San Francisco Civil Grand Jury chides health department over Hunters Point development 

A plan to build more than 10,000 new homes at the Hunters Point Shipyard could either be the best thing in San Francisco history, or its worst ever development disaster, according to a ruling issued Thursday by The City’s Civil Grand Jury.

It all depends on how the defunct U.S. Navy base is cleaned of contamination, and how public officials respond to community concerns over how the cleanup and buildup will be conducted.

The jury’s findings say the Department of Public Health is not keeping residents informed enough of development progress on its website, and they raised issue with the development company, Lennar, paying DPH to monitor possible health impacts.

“The Jury found The City has placed itself in a potentially compromising situation with Lennar where in essence the wolf is paying the shepherd to guard the flock,” the report says.

The report said that concern was bolstered by emails between Lennar and officials at DPH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency obtained by activists through the Freedom of Information Act. Activists contend the correspondence shows collusion among the entities to downgrade potential health risks at the shipyard, which the EPA has listed as a highly toxic Superfund site.

The grand jury’s ruling was released on the same day as a Board of Supervisors hearing that touched on ethics standards at DPH. Activists and residents of the Bayview district attended the Government Audit & Oversight Committee hearing to call for the resignation of a DPH environmental engineer, but supervisors declined to discuss personnel issues and also didn’t focus on the emails because they are the subject of an ongoing internal investigation in the health department.

Barbara Garcia, director of public health, released a statement via email that said the department “will review and respond to the recommendations and findings” of the grand jury and “issue a response as required.”

A San Francisco Superior Court judge is expected to rule in July on a lawsuit by some of the same activist groups -- People Organized to Win Employment Rights and Greenaction -- against Lennar over the project’s environmental impact report.

The project is slated to add 25,000 people to southeast San Francisco, doubling the population there, and add 885,000 square feet of retail, along with 2.6 million square feet of green office space.

The project received the Gold Nugget Grand Award for architectural design and land use planning at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference at the Moscone Center on Thursday. In a press release, Lennar Urban’s president Kofi Bonner praised the input of local residents on the project.

“The entire community deserves praise for this award,” Bonner said.

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Dan Schreiber

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