Shipyard homebuyers’ $6.3 million settlement with Lennar gets preliminary court approval

Announcing the filing of their lawsuit against Lennar, Five Point and Tetra Tech on July 25, 2018, are lead plaintiff Linda Parker Pennington, attorney Joseph Cotchett, and plaintiffs Theo and Victoria Seray Ellington. They made the announcement at the shipyard. – Photo: Kevin N. Hume, SF Examiner

Lennar and Five Point, developers of the Hunters Point Shipyard, have agreed to pay $6.3 million to settle litigation over alleged misrepresentations of environmental cleanup – case against Tetra Tech continues 

by Lee Houskeeper

San Francisco – The U.S. District Court granted preliminary approval last week to the $6.3 million settlement reached with Lennar and Five Point in the fall on behalf of current and former homeowners in the San Francisco Shipyards, a Lennar and Five Point development in the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (HPNS). 

The suit, brought by Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy and co-counsel, alleged that the development has been plagued by scandal due to the alleged fraudulent cleanup of toxins, including radioactive material, by Tetra Tech. The settlement is with Lennar and Five Point, as the developers of the community – and is the first step in bringing justice to the community. In an order dated March 17, 2021, the court states:

“The court preliminarily finds that plaintiffs’ proposed plan of allocation is fair, reasonable and adequate. Each class member’s settlement share is based on objective data including purchase price, date of purchase, whether the class member paid market rate or below market rate for their home and, if they sold their home, the data of sale and price. The plan of allocation does not unfairly favor any class member or group of class members to the detriment of others.”

Linda Parker Pennington, plaintiff, community activist and member of the San Francisco Arts Commission, said: “In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., ‘A right delayed is a right denied’ – this is an excellent early settlement of a portion of the case and will partially compensate homeowners who bought into the community based on promises that the former Superfund site had been cleaned up and is a safe place to live.”

Theo Ellington, plaintiff and current director of homeless initiatives and community development at the Salvation Army, said: “As a lifelong resident of District 10, it was important to me to stay in my community. My wife and I chose to be among the early purchasers in the SF Shipyard, which was supposed to be an engine for revitalization of the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods – communities that have been victimized by over a century of environmental racism. 

“Most San Franciscans have no idea that HPNS was ground zero in the atomic era or that it was very purposely the dumping ground for nuclear waste nor do they understand the deep-seated politics that continue to value economic development over human life.”

“Because of what the government is now alleging was a fraud-riddled cleanup, this portion of San Francisco may never be cleared of toxins. The settlement with Lennar and Five Point gets money to homeowners to compensate them for a portion of the diminution in value they have experienced and allows us to focus on our claims against Tetra Tech.”

Joe Cotchett, of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy, adds: “The southeastern neighborhoods of San Francisco provide a case study in environmental racism; most San Franciscans have no idea that HPNS was ground zero in the atomic era or that it was very purposely the dumping ground for nuclear waste nor do they understand the deep-seated politics that continue to value economic development over human life.”

“Let us be candid here, as alleged in the complaint, the most culpable party is Tetra Tech – Tetra Tech is the one whose supervising employees have been to prison for swapping clean soil for contaminated soil. The developers should have had access to information that prospective purchasers did not have. This $6.3 million settlement will get real money to the homeowners.”

Anne Marie Murphy, also of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy, said: “The settlement with Lennar and Five Point is the culmination of two and a half years of litigation and over a year of negotiations with the homebuilders –through that process, we have been able to identify the diminution in property value caused by the Tetra Tech scandal with precision. 

“Between diminution in property value and extra taxes, residents have lost $48 million. The settlement gets funds to homeowners relatively early in the case and allows us to focus on the claims against Tetra Tech.”

As a class settlement, the court must approve the settlement as fair and adequate. A hearing on final approval of the settlement is currently scheduled for Oct. 14, 2021, before the honorable James Donato of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Upon final approval, checks will automatically issue to the class members.

Contact journalist Lee Houskeeper of San Francisco Stories at NewsService@aol.com.