The Bayview’s India Basin neighborhood has some residents weighing the benefits of a controversial plan to develop land near toxic waste sites that was approved last October.
Community members raised concerns against the environmental consultant agency Tetra Tech EC, Inc., who is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the United States on behalf of the US Navy on Jan. 14, 2019.
In response to the lawsuit, Tetra Tech EC, Inc., argues it was employees who mishandled and falsified data for the Hunters Point Shipyard development project in 2014.
The former naval shipyard has been contaminated with toxic waste and radioactive material since World War II, according to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
The Environmental Protection Agency halted the Hunters Point Shipyard development based on the community’s risk of radiation exposure until further investigation could be completed. There are currently over 150 brownfields — former industrial or other commercial sites that may have been contaminated with hazardous waste, according to Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice—in Bayview-Hunters Point.
Leotis Martin, a 58-year-old Bayview resident and Greenaction activist, remembers playing in contaminated dirt from the former Navy base as a child. He said multiple friends in his community have passed away due to Bayview’s toxic terrain conditions and claims many people in the community are affected with higher rates of cancer and asthma.
“We want to stop people from dying, and from people going to the hospital once a month,” Martin said. “They’re killing us off slowly and at the same time they are pushing us out. They are trying to gentrify the area and make it sound like a good thing.”
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice works closely with Bayview residents opposed to the land development. The Bay Area Quality Management District designated the area to the Communnity and Air Risk Evaluation program in the last 10 years because of its frequent risk of air pollution, according to Greenaction’s Director Bradley Angel.
The Bayview contains eight different toxic waste sites undergoing active cleanups. It is ranked as one of the most vulnerable communities in the state according to Greenaction.
“We reached out to the [air district] to tell the board of supervisors that there is a big concern about the project and that its own study admits that there is significantly harmful [pollution],” Angel said.
The project’s final environmental impact report said there would be significantly harmful air pollution, which was the primary concern for Greenaction and Bayview residents.
Jesus Flores, the manager of Archimedes Banya, a Russian bathhouse less than 50 feet from the development, spoke out against the project because of the negative impacts that the air quality and housing will have for the community in a city hall meeting last October.
“Affordable housing will not benefit the community based off the price of a one bedroom set at $4,000. That is not affordable,” Flores said.
The India Basin Neighborhood Association said the development could bring an upgraded transit system, more business opportunities and an approved $4.9 million for environmental cleanup.
Residents in favor of the new development said they don’t have access to a local grocery store, library, restaurants and other amenities.
The development includes plans for a community center, according to IBNA Chairperson Jill Fox.
“We are all lacking somewhere to buy food, somewhere to eat out and somewhere to buy coffee,” Fox said. “What we are trying to do as a neighborhood association is to be the bridge between all these diverse communities where people can learn about what is going on [in their neighborhoods].”
IBNA board member Sean Karlin originally moved out to India Basin in 2005 because he was attracted to the post-industrial landscape of the Bayview. Karlin said construction is inevitable in these situations, and being part of the planning ensures that it is done according to the best
interests of the neighborhood.
The IBNA is also concerned that the construction will bring pollution, noise and traffic.
Doris Vincent, an 82-year-old Bayview resident of more than 50 years, said the India Basin neighborhood will benefit positively from this development because it will bring new shops, housing and the “whole nine yards” to revitalize the community.
The nearest grocery store is four miles away and the neighborhood only has one way in and out, which adds to the traffic and pollution in the area, she said.
“Whatever they choose to do in their neighborhood, as long as it is done democratically and the majority rules, I favor [the project],” she said.
Vincent said she hopes the Bayview’s future will meet all the needs of its residents and that it can grow as a family community.