The San Francisco Board of Supervisors appears to be contemplating going where no board has gone before. And I think, based on its dubious history, you understand, that that is not a good thing.
Still, it’s within the board’s power and reach to avoid its base instincts and for once put aside its often-fuzzy ideological notions. That may be asking a lot but in this case they have a chance to do a great thing for The City.
Simply put, this month it must approve environmental plans for the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard development, the largest land-use project in San Francisco in more than two decades. It appears some of the board members are considering voting against it despite major public, governmental and labor support.
But I’ll do my best to make it easy for them, since there is hardly any reasonable argument to block the project. Arguments yes, reasonable, no. Remember, Chris Daly, who tried to kill the development through a voter initiative that was overwhelmingly rejected, is still a supervisor.
The Hunters Point-Bayview district has been the most politically neglected area of San Francisco for ages. Yet it is the most ethnically diverse part of The City and the one most in need of affordable housing and jobs. It’s a section of The City that has been promised much and delivered almost nothing. Its primary legacy has been one plagued by high crime rates, an area polluted by chemical-spewing energy plants and as a place one symbolically passed by on the way to somewhere else.
But that would end if the development project is approved. Its history would be rewritten. Its future would be brighter.
That’s what will happen with the Lennar Corp.’s planned 3.6 million-square-foot project. It will bring 10,500 new homes, one-third of them affordable. It is projected to bring $8 billion in development value to The City and generate more than $2 billion annually in business revenue. And it is expected to create 10,000 jobs with an estimated payroll of $750 million.
It’s a project The City can’t afford to lose. Lennar has already spent more than $100 million to get the project where it is today, and through the efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the abandoned shipyard has received more than $700 million in federal cleanup funding.
Despite the overheated rhetoric from the local Nation of Islam leaders that toxic dust from the project is being spewed into the air, the Environmental Protection Agency has said that Lennar is handling the soil cleanup correctly. One small aspect of the project is a plan to build a 900-foot bridge across the Yosemite Slough that backers of the proposal to build a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers say is key to their efforts, but that some environmentalists oppose.
Still, despite these standard pockets of opposition, the project has near-unanimous support from local citizen advisory groups, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Recreation and Park Department. The City’s Planning Commission recently approved the EIR for the project by a 4-3 vote, predictably with the three members appointed by the supervisors against it — on the grounds that the project needed more study.
More study? One would be hard-pressed to find another development plan that has been more scrutinized or debated in this country, with more than a decade of intensive planning to get to this point.
So it comes down to this. The Board of Supervisors is faced with the most important land-use decision San Francisco has seen in 20 years. Board members have lobbied for years for more affordable housing for city residents, and the shipyard project provides more than 3,000 units. Its allies in labor are pushing hard for the project for the thousands of jobs it will provide over the next generation.
Two years ago, nearly 65 percent of The City’s voters gave support to the overall plan, winning in every district in San Francisco.
Now it’s up to the legislative representatives of those districts to show that they have the well-being of the entire city at heart.
After all the time and promises, to do anything less would be heartless.