The Dirt at Hunters Point
"There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown…and those who do not see. —Leonardo da Vinci
•••••••••• August, 2023 ••••••••••
You might have thought the discussion was about the meticulous oversight of gold ore … not about moving dirt at a radiation-contaminated Federal Superfund site!
On August 15, 2023, the Health Commission met to approve amendments to the Article 31 Health Code ordinance to streamline and make accepting the dirty transfer of properties at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard easier.
The Health Commission originally adopted Article 31 on December 12, 2004. The meeting minutes document my dissent on the grounds that Article 31 serves as a law that codifies the Health Department’s conflict of interest with the shipyard’s master developers Lennar & Five Point Holdings.
The cruel irony of Article 31 is that the Health Code offers no direct services to populations whose health is compromised by the dirty development of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Article 31 relegated the Health Department to a "wing" of the Redevelopment Agency and city planning and established the San Francisco Department of Public Health as a revenue-generating enterprise department of city government.
According to the memo dated August 15, 2023, from Patrick Fosdahl, Director of Environmental Health to Health Commissioners on the subject: Revisions to Health Code Article 31 Regulations:
“The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is a Federal Superfund Site … As parcels are cleaned, they are transferred to the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII). OCII has development agreements with for-profit developers, i.e. Lennar and, in the future, Fivepoint for the project including the infrastructure, parks and residences that include below-maret-rate-units. OCII also has agreements with 100% affordable housing developers for particular blocks.“
The publicly posted memo fails to state that revenue generated by earth-moving activities on a Superfund property assigned an EPA Hazard Score of 80 (50 being average) flows via the for-profit developers through OCII to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
The principal moral, ethical and medico-legal dilemma evident in the Health Commission's reaffirming vote to streamline the transfer of the shipyard's most heavily contaminated waste is that the steady and potentially growing revenue stream generated by the adoption of Article 31 of the Health Code is its blinding influence on the Health Department's principle mission: to protect public health!
In the echoing words of Leonardo da Vinci: There are three classes of people. The second class is those who see when they are shown. The Health Department archives vast epidemiological evidence of human exposures to toxic pollutants in the city's heavily industrialized southeast sector it does not see when shown!
Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai is a climate activist living on the Westside.