As many people are aware, asbestos was commonly found in shipyards of all kinds, including those of the U.S. Navy. Hunters Point was no exception. As part of the conditions under which the City of San Francisco allowed the corporation to acquire the property, Lennar promised to carefully monitor air quality and control construction dust when work commenced in April 2006. In the great tradition of the corporate world, those promises went out the window when Lennar’s contractors went to work. Their activities wound up exposing students and faculty at a nearby school to clouds of asbestos dust.
One of the Lennar workers, concerned about the dust clouds, notified the head of the school of the asbestos danger in October of 2006, and was subsequently fired. The story continues when, three days after reporter Sarah Phelan broke the story in the San Francisco Guardian, three Lennar employees filed a suit in which it was alleged that the corporation had retaliated against them for asking questions about the construction dust and ordered them to be silent. The employees, a project manager, a community benefits manager and an administrative assistant, attempted to alert the project supervisor, Paul Menaker, about the elevated levels of airborne asbestos near the school and the potential exposure. Menaker deliberately ignored the warnings and took no action to deal with the problem.
Since then, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, which argued against Lennar in the first place, has made a formal request that Lennar undertake standard asbestos abatement procedures. What makes the current action against Lennar interesting is that one of the plaintiffs, the community benefits manager, is also an appointee to the City Fire Commission. The plaintiff’s counsel also works for the current San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom. The suit could make things quite awkward for the mayor, who has been a strong Lennar supporter. Another prominent figure was current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who played a major role in the transfer of the property from public to private control and has for the past several months demonstrated that she values the wealth of large corporations far more than the health and well being of the American people. Meanwhile, as the Lennar Corporation and its three former employees continue dancing the Litigation Lambada, a local social justice activist, dangerously armed with Internet access, a laptop and a camera, has been busy.