Advocates warn of health risks at unveiling of new shipyard housing collection

Community and environmental advocates interrupted an open house held by developer Lennar Corporation on Saturday to inform potential buyers of contamination and a botched toxic cleanup at the Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard. (Laura Waxmann/ SF Examiner)

Chanting “Tell them the truth,” environmental and community advocates interrupted an open house on Saturday during which mega developer Lennar Corporation showcased some 60 new luxury homes amid concerns over lingering radioactive contamination on the Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard.

The condominium apartments, part of a collection called “Landing,” are located on a site of the shipyard known as Parcel A, which has already been developed into more than 400 homes that are largely occupied.

Costs run anywhere from $650,000 for a one bedroom, one bathroom condo to $1.3 million for a three bedroom, two bathroom condo — but advocates who gathered across the street from Landing on Saturday warned potential buyers that “not all that glitters is gold.”

“We have the highest rate of asthma around here and these people will soon find out when their health issues start coming on, they are going to want to get on the bandwagon,” said Tandra Lowe, a Bayview resident and advocate with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, who was among more than a dozen protesters.

“It’s not fair — you see this big beautiful land for them but what is underneath is not right,” she said.

The shipyard has long been known to be contaminated with radioactive materials such as Cesium -137, Radium-226, asbestos and pesticides, among other things. Its dry docks once served as cleaning stations for ships exposed to atomic tests in the Pacific Ocean, and the former naval base also housed a nuclear warfare research lab.

As a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Superfund Site, the shipyard is mandated to undergo radioactive and toxic remediation, resulting in its planned development into more than 10,000 homes to be phased out.

A spokesperson for Lennar told the San Francisco Examiner that some 200 people attended the open house and that the company “complies fully with all applicable disclosure requirements and provides buyers with facts about the Hilltop.”

While the cleanup is still ongoing on some sites of the shipyard, Parcel A, which sits on a hilltop overlooking the shipyard, was deemed safe for development by Navy officials, city and state regulators citing its primary historical use as housing and not for storing toxic materials.

Despite whistle blower accounts of fraud in the shipyard’s cleanup that date back at least six years, reviews by the Navy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted in 2017 found that up to 97 percent of data produced by Tetra Tech EC, a civil engineering firm contracted for a portion of the shipyard’s remediation, to be compromised.

Tetra Tech EC has denied allegations of widespread fraud. Last May, two former supervisors were sentenced to federal prison for admitting to falsifying records and swapping out dirty soil samples for clean ones.

While new development at the shipyard is currently on hold, a retesting effort launched last summer on Parcel A to assure residents there that they were not living on contaminated land was highly criticized by watchdog groups, who said the surface scans did not include residents’ homes and were insufficient in detecting all toxins potentially located on the site.

In September, a radioactive deck marker was found feet away from occupied new homes are located. In July, a group of Parcel A homeowners filed a lawsuit against Lennar and Tetra Tech claiming they were misled about the gravity of the contamination.

Regardless, the California Public Health Department concluded last month that the site was safe for people to live and work on.

On Saturday, two women who attended the open house and gave their names as Patsy and Maureen said that Lennar representatives did not mention the ongoing controversy.

“They would never tell you that stuff — they might be when you make a serious offer,” said Maureen, who admitted that she had learned about the botched shipyard cleanup from the news.

“We know that the Lennar Corporation is none that we are friends with, let’s put it that way,” said Maureen, adding that both women were “just here to look at what is available.”

“A one bedroom under $700,000 is great. You take a risk in so many areas of The City,” said Maureen. “If we get exposed to something now we are going to die of something else. For old people, it’s no big deal.”

Patsy added that if her children were to live on Parcel A, “that would be a whole other deal.”

Bradley Angel, executive director of Greenaction called Lennar’s open house “a desperate attempt to sell.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in December that three major banks — Wells Fargo, Chase and Citi — stopped offering mortgages for the shipyard.

“The fact is our government trusted Tetra Tech and that was a big mistake and today is a last stitch effort by Lennar to rake in some bucks here,” said Angel. “We are here to get the truth out.”

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