Dirty development vs. environmental protection

Clearcutting at HP Shipyard: Without notice to the neighborhood, developer Lennar has recently clearcut all the trees covering 64.5 acres of the Shipyard. On Monday, Dec. 5, 1 p.m., in City Hall Room 263, Supervisors will hold a hearing on a proposed law to require due process before trees on City land can be cut. Trees are vital to our health and the beauty of our city. Tell City Hall to save ‘em all!

Mayor Newsom plans housing and playground for most radioactive parts of HP Shipyard

by Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, M.D.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced a new plan during his recent State of the City address: His “Livable City” initiative, he said, is an “environmental imperative” and a “green leap forward in the next five years” that promises to make San Francisco a leader in green building and technology and allocates funds to plant trees along major central and west side thoroughfares, Van Ness and 19th Avenue.

With typical pomp and circumstance, Newsom’s excessive pride, arrogance and overconfidence thinly veil an administration policy for southeast and eastern neighborhoods that aggressively champions dirty development – building houses on land cleaned of toxic contamination not to residential standards but to lower industrial standards.

The Planning Commission last week heard a presentation on the Eastern Neighborhoods Proposed Permanent Zoning Controls. The main objective of the plan, written by a private firm, is to revise zoning in eastern neighborhoods to allow housing on land currently zoned for production, distribution and repair industries. This land is almost exclusively situated in the Bayview Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Potrero Hill and South of Market neighborhoods – all heavily populated by people of color.

It is in these neighborhoods, and especially in the Hunters Point Shipyard, where developers – with the help of City Hall – seek land that can make them a fortune. The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development recently unveiled a plan to transfer radiation-contaminated Parcel D of the Shipyard for industrial development next year.

Parcel D is the “hottest” area of the former naval base. It includes a series of buildings – the 300 series – which is currently undergoing remediation for radionuclides such as Ra 226 and Cs 137, found in vents, drains and surfaces in the buildings in concentrations potentially harmful to human health.

Parcel D is the site that the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory used for storage of radioactive elements and animal laboratories. Additionally, the 300 series buildings are situated in a region of radioactive soils documented in maps contained in the Navy’s Historical Radiological Assessment.

A colony of artists, including women at risk of breast and thyroid cancer from exposure to low level radioactivity, has been allowed to occupy Building 366 on Parcel D with the full knowledge of the Navy’s Radiological Affairs Office, the California Department of Health Services and Dr. Mitch Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

As founding chair of the Radiological Subcommittee of the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board, I vehemently objected to this unethical practice last July, after which the Navy asked the artists to relocate. Following the Navy’s corrupt takeover of the RAB leadership and my resignation in August, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Michael Cohen, director of Base Reuse in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, crafted an agreement which allowed the artists to remain. This agreement was celebrated in a San Francisco Examiner article!

Under the dirty development policies advanced by the Newsom administration, Parcel D can be surreptitiously transferred to the City and County of San Francisco for industrial development next year and housing built on radiation-contaminated soils.

Newsom’s directives are in direct opposition to the will of the people. On Nov. 4, 2000, 87 percent of San Franciscans voted for Proposition P, a legislative measure that called for a moratorium on development of the Hunters Point Shipyard until all of it had been cleaned to residential standards. In May of 2001, Proposition P was codified into ordinance by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Falling like dominoes for dirty development of the Hunters Point Shipyard, Saul Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology and consultant for Shipyard “master developer” Lennar, hosted a Nov. 16 meeting at Dago Mary’s Restaurant to announce the conceptual plan for a park on Parcel E of the Shipyard.

The California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency, has funded Arc Ecology for the express purpose of planning and developing a children’s playground on the largest and most toxic parcel of the shipyard. According to one meeting observer, Bloom announced plans for the development of Parcel E next year.

Parcel E is the site of a 46-acre industrial landfill known as one of the most toxic in the nation that still contains human excrement, irradiated animal carcasses and radioactive calibration instruments. The entire Parcel E shoreline emits radioactive particles into San Francisco Bay.

Presumably, Arc Ecology, working with Literacy for Environmental Justice, Bayview Community Advocates, the U.S. Navy, Mayor Newsom and his close relative, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, plan to leave the Parcel E landfill intact. An EPA official once told Hunters Point residents demanding removal of the landfill that it was too dangerous to move. They retorted that his statement proves that the landfill is too dangerous to leave in place.

Now, without regard for environmental impact, the law, or human health and safety, Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to disguise his dirty development scheme by topping off the most poisonous part of the Hunters Point Shipyard with a children’s playground!

Email Ahimsa at asumchai@sfbayview.com.