Behind Lennar’s Toxic Dust in Bayview … Racism.

Lennar divides Hunters Point with apartheid wall
San Francisco Bay View, March 27, 2007

Wall confirms discriminatory intent charged in lawsuit filed by Angela Alioto for top Lennar executives

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

Three courageous Black employees have come forth from the belly of the Lennar beast to tell the world about Lennar’s contempt for the Black people who work for the company and those who live near the Hunters Point Shipyard, where Lennar yearns to make a killing off the 1,600 mostly unaffordable homes it wants to build there. As their lawsuit lays out, Lennar doesn’t seem to care how many residents, school children and workers it kills and sickens in the process.

But before I say more about the lawsuit – which we deeply thank Angela Alioto, former president of the Board of Supervisors and mayoral candidate, for filing – I need to tell you why Lennar decided to move those mountains of toxic earth, the source of all that toxic dust everyone is complaining about.

Many of us remember the pretty neighborhood on the Shipyard side of the fence – hundreds of trees shading Navy officers’ single-family homes that were empty but still standing until recently. Children from our side used to slip through the many gaping holes in the old chainlink fence as if they still had friends to play with in those houses.

Now, Lennar has removed the trees and houses – and the whole hill on the Shipyard side of the fence, leveling it down 30 feet lower than its natural height. Now if Lennar ever builds its 1,600 homes – which Alioto’s lawsuit will help us prevent – almost nobody would have the picture postcard view that current hilltop residents enjoy.

After asking myself why Lennar would level the hill, I took a look at the retaining wall Lennar is building to keep the cliff it created from sliding. If you’re familiar with the ugly wall Israel is building in Palestine, you’ll know Lennar’s wall for what it really is: a separation wall – an apartheid wall – to keep apart the mostly Black residents of Hunters Point from the mostly white buyers Lennar hopes to lure to the housing it hopes to build.

Next, I wondered if I’m the last to know that Lennar was cutting 30 feet off the top of the hill. A spokesperson for the Navy said no, they were shocked to learn the hill was being leveled, but they didn’t sound the alarm since they’d transferred that part of the Shipyard to the City. Then a former member of the Mayor’s Hunters Point Shipyard Citizens Advisory Committee said they had no hint of Lennar’s plans to level the hill before work began. I know no notice was ever given to me, either as a Bayview Hunters Point resident or as a newspaper publisher.

Lennar must figure that if its toxic dust doesn’t kill us off or run us off, the apartheid wall will keep us “low class” folks high on the hill from visiting its “high class” homebuyers down in the lowlands. Lennar’s apartheid wall proves the discriminatory and hostile intent that Angela Alioto has charged the company with in her history-making complaint, titled “Gary McIntyre, Clementine Clarke, Ceola Richardson, Plaintiffs, v. Lennar Corporation, Lennar Homes of California Inc., Lennar Associates Management, LLC, Lennar Communities Inc., Lennar-BVHP LLC, Paul Menaker, and Does 1-100 Inclusive, Defendants.”

Plaintiff Gary McIntyre

From the first part of the lawsuit, called “Facts,” we learn that “Plaintiff Gary McIntyre has over thirty years of experience in the construction field. McIntyre was the Project Manager on the Port of Oakland, the San Francisco International Airport and numerous other high profile projects. …

“As the Project Manager [for Lennar], McIntyre was responsible for all aspects of the Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard Project, as well as ensuring that the subcontractors comply with the contract and all applicable laws.

“The first stage of the project involved the grading and paving of Parcel A of the Shipyard. Lennar awarded a $20 million contract [to] Gordon N. Ball Inc.-Yerba Buena Engineering & Construction Inc. (Hereinafter “Gordon Ball”) to perform the grading and build a retaining wall.

“As part of this contract, Gordon Ball was responsible for leveling off approximately forty acres of land by digging down approximately 30 feet through the rock in order to create a level plateau upon which Lennar would build new homes.

“Much of this rock was Serpentine rock, which contains high levels of naturally occurring asbestos that becomes airborne during the digging process.

“Lennar knew of the danger of exposing the Bayview Hunters Point community to toxic dust and had a responsibility to ensure that Lennar’s subcontractors followed the specific requirements of the contract, as well as all applicable local, state and federal guidelines to prevent exposing the community to toxic dust.

“Lennar and its subcontracts were required to continually water down the areas being excavated in order to prevent airborne asbestos from leaving the worksite and endangering the lives of the surrounding community members. Further, Lennar and its subcontractors were required to set up a monitoring system to alert the workcrews when asbestos levels reached unsafe levels. Specifically, all work was supposed to immediately stop if asbestos levels reached 16,000 TEMS per cubic meter.

“If the asbestos exceeded 16,000 TEMS, the work was required to stop until it reached acceptable levels.

“However, Lennar and its subcontractors continually refused to properly water the job site and permitted toxic dust to cover the surrounding community. Lennar also allowed its subcontractor’s trucks to drive too fast, further kicking up dust clouds. Lennar and its subcontractors also refused to properly water and sweep the roads.

“In June of 2006, the community began to complain about the toxic dust leaving the worksite. Numerous community groups complained to Plaintiff, as well as the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the San Francisco Department of Public Health about this problem. Plaintiff McIntyre continually complained to his supervisors about this illegal and dangerous conduct. He further repeatedly warned the subcontractor that it was violating the contract and endangering the community. Plaintiff’s supervisors supported Gordon Ball and refused to take appropriate remedial action, despite their willful breach of the contract and the danger to the public health.

“In July 2006, Plaintiff’s doctor put him on an inhaler to help with breathing problems that he himself began having as a result of the dust on the worksite.

“Later, on July 28, 2006, Lennar received a citation from the San Francisco Department of Public Health for failure to comply with the dust control plan. Plaintiff was very embarrassed that his project would receive citations and his superiors were not taking appropriate action.

“Additionally, there have been approximately 15-16 work stoppages as a result of the asbestos and other times where the work has continued despite asbestos readings exceeding the guidelines mandated by the regional air quality district. Despite Plaintiff’s repeated complaints to his supervisors, Lennar and its subcontractors have not remedied this dangerous situation.

“On August 1, 2006, as a result of his complaints, Plaintiff was demoted. McIntyre lost his responsibility for the overseeing the grading and retaining walls contract and was reassigned to maintaining the porta-potties and baker tank. Plaintiff was no longer allowed to have weekly meetings with consultants and was relegated to the office doing paperwork instead of working in the field. Plaintiff was replaced by a non-African-American. After Plaintiff was demoted in August 2006, he lost all of his administrative assistance. As such, Plaintiff’s valuable time was expended on administrative matters.

“Later, in August 2006, Plaintiff received an unwarranted negative performance evaluation from Paul Menaker. Plaintiff received a 2.4 out of 4 despite his excellent work. While Plaintiff protested his negative performance evaluation, sending a letter to his managers refuting his rating, Plaintiff’s evaluation was never changed.

“On August 2, 2006, Paul Menaker called a meeting with Plaintiffs McIntyre and Clarke and told them that the dust control monitoring equipment was not working and in fact he did not know whether any of the data for the past three or four months was accurate. As such, unsafe levels of asbestos had entered the community and Lennar’s subcontractors kept working even though levels exceeded 16,000 TEMS. When Plaintiffs complained to Menaker that this was wrong, Menaker told them that they were not allowed to tell anyone in the community about the danger and that they were to maintain a ‘code of silence.’

“In November of 2006, Minister Christopher, the dean of the Muslim University that is located right next to the shipyard, brought the schoolchildren of the Mohammed University to several San Francisco Commission meetings and community meetings because Lennar’s operations had covered the school and the children with asbestos-laden dust. Minister Christopher complained that Lennar failed to notify them when asbestos in the air reached unsafe levels and that work continued even when the levels exceeded 16,000 TEMS per cubic meter. Plaintiffs McIntyre and Clarke complained to Paul Menaker that what Lennar and Gordon Ball were doing was wrong. However, instead of properly responding to Minister Christopher and this extraordinarily serious issue, Paul Menaker referred to Christopher as a ‘shakedown artist.’

“In December, 2006, Paul Menaker attempted to fire the African-American employees hired to monitor the dust. Plaintiff complained to Menaker that this was wrong and that Lennar should hold Gordon Ball accountable for the dust issues instead of firing the African-American inspectors.

“In December, 2006, Gordon Ball kept working, even though the asbestos level reached 54,000 TEMS per cubic meter. Plaintiff again complained to Paul Menaker about this illegal conduct but nothing was done.

“As part of its agreement with Lennar and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, Gordon Ball is also required to meet certain goals with respect to using subcontractors that are minority-owned business enterprises (MBE) and woman-owned business enterprises (WBE). Under the agreement, 25.6% of the work […] should be from MBEs and 6.9% of the work […] should be from WBEs.

“Additionally, 50% of the workforce hours should be for San Francisco residents with preferences given to residents of BVHP.

“In June, 2006, Plaintiff McIntyre noticed severe discrepancies in the invoicing submitted by Gordon Ball. Specifically, while Gordon Ball stated that over $1 million was going to a certain minority-owned subcontractor, only a small fraction of that money was actually going to the subcontractor.

“As part of his job, McIntyre was responsible for protecting the minority-owned businesses and making sure that Gordon Ball complied with the contract. Despite his complaints to his supervisors about what Plaintiff believed to be illegal accounting practices and possible fraud, nothing changed.

“In order to make sure that the MBE was being paid according to what Gordon Ball stated, Plaintiff issued joint checks to Gordon Ball and Spencer Masonry.

“Paul Menaker responded by telling Plaintiff that was he was doing was improper and that he should stay out of Gordon Ball’s business. However, Plaintiff has the responsibility to ensure that Gordon Ball does not illegally exclude the MBE and to make sure that both Lennar and Gordon Ball adhere to the Disposition and Development Agreement (‘DDA’) between Lennar and the Redevelopment Agency of the City and County of San Francisco.

“In response to Plaintiff’s complaints about illegal conduct, Plaintiff was demoted as described above on August 1, 2006.

“Throughout his employment with Lennar, Plaintiff McIntyre has been singled out for disparate treatment as compared to his non-African-American colleagues. McIntyre was continually excluded from key operations meetings. Plaintiffs McIntyre and Clarke were the only regular attendees to be excluded and the only African-Americans excluded from these key meetings.

“Attending these meetings was critical to Plaintiff’s job performance because he was responsible for reporting on the project to the community and he needed to give updates to various groups, individuals and community meetings. Additionally, Plaintiff needed to know the progress on the project and keep up to date with all of Lennar’s plans. Plaintiff continually found himself out of the loop on important project developments.

“During his employment with Lennar, Plaintiff McIntyre heard his supervisor, Paul Menaker, make numerous offensive comments about Africa-American employees, contractors and consultants. In reference to an African-American contractor, Menaker stated ‘Lennar shouldn’t be giving contracts to a man that can afford a Viper.’ Plaintiff was offended that Menaker only make offensive comments about African-American employees, contractors and consultants. Further, Menaker frequently yells at Plaintiff and other African-American employees but does not yell at non-African-Americans.

“Additionally, Paul Menaker would frequently delay payment to the African-American contractors and consultants but would never do so for the non-African-Americans working on the project. Menaker would frequently ‘lose’ the invoices and change orders for the African-American contractors and consultants, creating further delay. …

“In January of 2007, Steve Moreland was responsible for preparing a project manual with the bid specifications that was given out to potential bidders. In this booklet is a list of the minority-owned business enterprises currently working on the [Hunters Point] Shipyard project. Moreland intentionally changed the name of one of businesses working with MBEs from FERMA to FUBU, the popular African-American clothing company. Moreland changed FERMA’s address from Mountain View to ‘Money View.’ Moreland also changed the amount of the contract to a billion dollars. When confronted by Plaintiffs, Moreland stated that he thought FUBU stood for ‘f….ed up beyond this universe.’

“All Plaintiffs were deeply offended by Moreland’s comments and incredibly embarrassed that Moreland’s racist joke would be disseminated to the African-American community.

“Plaintiff complained to Paul Menaker and Steve Moreland that he was offended by this racist act. Because he is still listed as Project Manager, this significantly undermined Plaintiff’s credibility and standing within the community. Members of the SFRA [San Francisco Redevelopment Agency] also told Plaintiff that they were offended by Lennar’s publication. While the manual was on Steve Moreland’s laptop, there has been no investigation into this incident and no one has been disciplined.

“On January 29, 2007, after mistaking the identity of an African-American contractor, Steve Moreland, Project Manager, told Plaintiff that all African-Americans ‘look alike.’

“In February of 2007, Plaintiff McIntyre was moved from the office he occupied for two years to a smaller office behind a fire door from the rest of the central offices. There was no reason given.

Plaintiff Clementine Clarke

“Plaintiff Clementine Clarke began working for Lennar as a sub-consultant in May of 2006 and was hired by Lennar as the Community Benefits Manager in September of 2006.

“Plaintiff is a San Francisco Fire Commissioner and has occupied numerous leadership positions within the San Francisco community.

“As part of its agreement with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, Lennar agreed to eleven different community benefits programs, such as a construction assistance program and a job training program. Plaintiff Clarke is in charge of overseeing these eleven community programs.

“During her second month as a Lennar employee, Clarke had her office equipment, all of her personal belongings and her paycheck removed from her office while she was away over the weekend. This was allegedly done to make room for a new employee. However, the office remained vacant for between 6-8 months.

“In November, 2005, Plaintiff was asked for assistance in winning a bid to become the master developer for the San Francisco 49ers. Plaintiff was promised that she would be taken care of financially because of her assistance and would be able to work on this important project. However, Plaintiff was excluded from all meetings regarding the project and until late November/ early December 2006, there were no African-American employees working on the Candlestick project.

“In February of 2006 Plaintiff Clarke began to be excluded from operations meetings. Plaintiff Richardson heard Paul Menaker state that ‘we don’t want certain people involved.’ Plaintiffs Clarke and McIntyre were the only regular attendees to be excluded and the only African-Americans excluded from these key meetings.

“Attending these meetings was critical to Plaintiff Clarke’s job performance because she was responsible for reporting on the Community Benefits Programs to the community and she needed to give updates to various groups, individuals and community meetings.

“Throughout her career with Lennar, Plaintiff Clarke heard Paul Menaker make numerous disparaging remarks about African-American employees, subcontractors, consultants and community members.

“Later, in March/April, 2006, Paul stated, ‘why negotiate with him, he has a criminal background,’ in reference to an African-American subcontractor. Menaker called another African-American contractor a ‘God damned front man’ … When Plaintiff Clarke complained to Menaker about his disparaging comments about an African-American contractor in May of 2006, she was told to never speak to him about that again. In February, 2007, Menaker stated that he was not going to pay an African-American consultant the recommended fee because ‘I ain’t paying for his new BMW.’ Menaker later stated that he did not want to pay the recommended fee for another African-American consulting company because ‘Lennar ain’t paying for her second home in Paris.’ Menaker never made disparaging comments about non-African-Americans. …

“In October, 2006, Plaintiff received an unwarranted negative performance evaluation from Paul Menaker, criticizing her leadership.

“Plaintiff complained to Paul that this was the first time in her professional career that anyone questioned her leadership. Paul had no justification for his negative evaluation. …

“In February, 2007, Plaintiff Clarke was told that she was going to have to share an office with Gary McIntyre, thereby segregating most of the African-American workforce to one specific area.

“Later in February, 2007, Paul Menaker stated that ‘you will never be the operative that Kofi Bonner wants you to be.’

Plaintiff Ceola Richardson

“Plaintiff Ceola Richardson began working for Lennar as a temporary employee in August of 2005 and was hired by Lennar as an administrative assistant on December 5, 2005.

“At first, Plaintiff Richardson was assigned to assist Plaintiffs Gary McIntyre, Clementine Clarke, Paul Menaker, Bob Hocker and the minority contractors working out of the on-site trailers. Gary McIntyre was Richardson’s direct support.

“Richardson immediately noticed that Paul Menaker, Senior Vice President, would scrutinize McIntyre’s expense reports but would never do so for the non-African-American employees.

“Further, Richardson saw that Menaker would take an extraordinary amount of time paying the invoices and processing the change orders for the African-American businesses and consultants but would immediately pay the invoices and process the change orders for the non-African-American businesses and consultants, even though they usually involved a much larger amount of money.

“In addition, Richardson was in charge of assisting the consultants working out of the trailers on the job site. Richardson complained to her superior, Paul Menaker, about the disparity in copiers, telephones, computer serves and other office equipment with the trailers occupied by the minority contractors and consultants versus the non-African-American consultants and contractors. Menaker refused to rectify this disparity.

“In June of 2006, however, just after Plaintiff McIntyre made his complaints about illegal asbestos levels, Richardson was reassigned, leaving McIntyre without any administrative assistance.

“Throughout her career with Lennar, Plaintiff Richardson was assigned more work and reported to many more superiors that her non-African-American coworkers. Plaintiff was responsible for assisting six individuals, while the two non-African-American employees assisted only one or two.

“Additionally, Plaintiff Richardson did the work of a project coordinator, as well as her administrative assistant duties, but has never been given the title, pay or self-respect that comes with that position, despite her complaints to Paul Menaker. There are currently only 6 total African-American employees out of 42 in the workplace.

“In October, 2006, Plaintiff was given a negative employee evaluation by Paul Menaker, despite Plaintiff’s excellent job performance. Plaintiff was told that she had attendance issues, even though the only time she took off was for her father’s heart attack and when he passed away. Plaintiff complained to Paul Menaker that she was being given more work than the other administrative assistants. Menaker told Plaintiff that she was also given a lower evaluation because of alleged complaints. However, when Richardson asked him what kinds of complaints and by whom, Menaker refused to provide any substantive details.

“In November 2006, Lennar participated in a ‘Focused Acts of Caring’ event. During this event, Lennar employees renovated the home of a BVHP resident. Plaintiff Richardson helped out by painting the kitchen of one of the homes and in the process got light colored paint on her face. Paul Menaker noticed the paint on Plaintiff’s face and said, ‘she can come to my neighborhood now.’ Plaintiff was devastated by this racist remark from her supervisor.”

So there you have it: the facts. The complaint goes on to ask the court to award damages for racial discrimination, racial harassment, retaliation in violation of public policy (whistle blowing), retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

With the passage of Prop P in 2000, 87 percent of San Francisco voters demanded that no development be allowed until the entire Shipyard is cleaned to residential standards. We must demand that Prop P be enforced and Lennar be terminated.

As I wrote in my Jan. 10 editorial, naming Lennar “master developer” and giving it the Hunters Point Shipyard, over 500 acres of the sunniest, most scenic neighborhood in San Francisco – our neighborhood – was plantation mentality. Now that Lennar has showed its true colors with its apartheid wall, leveling of a beautiful hill, no doubt disturbing the radiation-contaminated sewer lines in the process, covering the community with toxic dust and treating its Black employees as less than human, who can dispute that it’s time for Lennar to go.

When the Shipyard is finally clean enough for safe and sane development, who needs a “master developer”? Why can’t the expert developers and builders who live here in Bayview Hunters Point develop our own neighborhood, building new homes and businesses, making the old ones good as new and putting our people to work?

There’s plenty of renovation work to keep hundreds of us busy on Third Street and throughout the neighborhood until the Shipyard is ready. Let’s unite to demand the means to make it happen.

Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff can be reached at (415) 671-0789 or publisher@sfbayview.com.

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