This July, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to approve an environmental impact report (EIR) for the redevelopment of the Hunters Point Shipyard, a $7.7 billion project in the city’s impoverished Bayview section, which Lennar, the Miami-based builder, has been working on for more than a decade.
Last week the city’s Planning Board and Redevelopment Agency approved the 7,700-page EIR. “That was a big step,” says Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar’s Urban Land division in northern California, as was securing disposition and development approval from the Redevelopment Agency.
In a telephone interview with BUILDER last Friday, Bonner said Lennar hopes to soon get started on building homes for a project that encompasses the former Navy shipyard as well as nearby Candlestick Point. On that 771 acres, Lennar intends to create a city within a city, with at least 10,500 housing units (one-third of which will be affordably priced), 3 million square feet of commercial space, 700,000 square feet of retail space, 350 acres of parks, an 8,000- to 10,000-square foot arena, an artists’ colony, and, possibly, a football stadium.
Over the past two years, Lennar has been installing the infrastructure for the project’s 63-acre first phase, where Lennar is “fully entitled” to build 1,600 homes. Bonner said the builder is currently in discussion with lenders about vertical financing, and would start with a “small project” of 25 townhouses, followed by 63 condos in a four-story podium building. He said that, if all goes as planned, construction could begin “within the next few months.”
Getting the Board of Supervisors’ EIR approval is a critical next step, explained Bonner, after which Lennar would create and refine documents for entitling the rest of the project, which in turn would give the builder the necessary access to the site for redevelopment as well as standing to seek financing.
However, this being San Francisco, nothing is certain, and environmental groups are threatening a lawsuit to stop construction of a bridge and causeway over what's known as Yosemite Slough that would connect Hunters Point and Candlestick Point and be used primarily for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, as well as for city buses. The causeway would also be opened up to vehicular traffic on game days if San Francisco can persuade its professional football team, the 49ers, not to relocate to Santa Clara. Lennar’s redevelopment plan includes a new stadium for the 49ers on Candlestick Point, which would be kept open for that purpose until 2017. But if the team does move (which seems likely), the land would be used for other commercial purposes.
Regardless, Bonner said the bridge is “an important component of this project,” not only for transportation between the two Points, but also for connecting to the city’s light-rail system. “Traveling this route by car [without the bridge] would be a lot more convoluted,” he said.
The buildout of this redevelopment project is expected to take at least 20 years, and how quickly it proceeds depends on the Navy, which is responsible for mitigating the shipyard’s nuclear and chemical contamination. Bonner said the Navy “is being fairly diligent” about the cleanup “with the resources it has.” He added that Lennar also has learned “quite a bit” about how to excavate and prepare a formerly toxic jobsite, which in the early stages of this project got the builder into hot water with some community leaders who accused the company of unleashing dangerous particulate matter into the air.
John Caulfield is senior editor for BUILDER magazine.