Community leaders skeptical of Newsom comments
Mayor Gavin Newsom at last week's annual 49ers pre-season luncheon.
Photos by John
September 2, 2007
Bayview Hunters Point community leaders questioned the sincerity
of comments made last week by Mayor Gavin Newsom during a speech
he gave at the 49ers annual luncheon in San Francisco.
Following an impassioned plea by Senator Dianne Feinstein aimed
at team owner John York to keep the 49ers in San Francisco; Newsom
made encouraging remarks about progress of the redevelopment plan
at the Hunters Point shipyard.
Senator Dianne Feinstein
49ers owner John York
"By the way, this is not just about the 49ers," Newsom
said in reference to Bay View Hunters Point (BVHP) residents.
"This is about providing dignity to the people that are living
in conditions where prostate cancer rates, breast cancer rates,
and cervical cancer rates are two to four times the state and
federal average. We're finally realizing a vision to provide dignity
to that community."
In addition to a new stadium, the redevelopment plan calls for
a new arena, a state of the art shopping mall complex, 8500 housing
units, and two million square feet of commercial space.
"And again that's not just about football, it's about the
dignity of the people that are counting on us every single day
to reclaim this community," Newsom said.
Newsom then praised Feinstein for $50 million in federal funds
earmarked for the remediation of 27 acres of the shipyard once
occupied by the U.S. Navy.
Community leaders scoffed at Newsom's comments.
"He's being driven by his political ambitions," said
mayoral candidate Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai. "The mayor is acting
out of his own political and financial conflict of interest in
his dealings with Lennar."
Ahimsa said the mayor used the community's history of excessive
health problems to justify a "dirty transfer" and accelerated
development to meet the needs of the 49ers.
Sumchai grew up in the southeast sector of San Francisco in the
Sunnydale housing projects, the location Newsom had sharply criticized
recently for lack of maintenance during his visit there.
"He is focusing his redevelopment efforts on the Hunters
View and Alice Griffith housing projects that incorporate the
shipyard's plan for the stadium," Sumchai said.
Sumchai, a sports medicine physician and certified personal trainer,
spent ten seasons as an emergency physician for the San Francisco
Giants at Candlestick Park, and five years as an elected official
on the Restoration Advisory Board for the Hunters Point shipyard.
She said the shipyard's redevelopment plan as it is would be
good for the city and county of San Francisco, but would cause
irreparable damage to the community.
"The plan calls for the privatization of the clean up,"
"The EPA would lose the jurisdiction that it has over the
federal superfund site cleanup if it is transferred early into
private hands. Right now the EPA has said nothing significant
toxic dust exposure. It has the power to, but its powers are
significantly weakened," Sumchai added.
According to Sumchai, Lennar Corp. has refused to release documentation
related to OSHA standards for worker safety on the shipyard.
"What is being advocated here is the dirty transfer of a
federal superfund site, one of the top ten most toxic properties
on the national priorities list," she said.
She added that environmental hazards and regulations violations
have continued during construction.
"In the last two weeks asbestos levels reported by the Bay
Area Air Quality Management District have reached a high of 43,000
structures [of asbestos] per cubic meter," Sumchai said,
noting that the work stoppage level is 16,000 structures per cubic
Sumchai said she does not believe that the shipyard's redevelopment
plan will "survive a challenge to its environmental impact
review." She points to three lawsuits filed
against Lennar by four African American employees, Mariposa
Developers, and the Nation of Islam.
She said she did not think the clean up would be completed in
time to meet 2009 deadlines.
Marie Harrison of GreenAction said her main concern is that the
redevelopment plan does not have the community's best interests
at stake. Harrison said Newsom will say anything to "get
the community to like him."
As for the 49ers, it would make no difference to Harrison if
they moved to Santa Clara since the community is "already
in dire straits."
And she was skeptical about the mayor's claim that he was equally
concerned about the health of the area's residents as he was about
the 49ers leaving town.
"Do you honestly think that this is being built for the
residents of Bayview Hunters Point?" Harrison said. "We're
not stupid. If Newsom is worried about our health, why didn't
he stop Lennar and test us?"
"We were asking just for the folks who live in Mariners
Village around the edges of the fence," Harrison said.
San Francisco Bayview Newspaper Editor Mary Ratcliff said if
environmental racism is the issue, redevelopment is not the answer.
She said listening to the community's desire to determine their
own destiny is the answer.
"We don't need our community privatized," Ratcliff
said. "We don't need the control of it turned over to anybody.
We do not need a master developer like Lennar."
Ratcliff said the U.S. Navy admitted to having spent over $400
million dollars on the shipyard's cleanup costs, yet the parcels
are still not clean. She questions what Feinstein's $50 million
can do that $400 million could not do.
"I think the money's been going into a rat hole, the very
deep pockets of the contractors," Ratcliff said. "I
don't think anybody gives a damn about us anymore than they do
the people of New Orleans."