Supervisors throw caution to the wind,
narrowly reject health first resolution
Supervisor Chris Daly introduced a resolution in June aimed at
temporarily halting a controversial redevelopment project in the
Bayview-Hunters Point district. The resolution called for a temporary
halt of construction while health officials are availed an opportunity
to assess an increase in health complaints related to alleged
asbestos laden dust being sent airborne as a result of heavy equipment
grading on serpentine rock known to contain asbestos. Supervisors
threw caution to the wind, yesterday, narrowly rejecting the resolution.
August 1, 2007
San Francisco lawmakers narrowly rejected a resolution yesterday
that would have temporary halted a controversial development of
new homes at the Bayview-Hunters Point (BVHP) shipyard.
The resolution, introduced by Supervisor Chris Daly, called on
the San Francisco Department of Public Health to issue a temporary
stop work order on Lennar Corporation while health officials are
availed an opportunity to properly assess an
increase in health complaints stemming from alleged asbestos
dust particulate matter being disrupted and released into the
atmosphere due to heaving equipment grading of large swaths of
earth and rock in an area known as Parcel A.
Asbestos, a known carcinogen, is a naturally occurring element
present in serpentine rock at the site. According to residents,
asbestos particulates are being released into the atmostphere
as a result of the earth and rock grading and is being carried
by swirling winds in all directions, over large distances.
Resident health complaints include nosebleeds, headaches, tear-swollen
eyes and respitory afflictions including asthma and bronchitis.
"How they can say that there's no problems, and we should
go forth as if business as usual is a testament to the political
and financial will of Lennar," said Minister Christopher
Mohamed following the vote.
Nation of Islam Minister Christopher Mohamed (center)
Mohamed is head of the Nation of Islam of Northern California
and supported Daly's resolution.
"And it appears as if they have purchased silence and capitulation,
not just in the political arena but even in the community among
leaders of the religious persuasion," Mohamed added.
Mohamed said that the Board's decision not to pass the resolution
only served to strengthen the community's movement against environmental
racism and toward social justice.
Supervisor Chris Daly said Lennar was not initially recommended
by city staff to be the developer of the shipyard for the city,
but had the political weight to win the vote.
The project has the political backing of Mayor Gavin Newsom,
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell - who represents the BVHP district -
and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"Money talks and that's how Lennar got six votes against
today," Daly said.
The hearing began with Chris Daly citing nine exceedances of
airborne asbestos levels in July by Lennar. He said that asbestos
levels during that time exceeded the standard of 16,000 fibers
of asbestos per cubic meter.
"Only one week ago today (there were) 33,900 fibers,"
On July 2, there were 51,500 fibers per cubic meter detected
by monitors on the site, Daly said.
Daly cited a study by the World Health Organization saying that
increased cancer risks have been observed in communities that
have been exposed to "very low levels" of asbestos.
Responding to Daly, Director of the Department of Public Health
Dr. Mitch Katz said: "No, it does not pose any human health
risks to develop on Parcel A."
"It's a state rock and how can you do any major construction
anywhere without some release?" Katz conceded. He said that
the standard set by the Public Health Department in regards to
asbestos is lower than the levels used to clear a school.
"We have set levels below what we've required of a school
in order to allow the students to come back in," Katz said.
San Francisco Public Health Director, Mitch Katz, M.D.
Katz stated that accumulative studies conducted at the federal,
state, and local levels deemed the shipyard to be safe prior to
its construction, but did not address the issue of asbestos levels
being considerably higher than the Health Department's standard.
The Board listened to hours of testimony from Bayview-Hunters
Point residents, many of whom have been life long residents in
the area. Over one hundred people lined up for up to four hours
to provide one-minute of public testimony each, both for and against
the resolution. Many residents testified to health problems they
attributed to asbestos laden dust stirred up by construction at
"Due to construction by Lennar Company, I have been hospitalized
with asthma," said one high school student whose GPA suffered
after succumbing to his illness.
"If the shipyard construction and redevelopment is safe,
then what is the hesitation of proving it?" asked another
There were pleas to the Board for what was called a "desperate
situation at Hunters Point."
Some speakers said that they were from Bayview-Hunters Point,
but had not succumbed to sickness.
"I've raised four children there, none of whom are sick
or have ever been sick," said one mother.
Other residents testified that environmental sicknesses had impacted
the community before Lennar had started construction and that
Lennar could not be held solely responsible. There were also accusations
that residents, who were claiming to be sick from asthma, had
acquired their sickness from other causes.
There were also claims that the resolution had divided the community,
forcing individuals to choose between having a job, or good health.
District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents the BVHP
district, was silent during the hearing.
District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell
After four and a half hours, the Board of Supervisors concluded
the hearing with a 6 to 5 vote in opposition to the resolution.
Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, Sean
Elsbernd, Sophie Maxwell and Jake McGoldrick voted against the
Gary Banks, a pastor at Bayview-Hunters Point Community Marketplace
Fellowship Church in San Francisco, said he was happy about the
Board's decision. Banks said that he opposed the resolution to
stop work, but supports an increase in dust monitoring as well
as conducting health assessments for residents of the Bayview-Hunters
"We got the attention we needed for our community, at the
same time without impeding on progress," Banks said. "It's
about how to go about it in a way that's not disrupting the most
disenfranchised community in the city."