The Battle for Bayview
District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Photos by Luke
February 11, 2008
The stage is now set for what may be one of the biggest development battles
Last Monday, Bayview community leaders, joined by San Francisco progressives, submitted 11,236 signatures
to qualify the Bayview
Affordable Housing Initiative for June's ballot. With only
10 days and a few thousand dollars, dozens of volunteers braved
the cold wind and rain to fight for our vision of meeting the
real housing needs of folks living in the Bayview/Hunters Point.
Our intense effort displayed the strength and commitment of
the growing coalition of San Francisco Progressives (who collected
nearly 5,000 signatures in the effort) and rising leaders from
the Bayview/Hunters Point and San Francisco's African American
Our resolve was tested by driving rain, gusting winds, and record
cold, but we stood resolute, petitioning on street corners and
shopping centers and knocking on doors from Bayview public housing
to Tenderloin SRO hotels to Chinatown senior buildings.
The effort builds on the burgeoning, community-based insurgency in the
Bayview. In the past year, a 1,000-person coalition concerned
about environmental justice protested Lennar for blanketing Hunters Point with
asbestos dust. A couple of years ago, 33,000 San Franciscans
signed a referendum of the Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Plan calling
for greater public benefits and community control in the neighborhood. Unfortunately,
their voices were silenced by a legal technicality.
The Corporation of Broken Promises
Meanwhile, the entire political establishment has lined up behind the Lennar
Corporation who is single-handedly financing their "Bayview Jobs, Parks, and
Housing Initiative" and making big promises to deliver up to 10,000
housing units with 25% affordable housing, a rebuilt football stadium, office
space, and plenty of park land. Their measure, however, doesn't guarantee any
of these things. Furthermore, Lennar doesn't even yet have a legal stake in
the proposed development in Candlestick.
Residents of the Bayview understand that the Lennar Corporation
should be named the Corporation of Broken Promises. In
their Parcel A development in the Hunters Point Shipyard, Lennar
promised to build one out of every 8 units as an affordable rental.
They reneged on this promise claiming that it was too costly for
them. Then they slashed their commitment to a community "Legacy
Their most egregious violation of trust came in the form of
asbestos-laden dust plumes that covered homes, schools, playgrounds,
and churches. Promise after promise was made by Lennar in community
meetings, glossy brochures, at public hearings, and to regulatory
agencies that they would protect the health of the community and
workers by rigidly following a State mandated Dust Mitigation
During the months of major grading at Parcel A, a Lennar contractor
failed to turn on their dust monitors, leaving the community exposed
to unknown quantities of asbestos fibers. After finally turning
on the monitors, Lennar routinely exceeded the asbestos limit
set in the Dust Mitigation Plan of 16,000 fibers per cubic meter.
The damage having been done, Lennar successfully argued that
they should be allowed to continue construction, while they mounted
a behind-closed-doors effort to limit their legal liability for
of Violation from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Not that anyone should be surprised by any of this. Lennar wasn't even
supposed to get the development contract for Hunters Point in the first place,
as a Redevelopment consultant recommended Forrest City for the work. Lennar
flexed their significant muscle and called in political favors at the Commission.
They then proved that they weren't above using dirty tricks, at one point using
a contractor to pay homeless people to testify on their behalf at public hearings.
Political Jobs Program
Even as their stock
plunged to its lowest levels in years, the Lennar Corporation
lavished money on the who's who of San Francisco political operatives.
Before the close of the signature gathering period, the Lennar
Corporation reported spending nearly
a million dollars on their effort! (Our committee spent less
By comparison, the Police Officers Association spent a total
of $232,000 to qualify and pass Proposition B on last Tuesday's
ballot. This included their signature gathering and campaign expenses,
including commercials! So where is all that Lennar money going?
In what could only be described as a political jobs program,
Lennar has dumped almost $550,000 into San Francisco's biggest
political consultants and spin doctors. Terris, Barnes, and Walters
have received over $180,000. Sam Singer has pulled in over $117,000.
Eric Jaye's Storefront Consulting and Alex Tourk's Ground Floor
each have taken a cool $75,000. Jim Stearns has taken in another
$50,000. Roberta Achtenberg shows on the rolls at $8,000.
When questioned about these expenditures, Sam Singer called
this cabal a "dream
team of political experts."
In the last couple of weeks, Lennar has invited others to live the dream--
Newsom pollster David Binder ($23,000), former 49ers President Carmen Policy
($9,000), former Community College Trustee Johnnie Carter ($6,700), powerhouse
west-side lobbyist Denise LaPointe ($2,000), and Willie Brown's go-to astroturf
operation, the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
Housing for the City
Even with what seems to be the entire political establishment on retainer,
Lennar must have been caught off-guard by the boldness of our grassroots signature
gathering effort. In the past, Lennar used their minions to do their bidding
-- whether it be their high-profile "dream team" operatives or just some community
sell-out. This time, though, Lennar had to do its own dirty work…
The Daly-backed measure "is essentially a poison
pill," said Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar's urban land division in San Francisco.
"No private developer is going to be able to create something on this scale
of development, including parks and infrastructure, and be able to provide 50
percent affordable housing."
Funny. I actually agree with Lennar on this. Why should we be
relying solely on out-of-town private developers, especially the
likes of Lennar, to deliver the affordable housing that we need
in San Francisco. In fact, last year the Board of Supervisors
passed a resolution
establishing policy for the eastern neighborhoods of San Francisco
authored by Sophie Maxwell.
In it, the Board set an aggressive goal for affordable housing
production – that 64% of all new housing units should be affordable,
with "28% of housing affordable to Moderate Income households,
10% of housing affordable to Low Income households, and 26% of
housing affordable to Very Low Income households."
The policy goes on to say that the "affordable housing implementation
strategy developed with the Mayor's Office of Housing (and) the
San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (should) include the mechanisms
and financial resources needed to meet the housing production
percentage targets specified."
So, how is the Bayview Affordable Housing Initiative off-target
with this policy? Hunters Point and Candlestick Point represent
San Francisco's last giant developable piece of land. It's all
publicly owned and sits in one of the most affordable-housing
hungry neighborhoods of our City.
The City also has the powers of Redevelopment at our disposal,
including tax increment financing. If anything, our measure could
mandate even more affordable housing.
With affordable housing consistently ranking as San Francisco's
most pressing issue, we definitely need to be delivering very
high levels of affordability to meet our housing challenge. The
Bayview Affordable Housing Initiative, along with November's Affordable
Housing Charter Amendment, can do this.
Affordable Housing Redux
So what's the real problem? Lennar and the Mayor's Office have
to say that the Bayview Affordable Housing Initiative is not
financially "feasible" and would "kill" the development. But with
some simple math, you can figure out what's really going on here…
"Bonner said the Lennar project is estimated to cost $1.4 billion.
The company would expect to eventually make a 20 to 25 percent
rate of return on its investment."
Twenty-five percent of $1.4 billion is $350 million — $350 million
of profit Lennar admits it wants to extract from the Bayview.
If we cut Lennar's profits out of this deal and publicly develop
the project instead, we could pump this money back into increasing
the affordability in the project. With the savings, we could build
a couple of thousand additional affordable housing units.
The only problem with this proposal is how all the political
operatives would eat!