Tag Archives: Navy

Tour the Shipyard – June 28th

RSVP here before the tours fill up!

Shipyard Bus Tour

Last year’s shuttle tours of the Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point where so successful that the Navy is doing it again.  Two tours on Saturday, June 28th will fill up fast.  RSVP immediately!

See coverage of last year’s tour.  Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is the town-sized swath of prime waterfront real estate located below Islais Creek … and within sight of India Basin, Heron’s Head Park, and Hunters Point Hill … in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.  It was once the economic driver for the southeast part of the City.  At its peak of activity, the Shipyard employed 30,000 people.

See a photo essay from last year’s Shipyard tour.

What should happen with Hunters Point Shipyard is hardly a new question.  A KPIX archival video that aired June 4th … 41 years ago … shows policymakers, including then-Mayor Joseph Allioto, discussing the possibility of keeping the Shipyard open for ship building, ship repair and other industrial uses that would create jobs.

Another 1973 interview with Mayor Aliota again focused in on the Shipyard and jobs.

Also in 1973, then-Assemblyman John L. Burton talked about retaining jobs in the event of the Shipyard closing.

Wild Bayview – Then and Now

by Amy Clark

When I moved to the Bayview in 2008, I discovered that my dog Danny and I could walk two blocks down Van Dyke to the end, pick our way around the ever-present illicit garbage dump, slip past the fence and the junkyard with its cats, and find ourselves in a beautiful wild area on Yosemite Slough. It didn’t have a name for me then, it was just “the wild area at the end of the street where I take my dog.”

The path led through beautiful and abundant wildflowers which I picked for my kitchen table, by the abandoned boat perched on a small rise in the grass, past the concrete jetty where teenagers came to hang, the occasional homeless camper and an abandoned community garden, all the way to the “Under Environmental Investigation for Hazardous Substances—KEEP OUT” sign posted on the barbed-wire fence.

The path circled back again, through an open area where I discovered dog-owners came regularly to let their friends run free. Several abandoned warehouses hunkered there, in precarious condition, with bold graffiti art splashed across imposing walls. Twice, on a Sunday in the early dawn, I found happy and still partying ravers, their cars parked in the grass, holding their red plastic beer cups.

I met a chef who showed me pictures on his phone of his underground locovore restaurant. I met a young couple, clearly still in love, and their enormous, jolly black dog. I ran into one of the many artists from the studio across the street (Cataclysmic Megashear Ranch), and occasionally a friendly neighbor whose name I regretfully never learned. There was a frightening Rottweiler-Pit mix, off-leash, whose owner did not seem to have control or responsibility for his companion. But the area was wonderful for the sense of freedom, a convenient place two minutes away from my door. Danny ran free, chased rabbits, and smelled the flowers.

I looked out on the inlet and saw abandoned tires, a destroyed boat, random concrete pilings and enormous growths of rebar exposed at low tide. There were (and are) the several housing projects across the water which I know are oppressed by high cancer rates likely due to the Naval Shipyard Superfund site with its buried plutonium treasures and toxic construction waste. They are framed in the background by the luxury condos built on the hill behind, and the City Park Restoration Area at the top of Key Street where once I had been startled by a bobcat.

It was a striking place to be, particularly at sunrise and sunset, with the light and the silence and the green, the neighborhood using it peacefully and with pleasure.
The area has become the San Francisco Estuary Project in partnership with California State Parks. According to their website:
The two-phase restoration of Yosemite Slough will create the largest contiguous wetland area in the County of San Francisco. The project will help restore essential wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and prevent erosion along the shoreline of the City of San Francisco—an area of the bay where tidal wetlands have been most impacted and suffered the greatest loss due to urbanization.
So no more off-leash dog walks. But I wonder, could this be a milestone in the environmental cleanup of the neighborhood, and a gift to the entire Bay Delta?

Dog-owners still visit. The garbage at the cul-de-sac is mostly gone, for now; all buildings have been removed, and there are no more wildflowers or invasive pampas-grass. The ground has been ploughed under, leaving a hard corrugated effect that is a danger to my dog and his bad knees. But that is what comes with phase one of the project, and what creates the foundation for the landscape to come.

A gravel road runs through, and (thank goodness) they have spared one beautiful tree next to which is a dumpster with the tag “radiation tree.” The tree is still very beautiful, and intelligent. It anchors the place for me.
The coastline is carefully delineated and re-formed, so the tides will flow cleanly and create new homes for migratory birds and sea-life. The slough is part of the underground water system that runs from the Bayview to the Presidio, where the indigenous Ohlone once had summer camps. If all goes according to plan, soon there will be a visitor center and disability access, and the land will be actively protected and maintained.I have taken my students to the other end of the system and to Heron’s Head Park many times. It is interesting to imagine the network of water that runs under the city, and the river that rushed down what is now 18th Street.
I’m glad that Yosemite Slough has been adopted. While I’m sad that Danny has lost an off-leash playground, I know that, with all the other parks in the area, he and I will do fine. I do wonder how the project fits in with other projects, projects that focus on people as well as the birds. I wonder how many other neighbors know about the project, and what their perspective might be.
What is certain is that, in the four years since I moved here, much has changed, and much has stayed the same.

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org

Shipyard tours impress locals

The landmark gantry crane at the Shipyard remains an engineering marvel. Built in 1947, it is 330 feet tall, and can lift 450 tons. It was built to lift the steel turrets of battleships, and was the only one on the west coast that could do that. The “swale” in the foreground is a new 100 foot culvert designed to channel storm water to the Bay. The water management system and the “durable cover” over toxic waste are among the new engineering marvels at the Shipyard. Photo: Footprints

Bus tours of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, designed as informal updates about the Navy’s environmental cleanup program, rolled between new construction and decay on Saturday, August 24th.

The guided tours made six stops where participants heard about the testing, cleanup and environmental monitoring of what is a massive redevelopment project that has been decades in the making.

This structure suggests the long arc of history at the Shipyard.

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is the town-sized swath of prime waterfront real estate located below Islais Creek … and within sight of India Basin, Heron’s Head Park, and Hunters Point Hill … in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. It was once the economic driver for the southeast part of the City. At its peak of activity, the Shipyard employed 30,000 people.

“I was one of those 30,000,” Bayview resident Ramiro Castro recalled. Ramiro was a teenage in the 1960’s when he worked at the Shipyard. He is now an attorney who lives at 5800 Third Street.

“I probably shouldn’t have been breathing the asbestos,” he said. “But we didn’t know about that in those days.”

Some tour participants seemed as interested in the history and future use of the Shipyard as they were in the environmental issues that the Navy has been wrangling with. Others were focused on the cleanup status, aware the project has been the subject of contentious debates.

Keith Tisdell, who like Ramiro is a former Shipyard worker, was pleased with what he saw on the tour. Keith had been featured in a 2007 SF Chronicle article in which he disclosed health problems he and his family were experiencing that he believes are associated with construction dust.

When asked how he would rate the cleanup on a scale of one to ten, he paused for a moment then said, “Nine. We’ve come a long way.”

Environmental challenges at the Shipyard are no secret to concerned residents, or to urban planners and corporate developers who are re-purposing the land, parcel by parcel, as portions are deemed safe and then transferred to the City. The site was added to the Federal Superfund List in 1991, both an acknowledgment of the seriousness of the problems and a source of revenue for the clean-up effort.

Keith Forman

The Navy’s tour organizer and guide, Keith Forman, got right to the point when he oriented tour participants in the auditorium of Shipyard Building 101.

“We are the people who polluted the Shipyard,” he said. “And we used it to defend the country.”

After World War II, demand for Shipyard services steadily declined along with the number of jobs and the general economic vitality of the area. Left behind was a morass of environmental problems that have affected the lives of residents ever since.

Keith reviewed the long arc of history, planning and potential of the Shipyard site before participants stepped aboard a tour bus to see the sites.

In addition to the Navy’s Keith Forman, the tour was led by former Shipyard Residents Advisory Board (RAB) facilitator John Scott. Also on hand were Craig Cooper, the US EPA’s coordinator of the Yosemite Slough clean-up, Martha Walters from ARC Ecology, and Ryan Miya from the State Water Board.

The Shipyard transformation … into a large, new San Francisco community that mixes residency with commerce … is on track. The site remains a historical landmark and a symbol of urban decay and potential. Stay tuned!

– Jeffrey Betcher

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org

5-years at the Shipyard – community meeting

The Navy’s Five-Year Review of Progress at Hunters Point Shipyard will be the topic of a community meeting on Wednesday, June 26th at the Bayview Opera House (4705 Third) from 6 to 8pm.
For more information, email Keith Forman or call him at 415.306.1458.

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org