Bayview and Redevelopment: Second of Two Parts

by Carol Harvey on March 31, 2006

BLIGHT TOUR

According to Mary Ratcliff, UCSF is rumored to have approached Bayview developers about housing masses of newly hired biotechies. Willie termed Mission Bay, site of stem cell research, “slightly toxic.” South of the Cesar Chavez line, driving Third along the light rail tracks, to our left hunch squat $110 million maintenance buildings, offices and car service barns.

The rail, built to Visitacion Valley, with extensions planned to City College, and the Airport, would transport Mission Bay scientists to Bayview market rate housing. “In a $600 million dollar Light Rail project,” Willie grumbles, “They’re promising us all these jobs. We got nothing out of this deal but dust.”

At the March 6 SFRA hearing, an apprentice with Local 22, Carpentry and Jointers Union in the Bayview asserted, “Redevelopment is absolutely out of the question, The people here don’t want this. Whatever carrots they throw out, like jobs, — It’s not going to happen.”

She sees young people of color, traditionally excluded, conducting undignified hustles to land exploitative jobs handling hazardous waste and cancerous material at a Superfund site, “so contaminated that the Federal Government has to address it for its nuclear waste materials. It’s oftentimes tied to militarism because of the testing and development that was done with weapons.” Trainees are expected to be grateful for potentially deadly low wage jobs.

We cross Marin St. and Islais Creek Bridge past Bayview Plaza and India Basin Industrial Park, already a Redevelopment area.

We pass attractive shopping Centers and Banks.

At Hudson Street, St. John Missionary Baptist Church, “one of the largest black churches” sits to the East.

“Third Street is black-owned,” Willie informs me.

“They wouldn’t put money for the property owners up and down Third that is going to suffer while everybody benefits.

“All they had to do was ask the Department of Transportation for money, but they didn’t ask ’cause they want to push you out.”

Blight could be erased with loans which redlining prevents.

NEWCOMB TO OAKDALE

A contractor for years, Willie is President of Liberty Builders, Inc. He shows me a block from Newcomb to Oakdale he wants to develop into shops, and affordable and market rate housing.

“That’s us doing it,” he says. These jobs are for “our people. We are in control.” The SFRA, he insists, merely “Wants to get your Soul out.”

We pass his ‘Bayview Newspaper’ offices farther South at Palou and Third.

“See all the blight!” He laughs repeatedly at this absurdity throughout our 90 minute tour.

“They don’t have to give a definition.

“All a city needs do to create or expand a redevelopment area is to declare it ‘blighted.'”

This is easily done. State law is so vague that most anything has been designated “blight.”

“I can go into any neighborhood and find one house that needs fixing up.

“Rich people have more money to fix up their houses.”

At Newcomb and Third I thought of SFRA meeting attendee, Sandy, who lives near Newcomb and Oakdale. Her block, a close “family” since the 80s, has “pulled together” discovering ” there are funds available” from years of homeowners taxes. “We will be able to get our tax money back, to fix up the Bayview. “At this moment, we are not capable of doing it (because) the City won’t release it.”

She is conflicted about the Redevelopment plan, supporting portions of it. “If we can get our taxpayers’ money back, help the police understand their brutality, and work together as a community to change it, then we will be more harmonious — not, at times, in such a dirty depressed state — and, save the community.”

She complained “outside people won’t pay dump fees” and litter “our streets.” City Services “have stopped coming.”

A blue collar worker earning low wages, she wants low income housing for 20, 30, 40 year Bayview residents.

She doesn’t want people forced out, but to stay and build a community.

We pass Williams and Van Dyke driving straight down Third passing a sign for Monster Park, The Monte Carlo, a black club and “good eating place,” and a pleasant-looking, affordable Senior Citizen Center.

At Bancroft, the old red brick Coca Cola Bottling Plant slides by. A million dollar condominium project, approved by the Planning Department, is underway “to put 375 market rate units in there. No low or moderate units, period. That’s the kind of thing they’ll do for rich people,” said Willie.

At Jennings and Gilman, Willie tells me the plan: “We are headed to Monster Park. Then we’ll come back around and show you light rail going on all the way to the San Mateo line. Then we’ll go up on the hill.

It’s Bayview Hills from here on up.” “Up on the hill,” the Housing Authority is doing the same thing —evicting people.”

Monster Park, where hoards of 49er fans drive for games, used to be Candlestick Park.

“They don’t stop. they don’t buy nothin’. They just smoke us and leave.”

Driving up from Double Rock to Bayview Hills, we pass rows of houses like those in upper Haight. “Look at these views!”

“The biggest thing in most people’s lives (is) whether they own a home or not.”

“If there is a little blight, just stop the redlining and not loaning people money, and they’ll fix their own blight.

“These houses are owned by the little old ladies who are being harassed. Most houses are paid for. They’ve got money in the bank.”

Eva Smith, an 84-year-old Bayview Hunter’s point resident, spoke at the March 6 hearing. She moved to The Bayview in 1959, working San Francisco General’s midnight shift.

“A bunch of us old ladies — young women then — four or five of us, worked on them hills out there.” We met “at 8:00 o’clock in the morning, sat there and drank coffee. We planned and planned.”

“All we wanted was a chance to show you that we could work and we could provide for that community.

“If you redevelop, what will happen to old people like me? Would you throw us out? Or would you give us (money) so we could fix our homes up?

“And what will happen to our young people, the offspring of some of these old women who have worked so hard?

“Black people have built this country. All we need is a little help.”

POLICE INVASION AND INTIMIDATION – 911

Willie observes, “There’s a lot of intimidation and fear, because you got the police department running around using this 911 stuff to get in people’s houses.

“They can claim you called 911. Then they go and beat the shit out of you if you let them in.”

At Jamestown and Jennings, Willie points out mesh gates over doors. “Folks used to keep their doors unlocked.” No jobs causes crime.

Homeowner Sandy lives near the site of a recent police shooting which drew helicopters and sirens. She angrily confronted the media. “The Police officer’s blood is just as red as that young kid who got shot the other day.”

She confesses to trouble in the Bayview, much of it caused by police, “who antagonize a lot of situations.”

101 NORTH

The Light Rail goes south down 3rd to Bayshore to Visitacion Valley, the green hills of San Mateo now behind us,

Driving Bayshore Blvd, Willie looks up to Little Hollywood’s hills calling the views “gorgeous.”

The Shipyard, where the Parcels are located was declared a Redevelopment Area without community input.

At Visitacion Street, Willie recites Bayview racial groups’ percentages: 91% people of color; Chinese; Latinos; Samoans; 40% Afro-American; 9% white.

At Hollister, he observes, if the Plan goes through, “the whole character of San Francisco will be changed – all rich white people.”

At Fitzgerald, he muses on San Francisco’s economic racism and hypocrisy.

“San Francisco tries to put on a liberal face, but economically it’s a lie.”

We drive over the hill, proceeding down Revere past Ingalls and Hawes toward the Shipyard.

Houses and businesses sit close to the toxic landfill.

Oakdale and Kiska look down on the yard, offering extravagant views of San Leandro, Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, the bridges, and the two power plants uglifying the the Bay. PGE, which “sells power to Canada while it kills us, “will be torn down. Mirant’s darker stack rises beyond.

SFA Public Housing built on the left faces ownership homes across the street.

Beautiful privately owned dwellings in “Dolphin Court” grace Albatross St.

We pass Coral at Marlin and Kirkwood at La Salle and park at a lookout spot over the Bay — The Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island, and the City, plus the polluted Shipyard below.

SHIPYARD PARCELS: ECONOMIC RACISM AND CLASSISM.

Driving toward Precision Transport, a large shipyard’ warehouse, we pass artist studios. A Lennar sign brays “We believe in safety.”

“Parcel E down on the flat, abutting Parcel A, polluted worst, is where they dumped everything including radioactive carcasses, during atomic research out here.”

Here, the first atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” was assembled.

They sandblasted and scraped radioactive paint into the Bay off ships near atomic bomb blasts.

During cleanup they discovered irradiated “black gold” shining in the sand, and, along with radioactive dials, they covered it up.

They dumped everything from other bases because “No one in a white neighborhood would want it.”

“All over this country, you find pollution in poor areas, usually black and Latino. To reach black neighborhoods, get on the freeway.”

PARCEL E

The most polluted is Parcel E, a 46-acre landfill, part of which was capped. “It caught fire, wouldn’t go out, burned for almost a year; with methane coming out the sides.”

Over the hill, they installed a device to trap gas, but large amounts continued to escape and “other polluted things caught a ride” on it.

” In the summer, the ground spontaneously combusted into smoke and flames like Texas grass fires.

Bayview and City fire departments would “jump out here.” No Press arrived.

On Parcel E, my multiple chemical sensitivity kicked in. A band of pressure gripped my temples. Eyes burned. Said Willie, “Radiation comes up from the soil. You’re right on it.”.

“They had 22,000 people working there, where it is all fenced off because it is contaminated.”

Despite this, Lennar plans 1,700 units and is building on and near it right now. “They are bad as Halliburton.”

Willie says Lennar developed toxic dump sites in Florida.

October 23, 1996, CNN Online: “A football field-size sinkhole in front of 20 houses in the Hampshire Homes subdivision of Miramar outside Miami” uncovered “sinkholes, trash pits, and buried debris.”

“Lennar excavated 250 truckloads of trash…but admitted no wrongdoing.”

http://www.cnn.com/US/9610/23/sinkhole/

On Parcel A, abutting Parcel E, Lennar is building market rate housing with a few low income affordable units. Redevelopment reaps 60 percent of proceeds, Lennar 40.

Parcel B, the artists’ area, and Parcel C are “totally polluted.”

Parcel F, the worst, extends into the Bay

At 17, Willie was a rigger loading ships here.. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Precision Transport is a gray corrugated storage building.

Three brothers, who leased this building across from Parcel E, died from cancer. One was in business with Willie.

We drive up to Middlepoint Road across the Street from PGE at the Huntersview Projects.

“These people really suffer from the power plant.”

“The cops are up here like flies messing with people and running them off. They want this hill, too. They are doing it in all the public housing around here,” these projects and the ones at Candlestick Point.

City agencies work together. SFHA and the Redevelopment Agency run them out. MUNI, DPW, and the Police Department don’t hire them, he tells me.

Thoroughly depressed by the socioeconomic racism and classism implicit in Lennar’s toxic site construction, combined with the vile treatment of Project dwellers by predatory social agencies, we returned west across Third Street to the massive Sewage Treatment Plant, which “handles 80% of all solid waste and San Francisco runoff.” From this site on rainy days, San Francisco sewage floats through Bayview streets, running into the Bay. Willie suggested, instead of toxifying Bay Area water, the wealthy near the Presidio might share the burden of piping this stuff the opposite direction into the sea.

I mused ironically on the prospect of engineers and scientists conducting stem cell research at the “slightly toxic” Mission Bay facility, then carried by light rail to their Lennar condos perched atop a carcinogenic Superfund site.

We drove to the Newspaper offices, welcomed by Mary smiling out the window. As I cleared my head breathing oxygen from the tree leaves framing Willie’s office door, I realized the Bayview’s only blight was inflicted on an innocent community by corporate interests and war.

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