‘It feels like the Wild West’: Industrial dust wreaks havoc on Bayview
The wind has always whipped the land at Candlestick Point, a stretch of waterfront at the southeastern tip of San Francisco.
But last summer, Gayle Hart noticed a new kind of dust in the air. A brown film had settled in his neighborhood. He covered his car, crept into the corners of his patio, and choked up his lungs.
Some days the gusts were so strong that her 13-year-old son couldn’t play basketball on the nearby playground. “He was only out for about five minutes,” she said. “The dirt kept coming into his eyes.”
Residents of the Candlestick Heights neighborhood of Bayview say the dust was kicked up by concrete crushing and other industrial activity that recently moved into the open lots across from Hart’s townhouse on Arelious Walker Drive.
“Sometimes it feels like the Wild West here,” said Tsin Fung, whose family owns an RV park that backs into the sites. Big trucks hauling materials in and out of the area are making matters worse, residents say, leaving a trail of dust as they groan past houses on Gilman Avenue.
But for longtime resident Shirley Moore, who bought her hillside home with Candlestick Park stadium still looming in the background, the dust is the latest example of how decades of city politics have caused environmental and physical harm to residents of Bayview, who are primarily People of Color.
“We lived through the 49ers. We have lived the Giants. But we never had it this bad until these people came out and started doing these digs,” Moore said.
Murphy Properties Inc., the property management and development company that owns the plots, says its temporary tenants, including Bauman Landscape and Construction, Inc., are not digging the sites and are in compliance with the land’s historic zoning. : industrial use. The company argues that by leasing these plots to construction tenants, it keeps San Francisco building businesses in San Francisco.
In many ways, Candlestick is San Francisco’s final frontier. Now that the stadium lights have dimmed and the ballpark was demolished in 2015, it’s one of the last places where large swathes of land lie fallow, awaiting promises of redevelopment that took years to be done but which are yet to come.
In the meantime, that land — a patchwork of parcels split between state, city, port and private landlords like Murphy Properties — has become a catch-all for things other neighborhoods don’t want in their backyards. court, Moore said.
A pile of forgotten refrigerators. Heavy construction equipment. Concrete recycling operations. It is also home to the new Bayview Vehicle Triage Center, a cordoned off parking lot designed to accommodate the city’s growing homeless population.
“We’re not against people having housing,” said Moore, chair of the Candlestick Point Neighborhood Committee. “It’s not that. The ‘it’ is that if we have a problem and we don’t know what to do with it, we just throw it in the Bayview.
Fung saw heavy machinery, open diesel containers and people cutting I-beams with blinding sparks in packages and paper streets behind his business. As for recent construction, Fung says, “They take this bulldozer and grab a bunch of debris, and they’ll shake it up…we don’t know where they get the debris; we don’t know what they are dealing with.
Mike told NBC Bay Area that his family business crushes and recycles old concrete, producing 40,000 tons of fresh material a year. A spokesperson for Murphy Properties added that Bauman is using the city’s old concrete to improve streets, parks and other infrastructure, including the Van Ness Avenue improvement project.
Many residents have complained about the dust and debris to District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and the Department of Health. So far, the Air District has issued two violations to one of the tenants for operating without a license and another for administrative infractions.
“The operator uses water on his concrete crusher, conveyors and trucks to mitigate dust. We are also working to control road dust,” said Air District spokesman Ralph Borrmann.
Walton’s office did not respond to the reviewer’s request for comment.
Murphy Properties shares residents’ concern about large trucks driving through the neighborhood, a problem he said was created when the city closed freeway access from Gilman Drive.
But disturbing Candlestick’s soil carries other risks. The Candlestick Point State Recreation Area and surrounding shoreline was built on a former landfill originally intended as a US Navy shipyard. Before the stadium was built, Bayview’s marshy shoreline, isolated from the city center, was used for brick paving, tanneries and shipbuilding.
“Chemicals don’t go away,” said Ray Tompkins, a retired chemistry professor and environmental activist. “When they were building this (landfill), there was no EPA, so they threw everything in there.”
More recently, the Bayview has also housed facilities for automobile wrecking, steel fabrication, landfills and other heavy industries. Numerous reports show that the Candlestick area naturally contains asbestos in the ground. Taken together, these realities have made residents wary of bulldozers moving through the neighborhood.
Tompkins recently measured the air quality near new construction sites and found it to be thousands of times worse than even the baseline standard for poor air quality near dusty plots.
“Things you can see are caught in your mucus, your snot,” Tompkins said. “But it’s the invisible things that I measure, those finite particles of 2.5 (micrometers) or less that enter the bloodstream. Literally, it penetrates.
Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is not a single pollutant but a mixture of many chemical species emitted from different sources including construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, chimneys or fires . Long-term exposure to PM2.5 has been associated with premature death, particularly in people with chronic heart or lung disease, and reduced lung function growth in children.
Research has conclusively shown that residents of Bayview-Hunters Point suffer from higher rates of premature death and are hospitalized more than residents of other wards for nearly every illness, including asthma, congestive heart failure , diabetes and urinary tract infections. The Department of Public Health has linked some of these health effects to greater concentrations of hazardous environmental conditions, including contaminated soil and water, industrial emissions and vehicle exhaust. motor.
Dust is also a trigger for asthma attacks, said Tompkins, who noted that children at nearby Bret Harte Elementary School had higher rates of asthma than those in other neighborhoods. “You don’t see that in the Bois Saint François,” he said. “You don’t see that in the Marina Green.”
Residents want tenants crushing concrete to stop and desist. Some wish to see these temporary uses replaced by what has long been proposed and planned but has not yet materialized.
The city’s Candlestick Point and Hunters Point shipyard project, launched in 2010, reimagined transportation, housing, retail, and office space in the area. It was this vision of Candlestick’s future that inspired Hart to invest in the region.
“I want to see what we were promised,” she said. “I want it to be a beautiful tourist area. I want to see the million dollar houses we were talking about, the mall, the cinema. The pretty waterfront. I want it all. I want Bayview to look like the Presidio, like the Marina.
While the city has delivered the first phase with the construction of the Alice Griffith Apartments, residents and property owners say the next steps remain somewhat unclear. First, plans for a mall project fell through with the emergence of e-commerce. And now the office space slated to replace the mall is in question as the pandemic has reshaped the future of work.
As a result, the City and the developer, Five Point Holdings, are reconsidering the best use case for the area, and the City maintains that its commitments to the Candlestick community have not changed. Five Point Holdings declined the reviewer’s request for comment.
In the meantime, the inhabitants breathe the dusty air.
“I want this not to be the dumpsite story,” Hart said. “I want San Francisco to be a game changer.”