An environmental activist for going on fifty years, Francisco Da Costa has exposed many corporate polluters in the Bay Area. Most recently, he has pointed out examples (with photos) of how Lennar Inc. has for months exposed children attending a private school near Hunter’s Point to asbestos dust from serpentine rock stirred up by that corporation’s development activities. His photos also show workers among piles of serpentine, wearing nothing in the way of protective gear. In a recent blog entry, Da Costa revealed that the current manager of the Lennar Bayview Hunter’s Point Corporation, LLC, James Austin, has worked out a deal with the California State Occupational Safety and Health Administration giving the company a waiver on asbestos removal on grounds that it was “naturally occurring.” Meanwhile, the San Francisco Health Department refuses to test the affected school children because they “do not want to encourage fear in the community.” It is one more example of how intertwined the city government is with Lennar’s financial interests. When the government that is supposed to be protecting the people starts to abdicate that duty in favor of big-money corporate interests, two of the most effective weapons the people fighting back have are exposure and the law itself.
As Da Costa has exposed Lennar, its corporate malfeasance and its close ties to government on blogs and websites, the Center for Self-Improvement and Community Development (CSICD), which runs the private school next to Hunter’s Point, is using a two-decade-old law to force Lennar to accept responsibility for its failure to warn people of the asbestos hazard caused by the development project. The CSICD has filed suit against Lennar under California Proposition 65. Also known as the “right to know” law, Proposition 65 was originally intended to protect the state’s drinking water from toxic pollution. It also requires the state to maintain a list of toxic substances and for businesses to notify the public before the public is exposed to any such substances. By suing under this statute, the CSICD may be able to stop Lennar and its contractors from proceeding with the development until clear and proper warnings have been issued to all affected persons.