Doctor’s Presence at Protest Questioned By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday May 06, 2005

As long-running battles continue over two highly contaminated South Richmond sites—one owned by UC Berkeley—two new questions have surfaced: 

• Did a Richmond Chamber of Commerce official try to torpedo a leading cardiologist’s battles against toxic waste? 

• Are Richmond activists looking at the wrong solution for cleanups at the highly polluted Campus Bay and UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station sites? 

Jeffrey Ritterman, chief of cardiology for Kaiser Permanente in Richmond, is an outspoken foe of pesticide use in Contra Costa County and an early advocate of strengthening oversight at Campus Bay and the Field Station. 

Clad in his white medical jacket, the doctor has attended two demonstrations outside the entrances to the two South Richmond sites carrying a sign that reads “Richmond Doctor Says No To Toxins.” 

Chamber CEO Judith Morgan acknowledges sending an email to Kaiser questioning the use of the Kaiser name in a press release announcing the April 29 demonstration outside the entrances to Campus Bay and the Field Station. 

She said her only concern was the use of the Kaiser name in the press release. “I have tried on many occasions to get their support, and I know they have very strict policies about the use of their name.” 

But neither the press release nor the community flyer sponsored by Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development or the Richmond Progressive Alliance made any reference to Kaiser. Dr. Ritterman was mentioned by name in the press release, but not his affiliation. 

Sherry Padgett, who coordinated the protest on behalf of BARRD, said the only time she mentioned Kaiser was in an internal email, in which she said Kaiser doctors would be present in their white coats. 

“There was never any mention in the press release,” she said. 

In his final column to members as chairman of the chamber board in December, Mark Howe wrote that “[a]lthough the site has been responsibly cleaned up, at a cost of millions, we hear otherwise from media intent on selling newspapers, environmental groups, and local politicians opposed to the development.” 

Howe stressed the importance of the 1,330-unit housing complex proposed at Campus Bay to the Richmond Redevelopment Agency, and blamed criticism of a “lack of trust in Simeon and business in general.” 

Simeon Properties is one of two partners in Cherokee-Simeon Ventures, a special purpose corporation formed to develop restored Bay Area hazardous waste sites. 

Morgan said the column was written “before a lot of information came to light that wasn’t so positive.” 

Both Ritterman and Morgan say they don’t want to make a big deal about her action. 

“I guess the doctor in question was called on the carpet,” she said. Not so, said Ritterman. 

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution similar to the one already passed by the Richmond City Council on March 1 calling on the California Environmental Protection Agency to give the DTSC primary jurisdiction over both sites. 

The resolution, sponsored by Supervisor John Gioia—whose district includes Richmond—calls for the EPA to assign both sites to DTSC supervision. 

But Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt has sounded a cautionary note about DTSC jurisdiction. 

“I submit that this excessive level of confidence in DTSC may not be the panacea advocates expect,” wrote Butt in an April 29 email to constituents. 

The councilmember cited the DTSC-supervised cleanup of property next to Seacliff Landing in Richmond where “the contractor proceeded to undertake a remediation project that bore little resemblance to the approved plan. 

“What was supposed to be a fill approximately two or three feet thick with an asphalt cap turned into a mountain many times that site—so large that it became known as the space alien landing pad because it allegedly could be seen from space.” 

The city was forced to cough up $500,000 to move the fill to the adjacent Point Portrero terminal “where it now reposes under a an asphalt cap and thousands of Hyundais and Kias.” 

The city has yet to recoup the funds it paid for the move.  

LaDonna Williams, executive director of People for Children’s Health and Environmental Justice, an organization based in Richmond and Vallejo, also sounded a cautionary note at the April 29 protest, recounting her experiences at Midway Village, a Daly City housing tract where she had lived with her children. In 1991, after she had moved from the area, news broke that the site had been contaminated by more than 350 known toxins. 

“Cal EPA and DTSC did a cover-up, not a cleanup,” she said. Her experiences led her to become a leading advocate of environmental justice, and she has traveled the country speaking out on environmental racism. 

Williams told demonstrators that neither the DTSC or the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board—which originally had jurisdiction over all of Campus Bay and retains jurisdiction at the UC Field Station—could be trusted. 

Both, she said, require constant monitoring by the public.›