Would you live on Treasure Island?

Apr 28, 2016

After decades of dreaming, planning, and delays, Treasure Island is set to be transformed.

So here’s a question for you: Would you want to rent or buy on Treasure Island? KALW will be reporting on this question over the coming months,  and we need your help to sharpen the focus and deepen the conversation.

KALW would like to hear your input to help us with our reporting. Please click here. The deadline is June 5, 2016.

On March 30 a coalition of developers and investors led by Lennar Urban announced the start of ambitious construction plans, beginning with the demolition of 40 existing buildings followed by infrastructure development, including new roads, utilities, and parks. The end result: up to 8,000 housing units – both market-rate and affordable – along with commercial and retail space, and 500 hotel rooms. It's a growth bonanza for a city with little available space.

Right now, Treasure Island is home to fewer than 2,000 San Franciscans, many of whom live in supportive housing. It’s generally accessible only by car or bus, and that’s a big transit challenge, since it’s located between the eastern and western spans of the Bay Bridge. San Francisco doesn’t operate any conventional public schools on the island, so children need to commute long distances to get their education. There are dozens of derelict buildings — monolithic testaments to another generation's military history. It leaves little for people to do on the isolated expanse.

What’s less visible is the toxic and radioactive history left by its years of U.S. Navy occupation. Since the base was decommissioned, clean-up crews have been working to make the island safe for residents.

“[The Navy] is removing debris, and soil contaminated with lead; polychlorinated biphenyls; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; and dioxins,” according to spokesman William Franklin. “The area is also being screened for low-level radiological objects that may be mixed within the debris. The majority of these objects are pieces of metal coated with radium paint. They were used aboard Navy ships allowing sailors to find their way inside a dark ship during power outages.”  

detailed article from the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2014 determined that more than paint contributed to the radioactive legacy of the island. Atomic testing took place in classrooms with safety standards that would be considered questionable today.

As standards have changed, and new concerns identified, some residents have been paid to leave properties, and their former homes have been fenced off.  Today, it’s a common sight on the northwest side of Treasure Island to see townhomes with well-kept yards standing side by side with other townhomes fenced off with signs warning of radioactivity. Demolition crews are currently at work.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, for one, is excited.

“It’s taken almost two decades to get to this point, and we’re eager to transform this former naval base into a vibrant community with more housing, jobs and economic opportunities for our residents,” he said.

As blueprints are built into brick and mortar, clean-up crews race to complete their jobs. Navy spokesman Franklin says the solid waste clean-up is due to wrap up in the summer of 2017 with all work completed by 2020. Developers say it could take another decade or two to see the plans through. For a city and region that is desperate for housing, this redevelopment project is neither a picture of certainty or speed. 

Now here’s where you come in. Are you a current or former resident of Treasure Island? Will you consider buying a home there when market-rate waterfront properties with sweeping views of San Francisco stand above a brand new marina? Have you worked on Treasure Island while the Navy was active or clean up was taking place? Are you a housing economist with a take on redevelopment projects? 

KALW wants to hear from you, and collaborate with you, to keep the lens on Treasure Island project as its future unfolds. This will help both current residents and those planning for the future. Please take a few minutes to fill out this easy form and share your knowledge and tips with us. 

KALW's commitment: Our reporters will review your input for our upcoming stories. We will get in touch if we plan to use them and will give full acknowledgements unless you request otherwise.

Deadline: June 5, 2016

Privacy: You have our commitment that we will not share your contact information or material with anyone outside our newsroom without your consent. All sources will be protected in accordance with the law. Request for non-attribution will also be honored.