A key congressional panel Wednesday scuttled a $22-million plan to base the battleship Missouri here, thwarting city officials’ plan to restore a depressed neighborhood and the Navy’s hope of reviving San Francisco as a key naval installation.
Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Berkeley) led the effort in a House-Senate conference committee to eliminate spending for the project for at least a year. He chaired a panel on military construction for the committee that is considering the Department of Defense budget. Dellums has cited environmental concerns in his opposition to the plan, which would have placed the Missouri and as many as a dozen support ships at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard at the southeastern tip of San Francisco.
“I hold him personally responsible,” Mayor Dianne Feinstein said of Dellums, adding that the Missouri would have been the “largest single economic development” in San Francisco.
Feinstein, who recently won a vote by the Board of Supervisors to back an agreement with the Navy to base the ship here, has argued that the Missouri would bring $100 million a year to the city’s economy and provide much needed blue-collar jobs.
Noting that part of what once was the largest shipyard in the world has been turned over to small businesses, including a mushroom farmer, the mayor said: “Now we are going to have 550 acres sitting there and growing mushrooms.”
“Dellums has dealt a dirty blow to the black community of San Francisco,” San Francisco Supervisor Willie Kennedy said, pointing out that Hunters Point is a predominantly black neighborhood.
But Supervisor Harry Britt hailed the action. He added, however, that the “Pentagon doesn’t give up easily,” and predicted a continued fight to base the Missouri here.
Word of Caution
“I’m not celebrating yet,” said Britt, who has led the local opposition, citing an array of concerns, ranging from the environmental effects on the bay to alleged job hiring discrimination by the Navy against homosexuals.
According to an aide to Dellums, a panel of the House-Senate conference committee on the defense authorization bill agreed to Dellums’ position on the issue.
The action deleted $22 million in Navy funds that would have been used to dredge a channel in San Francisco Bay, something that has raised environmental concerns. The money also would have been spent for a pier for the Missouri. The Navy had hoped to permanently station the Missouri, which is now based in Long Beach, in San Francisco beginning in 1990.
Dellums chaired the panel, which deals with military construction, by virtue of his chairmanship of the subcommittee on military installations and facilities of the House Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who wanted to place the Missouri in San Francisco, acknowledged that the panel’s vote could spell the end of the Navy’s plans.
Rear Adm. R.L. Toney, in charge of the Missouri’s home porting, said he holds out hope that the $22 million will be restored when the full committee takes up the question later this week. If not, Toney said, the Navy “will continue to make preparations for (possible) funding next year.”
Wilson said: “The problem obviously is that by zeroing (deleting) the money, what they have done, at best, is let slip by a year the coming of the Missouri. At worst, they have threatened the loss of the home port altogether.” The senator said the Navy plans to move the Missouri to Pearl Harbor if Congress fails to fund the facilities in San Francisco.
“It’s understandable that the Navy would come to the end of its patience,” Wilson said. “San Francisco’s competition is with Pearl Harbor, where there are no similar problems and they have shown greater cooperation with the Navy.”
Plans an Appeal
Wilson said he would appeal the subcommittee’s recommendation to the full conference committee Friday, but was not optimistic about his chances because it would go against the subcommittee’s recommendation.
The subcommittee recommended $165 million in funds for several new Navy home ports, including Everett, Wash., Staten Island, N.Y., and Lake Charles, La.
Lt. Cmdr. Steve Honda, a Navy public affairs officer in Los Angeles, said that the Missouri is currently operating with the carrier Ranger’s battle group near, but not in, the Persian Gulf.
Morain reported from San Francisco and Broder from Washington.