by Willie Ratcliff
I can’t think of any good reason to privatize the Hunters Point Shipyard, can you? The 550-acre Shipyard, though a major federal Superfund site poisoned with the toxic byproducts of decades of shipbuilding, is the City’s most beautiful and most valuable developable land. Though tarnished and in need of a thorough cleanup, it is the most precious jewel in San Francisco’s crown.
And the Hunters Point Shipyard is ours. Not only does it lie completely within Bayview Hunters Point’s boundaries, not only did African Americans come to San Francisco to work at the Shipyard, which employed 10,000 Bayview Hunters Point residents, but the stated purpose for transferring this largely abandoned Navy base to the City is for the economic benefit of Bayview Hunters Point.
Nevertheless, the Redevelopment Agency, the same agency that destroyed 500 Black businesses and 5,000 Black homes and displaced 20,000 Black people from the Fillmore for the admitted purpose of ridding San Francisco of African Americans, is negotiating with Florida-based Lennar, one of the nation’s largest residential developers, to become the Shipyard’s Master Developer – privatizing the Shipyard by giving a private company the powers of government.
And they couldn’t have found a sleazier recipient for the biggest land giveaway in the City’s history. Here are a few of dozens of reports of Lennar’s wrongdoing from major newspapers around the country:
- On March 20, 1993, United Press reported that Lennar Homes had agreed to pay $2.4 million to settle hundreds of lawsuits claiming that shoddy construction had contributed to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Andrew on houses it built.
- On Nov. 3, 1996, the Associated Press reported [https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-11-07-fi-62070-story.html] that two dozen houses in Lennar’s Hampshire Homes development near Fort Lauderdale were built on a few inches of topsoil covering a garbage dump containing rusty washing machines, tires, tree trunks and trash. After a seven-year-old showed his dad some holes in their yard where the landfill had begun to settle, the father, Andre Melton, an electrician by trade and president of the homeowners’ association, said, “I dropped my shovel in there, and it never came back.” Aerial photos taken before construction not only showed piles of tires and other debris but indicated it was Lennar that had dumped it. In selling the homes, Lennar, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Florida’s largest developer, advertised, “Be a winner. Live the Lennar life.” News of the dump had made the homes worthless.
- On Nov. 27, 1996, the Broward Daily business Review reported more evidence that Lennar knew it was building Hampshire Homes on a dump. Local and state criminal investigators had issued a subpoena and obtained 13,000 boxes of documents from Lennar Homes Inc. and were interviewing the family of a Lennar vice president who had recently committed suicide.
- On April 30, 1997, the Washington Post reported that Lennar Corp. of Miami, the mortgage holder for an apartment complex in predominantly African American Prince George’s County just outside Washington, D.C., was pleading with county officials not to close the complex and to give Lennar more time to repair housing code violations so extensive that the apartments had become uninhabitable. Inspectors had cited the complex for 825 violations in just the previous four months. One tenant, Vaconia Hatcher, the mother of three small children, described the complex, Crescent Square, as “hell,” with no heat in the winter, rodent and pest infestation, and sewage overflowing into her apartment. “It’s a blessing,” she said, that the county was planning to shut the complex down.
A report compiling information from the New York Stock Exchange calls Lennar “one of the largest home-building, land-owning, loan-making leviathans in the nation” that is “building up its business on the West Coast, in California,” and in 1996 had “surpassed $1 billion in sales.” As of early 1999, Lennar owned “80,000 home lots.” The company “delivers 10,700 homes a year” and is “the largest home builder in Sacramento.”
On Sunday, the Examiner reported that Mayor Brown, Rep. Pelosi and Sens. Feinstein and Boxer had written the Navy and the White House urging a speedy transfer of the Shipyard to the City before the Navy fulfills its obligation to complete the toxic cleanup – now only 25 percent complete. I hear Lennar is behind the City’s demand for the Navy to pay the City $250 million, which the City would then pay Lennar to complete the cleanup.
I say stop the privatization of the Hunters Point Shipyard before we have more corruption to clean up than toxics.