Blocking the bridge

Suit over Lennar EIR could force changes in bridge on Yosemite Slough

A proposed bridge over Yosemite Slough has environmentalists going to court

The Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon Society have sued to block the final environmental impact report on the Lennar Corp. redevelopment project, a move that could force reconsideration of a bridge over Yosemite Slough.

The suit against the city, Board of Supervisors, and Redevelopment Agency charges that the final EIR for Lennar's Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard project was inadequate, in part because it didn't consider all the impacts of the bridge or look properly at alternatives.

The move comes as no big surprise: these environmental groups vowed to file a suit within 30 days of the city's August certification of the project EIR. But advocates hope it will lead to a change in the proposal.

Arthur Feinstein, a member of the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay Chapter, said the EIR didn't comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

The introduction to the Sierra Club suit notes that "the FEIR failed to identify or underestimated the significance of environmental impacts associated with the project; failed to address the alternative proposed by Arc Ecology, which provides for a bus rapid transit route around Yosemite Slough; and failed to provide adequate responses to comments on the draft EIR."

Or as Feinstein puts it: "There's a bridge, and it's going through a nature area where they say the sound level from the buses will be the equivalent to standing 50 feet from a freeway.

"They say there is no impact and that you can't have an undisturbed nature experience in an urban area, but you can," Feinstein continued, pointing to the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, and Crissy Field as examples of places where you can have undisturbed experiences.

Feinstein noted that Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is the only large park on the city's eastern shoreline, and the only park that people in the Bayview can access easily.

"The city boasts about how much it was improving the Bayview, but this park is the only major open space where you can get away from urban stress — and folks have a lot of stress in the Bayview," Feinstein said. He added that building the bridge will involve sinking pilings in Yosemite Slough that will disturb wildlife and stir up PCBs and other known contaminants.

"Noise, light and glare all have impacts on wildlife, but the city's EIR said these are insignificant because these critters are insignificant," Feinstein said.

Feinstein noted that the city's final environmental impact report did make a finding of overriding concern that the project will cause air pollution at levels that exceed Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) health standards.

"But [the city] decided that this was a regional problem, so they did not attempt any mitigations for the 25,000 new residents that this 700-acre redevelopment plan is supposed to bring into the Bayview — which already has the city's highest asthma and cancer rate and the largest number of polluting sources," Feinstein said. "But they could say that all buses going into the development need to be electrified, or they could limit the number of parking spaces the way they did at Octavia-Market and South of Market."

Feinstein said the next step in this CEQA lawsuit in a pretrial negotiation session to see if a settlement can be reached. "We're not looking for a long drawn out fight. We're ready for one, but we're also ready to negotiate because that's how you achieve things."

Feinstein also noted that the Sierra Club had to go to Los Angeles to hire a traffic consultant to work on its suit because Lennar has contracts with just about every shop in the Bay Area, thanks to its various projects at Hunters Point, Treasure Island, and Mare Island.