great development. I think it will take a bit longer — It’s unfortunate that the soil issue is slowing things down.”

Linda Richardson, a Bayview community activist and former chair of the Bayview Hunters Point Project Area Committee, said that the design plan is the product of 18 years in which the community worked with the Planning Department and the former San Francisco redevelopment agency around a vision for the Bayview.

“The [Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment] is the economic engine that is revitalizing the Bayview in terms of business opportunities, hiring and jobs,” said Richardson. “There is no other project in San Francisco that is doing that. Your blessing today is needed.”

Members of the committee, which was created to represent community interests in the redevelopment process, acknowledged lingering concerns about contamination but argued that the project presented much needed opportunities for the Bayview community.

CAC member Carolyn Scott sanctioned the development, calling it a “stone of hope in the mountain of despair.”

“The toxic waste there is still great concern. My mother suffered five miscarriages…I have great grandchildren with asthma and lung trouble, I had 10 miscarriages — so I’m concerned about that,” said Scott. “But I’m also looking at the opportunity and the hope that this has for the community and city.”

CAC Chair Veronica Hunnicutt said that the plan has improved significantly in terms of the the affordabilty range of the housing available to future residents, as well as the additional space initially intended for commercial use that is now dedicated to an educational institution.

“There are concerns,” Hunnicutt told the Examiner. “We will work through them.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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