Huge Candlestick project going ahead as cleanup scandal keeps Hunters Point Shipyard on hold
Author: J.K. Dineen
Date: June 25th 2019
Published: San Francisco Chronicle
The cleanup scandal at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard site has paralyzed the city’s biggest redevelopment project, putting thousands of housing units on hold as the U.S. Navy prepares to release the long-delayed final plan to retest the Superfund site.
But the tale of incompetence at the shipyard has had one beneficiary: Candlestick Point.
As executives from developer FivePoint await news from the Navy on the future of its 420-acre San Francisco Shipyard project, they have turned their full attention to Candlestick Point, the 280-acre property to the west. Unlike the Shipyard project site, which was home to a Cold War-era nuclear warfare research lab, Candlestick Point is not known to have been contaminated with radioactive waste.
Over the past year, work crews have been busy preparing Candlestick Point for the first phase of development there, which will include 1,600 homes, 750,000 square feet of office space and 280,000 square feet of what the developer calls “lifestyle retail.” That means restaurants, a food hall, movie theater complex and grocery store. The latest version of the development replaces an earlier scheme to build an outlet mall there, a concept abandoned earlier this year because of the retail downturn. FivePoint plans to build the first phase all at once to create a critical mass of residents and workers in the neighborhood.
Out at Candlestick Point, work crews have been busy. Over 350,000 cubic yards of soil have been imported to prepare for sea level rise and another 650,000 cubic yards have been moved to reduce the higher parts of the property. Roads are under construction. Sewer and storm drain systems are finished. Buildings — one as high as 32 stories — have been designed and approved. In addition, FivePoint and its development partners have rebuilt the only existing residential complex on Candlestick Point, the 256-unit Alice Griffith public housing complex. As of last month, all of the Alice Griffith families had moved into their new units.
Emile Haddad, the chief executive officer of FivePoint — a development company spun off of the giant homebuilder Lennar 10 years ago — said that Chief Operating Officer Kofi Bonner has the money and the directive to start on the infrastructure at Candlestick Point even as the future of its San Francisco Shipyard project is in doubt.
“We have not slowed down,” said Haddad. “We have not stopped. Anything we can do right now, we are doing it. Kofi and his team have been charged with focusing on the Candlestick part until the Navy gives us more clarity to allow us to start planning on the Shipyard.”
The city tied together the approvals of the Hunters Point and Candlestick Point redevelopments, and in 2008 San Francisco voters set a conceptual framework for both properties. In total, the Candlestick project will have 7,200 units of housing, built over several phases, while the Shipyard project will have about 4,800 residential units as well as about 4 million square feet of office and research and development space.
Development of the San Francisco Shipyard project was put on hold last year after several employees admitted to falsifying records in the $1 billion cleanup. Two of those employees, supervisors with the U.S. contractor Tetra Tech EC, pleaded guilty in federal court to cheating and were sentenced to prison. Tetra Tech EC performed nuclear remediation work at the former U.S. naval base between 2002 and 2016. In December, the Navy was scheduled to release a final plan for retesting Parcel G — the parcel where much of the botched cleanup allegedly took place — but still has not released the document.
“The work plan is going through administrative review right now and will be released as soon as possible,” said Navy spokesman William Franklin.
Haddad called the delays “very frustrating.”
“I don’t know how much of it is stuck in the politics. I don’t know how much is bureaucracy,” Haddad said. “But for someone who runs a private company and has been a believer in the project for more than two decades, it’s frustrating not to get any indication when we might have some answers.”
Once the timelines are clearer, FivePoint wants to aggressively market both the Shipyard and Candlestick projects. At a time when companies like Google and Facebook are investing in housing, the combination of the two projects could offer a massive live/work opportunity, according to FivePoint. The Shipyard and Candlestick projects have an advantage over some other office projects because their space is already approved under the city’s office cap, called Proposition M. So while many office developers are restricted in how much office space they can deliver, FivePoint is not.
“New economy businesses are looking for the kind of communities we deliver,” said Bonner. “They want a place to grow. They wants parks, fine dining, schools. We are the only game in town able to deliver that.”
Size of FivePoint’s Candlestick Point property, in acres
Number of housing units planned
Number of hotel rooms
Square footage of retail, including restaurants, a food hall, movie theater and grocery store
Square footage of office space
Source: FivePoint, Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure
But until the cleanup issues at the Shipyard project location are clearer, big companies aren’t going to be interested in negotiating for the site.
“I don’t want to sit down and commit to people if I can’t deliver,” said Haddad. “We need to get an answer from the Navy on the Shipyard, and we need it sooner rather than later.”
Though FivePoint wants to wait on the cleanup plan to start on market-rate projects, two affordable housing projects totaling 349 units could start sooner. Those two developments are designed and ready to start construction as soon as the infrastructure is done, according to Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the area. Current Bayview-Hunters Point residents are excited for the entertainment venues and grocery store that has been promised as part of the plan, he added.
“They are definitively looking forward to a grocery store — a place we can get fresh produce, like the rest of San Francisco has,” he said. “I am very excited about accelerating opportunities at Candlestick.”
Nadia Sesay, the executive director of the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, which oversees the redevelopment projects, said, “In my mind we are doing what is necessary to get going once the infrastructure is completed.” Over 1,200 homes at the Candlestick project have all the permits to start construction.
She said it has been exasperating waiting for the Navy to come up with the testing and cleanup plan.
“We just want them to test (the Shipyard project site) and if it’s not clean, clean it,” she said. “The good news is that Candlestick Point can be its own community. It works as a stand-alone project.”
J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @sfjkdineen
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