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Victory! Community pressure DID reverse the dangerous secret Lennar-City decision to implode Candlestick Stadium

January 16, 2015

Update: The community’s next step is to demand a fair share of the demolition jobs and contracts

Jan. 16, 2015 “We have sought and received input from the community and our partner, the city,” acknowledged Lennar San Francisco President Kofi Bonner in a statement cited by columnists Matier & Ross in the Chronicle today. As a result, Bonner added, “Lennar intends to withdraw its request to implode the stadium.”

Willie Mays chats with then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein at the Giants’ 1986 home opener at Candlestick Park. With today’s Matier & Ross column, the Chronicle posted 61 historic photos of Candlestick. – Photo: Michael Maloney, SF Chronicle

Willie Mays chats with then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein at the Giants’ 1986 home opener at Candlestick Park. With today’s Matier & Ross column, the Chronicle posted 61 historic photos of Candlestick. – Photo: Michael Maloney, SF Chronicle

The column’s opening sentence also acknowledges the effectiveness of community pressure: “Plans for a pyrotechnic implosion of Candlestick Park have fizzled in favor of the wrecking ball health fears and political pressure playing a big part in the decision.” The influence of Golden Gate Law School’s Environmental Law and Justice Clinic is also mentioned as a significant factor – its director, Helen Kang, having been the lead writer on the implosion story in the Bay View (see below – posted Dec. 24, 2014, online and printed in the January Bay View).

The column reports that Lennar preferred implosion because it’s quicker – though more expensive – than mechanical demolition. But evidently the mega-developer expected to recoup the cost: “The company had even been ‘musing’ over the possibility of turning the implosion into a Super Bowl pyrotechnic extravaganza that would have been broadcast live across the country during halftime,” Matier and Ross report.

The last straw was the opposition, announced yesterday, of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council. Demolition creates far more jobs than implosion. Demolition is expected to begin later this month and last through March.

The community’s next step is to demand a fair share of the demolition jobs. And since long experience tells us that unless Black contractors get the work, Black workers won’t be hired except in token numbers, calls to Kofi Bonner at Lennar Urban are in order: Call 415-995-1770.

This interview, which contains a wealth of information about the effect on human health of the particulates that would have blanketed the neighborhood in an implosion and about the environmental justice movement in Bayview Hunters Point, in which Dr. Tompkins plays a major role, was recorded shortly before the victory was announced.

Can community pressure reverse the dangerous secret Lennar-City decision to implode Candlestick Stadium?

by Helen H. Kang, Joe Baskin and Raymond Tompkins

The Chronicle reported in November that Lennar Urban, the developer for the massive Candlestick Park development in Bayview Hunters Point, says that it thinks most people want to “just blow the thing up,” speaking of the 70,000-plus-seat stadium. Implosions, as they are called, using explosives, create quite a show.

The Seattle Kingdome, brought down in March 2000, is the largest building ever destroyed by implosion. Fortunately, it was located in a non-residential area. – Wikimedia

The Seattle Kingdome, brought down in March 2000, is the largest building ever destroyed by implosion. Fortunately, it was located in a non-residential area. – Wikimedia

Most of us have seen videos of building implosions and have marveled at the engineering that can level structures in a matter of minutes without sending large pieces of concrete flying into the neighborhood. But, what happens to the smaller particulate matter in an implosion is less than marvelous.

A 2005 health study done in Canada suggests that implosions in metropolitan areas should be prohibited. The study found that dust – as harmless as it may sound – can be dispersed more than 10 miles from the site of implosion. The concentration of dust can increase to thousands of times the background levels after an implosion.

Bayview Hunters Point residents know about air pollution firsthand. Extensive research backs up the connection between exposure to particulate matter and many of the diseases that Bayview Hunters Point residents already suffer from – asthma and ischemic heart disease.

Medical literature says particulate matter is also associated with risks of premature deaths, especially in the elderly and people with pre-existing cardiopulmonary disease. In children, particulate matter exposure means reduced lung function, a condition that may plague them the rest of their lives.

While the construction of a 500,000 square foot shopping center has much of the media in a buzz, less attention has been given to the health impacts of how the City of San Francisco goes about demolishing the stadium and constructing the center.

Calgary General Hospital, located in an innercity neighborhood, was imploded in 1998. The 2005 Canadian study of the health effects of the implosion found particulate matter dispersed as far as 10 miles from the site contained potentially deadly asbestos and lead and advised that all asbestos and paint must be removed from a structure before implosion – but that other means of demolition are far preferable. Would Lennar pay to have all hazardous materials removed before demolishing Candlestick Stadium? – Photo: Dave Olecko

Calgary General Hospital, located in an innercity neighborhood, was imploded in 1998. The 2005 Canadian study of the health effects of the implosion found particulate matter dispersed as far as 10 miles from the site contained potentially deadly asbestos and lead and advised that all asbestos and paint must be removed from a structure before implosion – but that other means of demolition are far preferable. Would Lennar pay to have all hazardous materials removed before demolishing Candlestick Stadium? – Photo: Dave Olecko

Although Lennar Urban is reported as saying that the decision about whether to implode the stadium will be made in the spring, in actuality the San Francisco Planning Department made that decision in September. That decision went unreported, and the residents of Bayview did not know about it.

After we protested this unpublicized decision – when the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic found out that none of the approvals that Lennar Urban said occurred for dust mitigation had actually been given by the Air District or the City Health Department – the Planning Department promised to review the decision, but without committing to consult first with the community that would be directly affected.

This is a great city. It can do better. It can tear the stadium down the right way by involving the public in this decision, especially considering that the state and the Air District both have recognized the Bayview Hunters Point area as a vulnerable community.

The city can have its share of Michael Kors, Burberry and Nike stores and protect its air for its citizens. Mementos of the old stadium should not lodge in young children’s lungs.

Helen H. Kang is professor of law and director of the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law, 536 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105-2968. Joseph Baskin is a certified law student working with the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic. Raymond Tompkins, a scientist, retired professor and longtime community advocate, whose work has won many environmental justice struggles, can be reached at rtomp@sbcglobal.net. This story was originally posted Dec. 24, 2014, and printed in the January Bay View.

"Athlone cooling towers demolition 2010-08-22" by Zunaid

Look at the dust – particulate matter that can sicken and kill – kicked up by the implosion of the cooling towers of the Athlone Power Station in Cape Town, South Africa, on Aug. 22, 2010. – Wikimedia

2 thoughts on “Victory! Community pressure DID reverse the dangerous secret Lennar-City decision to implode Candlestick Stadium

  1. carol harvey

    This is wonderful information, and the Ray Tompkins interview is beyond superb. Everyone should listen to it. This is a world class scientist.

    Reply
  2. patmonk

    A small victory.
    During my years as a visiting hospice RN in BVHP I witnessed the respiratory complications resulting from Lennar's activities. It is critical that these precautions be strictly enforced during the demolition.
    1) All areas of demolition shall be constantly hosed down to minimize release of 'dust' into the surrounding neighborhood.
    2) Before loads of debris are transported off site they shall be hosed down again and fully covered.
    3) Monitoring of air quality shall be constantly performed and equipment regularly checked to ensure it is functioning correctly.
    4) Work shall be immediately suspended if 'acceptable' levels of pollution are exceeded.
    5) Penalties for failing to comply with all environmental protections shall be immediately imposed and enacted. Failure to respond and correct these problems shall result in increased penalties and possible work stoppage.
    Just my 2c.
    Patrick Monk. RN.

    Reply

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