Arrested Development

Mayor Brown is pushing for quick approval of a Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment plan that gives a lot to homebuilding giant Lennar, and not nearly enough to the city or the shipyard's neighbors

In San Francisco, though, there is a seemingly insatiable appetite for housing, and in the current market, housing will likely make more money than commercial development, so residential construction has become a priority for developers. Because the Navy has broken just about every cleanup schedule it's ever made, the transfer of property that might be used for job-creating commercial and industrial development remains in a seemingly perpetual limbo. "The community wanted jobs, and that's a very good priority, and I understand it, but show me the jobs," says Jim Chappell, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, who believes the city should be courting employers that would locate at the shipyard. "Zoning and plans do not create jobs. Broad-based, long-term economic strategies create jobs."

There are other significant issues that must be addressed before any major commercial or industrial development at the shipyard can work, including transportation. The present entrance into the shipyard -- from Third Street down Evans Avenue -- would send increased traffic through Bayview neighborhoods. (There is no immediate plan to link the Third Street light rail that is currently under construction to the shipyard site.)

In a separate move, San Francisco is studying a southern entrance that would link the shipyard with Highway 101, through either a bridge or an expressway spur. Such a direct transportation link into the shipyard would certainly open the door for commercial development, but it would also bring additional plumes of car exhaust to a community already plagued by asthma and air pollution-related illness.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency 
plans housing and commercial development 
in the first phase of shipyard construction.
The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency plans housing and commercial development in the first phase of shipyard construction.
Roy Willis, operations director for 
Lennar/BVHP, shows plans for the new 
shipyard development.
James Sanders
Roy Willis, operations director for Lennar/BVHP, shows plans for the new shipyard development.

Environmental activist Saul Bloom, director of ARC Ecology, notes that his organization, for one, would fight any future transportation plan that does not include direct economic benefits to the surrounding community. And beyond a few hundred construction jobs involved with the building of housing, job creation remains a distant dream for the former Hunters Point Shipyard.

As the mayor flogs, citizens consider, and the Redevelopment Commission gets ready to vote on the long-awaited first phase of civilianization of the Hunters Point Shipyard, rumors of a plan for a new football stadium float around the old naval base like so many ghosts. Nearly any time San Francisco 49ers owners John and Denise York talk about rebuilding Candlestick Park, there is some mention of at least the possibility of an alternative location for a new stadium. One of those possible sites is Hunters Point Shipyard. Though it has no place on any of the colorful maps that illustrate all of the new development proposed for Hunters Point, the idea of a new football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers on this shipyard is not dead. Nor, it seems, is it alive.

"They (John and Denise York) are interested in keeping the stadium on Candlestick Point. But they would also consider the possibility of putting a stadium at the shipyard," says Singer, who also represents the Yorks. "John and Denise York have expressed interest in a stadium at the shipyard. They have looked at the shipyard, have spoken to Lennar about it. They are talking hypothetically about it. But that's as far as it has gone.

"There is no plan."

For that matter, every aspect of the Hunters Point Shipyard plan -- except for the housing proposed for Phase 1 -- remains in a kind of arrested development, even if the city signs a deal with Lennar this year. New jobs, other than those connected to the construction of infrastructure and houses, are still years away. So are public facilities such as a community center and job-training programs. Environmental cleanup of most of the shipyard will not be complete for at least another seven years. In fact, Mayor Brown's successor may not see development of this shipyard to a finish. But after three decades of living next to a dead, toxic shipyard that has offered nothing but the vague promise of jobs and development on a long and indefinite timeline, few in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood are particularly surprised by a plan that involves uncertainty, and a lot more waiting.

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