Decision Time for Hunter's Point

The hilltop of San Francisco's Hunters Point north shipyard  doesn't look like much.

A road winds through a grassy field, which boasts a view of the  city's skyline to the north and a misty ocean expanse to the west.

This afternoon, a bulldozer and earth roller put some finishing  touches on the landscape. A couple of workers in neon vests dug a hole to lay  plumbing pipes.

At many construction sites, this would only be the pre-production  phase. But at Hunters Point, the site of a former Navy shipyard that was  abandoned in 1974, a construction-ready field with major infrastructure  already in place is the product of years of development.

 Lennar Corp.'s Hunters Point Shipyard project has been in the  works for more than a decade, and on Thursday, the project faces another  major hurdle as the city's redevelopment agency and planning commission  consider certifying the final environmental impact report. Lennar hosted a  media tour of the project today.

The 500-acre project would be San Francisco's largest  redevelopment project since Golden Gate Park, according to Michael Cohen,  director of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

 It has been fraught with controversy since the beginning with  critics concerned about community displacement, the environmental impact of  construction, and the timeline and resident overview of the project.

But developers have said it's not a question of if the project  will move forward, but when.

They've worked with the community for years, and if the  environmental review is not approved on Thursday, it will be a setback but  not a deal-breaker, officials working on the project said.

"After a decade of community planning, we think the time is now,"  Cohen said, adding that he would "absolutely" raise a family in the  redeveloped shipyard.

The site, which includes the waterfront property at Hunters Point  and Candlestick Point, has been under city control since 1993. In 1999, the  Miami-based Lennar Corp. was chosen to develop it. The company has planned  the construction in three phases: two for the Hunters Point shipyard and one  for Candlestick Point.

Part of the final project will depend upon whether the San  Francisco 49ers football team stays in the city, so the company has created  two separate plans - a stadium option and a non-stadium option.

"We believe we can make either plan quite successful," Lennar  Corp. Regional Vice President Kofi Bonner said.

The plans call for 10,500 new housing units and close to 1 million  square feet of retail space. More than 320 acres of new parks would be  developed, and at least nine sports fields are being planned.

Lennar Corp. has pledged to give more than 50 percent of  construction and infrastructure jobs to local residents and to provide  support for residents to purchase homes in the area.

At least 32 percent of the residential construction would be  affordable housing, based on a range of incomes, and career-building  workforce training programs would be implemented.

So far about 88 acres have been cleaned up and signed off on,  Cohen said, and an additional 150 acres have been cleaned but are undergoing  testing and certification.

Bonner said Lennar Corp. hopes to announce a construction start  date sometimes in the next month, but the company faces financial as well as  environmental difficulties.

Although the federal government has put about $700 million into  cleaning up the site, Lennar Corp. has not obtained funding for the  construction yet, Bonner said.

He's confident, though, that current negotiations with a  construction lender will pan out. And regardless of whether the environmental  review for the entire project is approved at Thursday's meeting, the north  shipyard hilltop is construction-ready for the 25 townhouses and 63  condominiums planned there

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