Hunter’s Point/Bayview, San Francisco is a neighborhood with a rich, troubled history. For the past several decades it has been a very dangerous neighborhood, considered the worst in San Francisco.
The place is to this day is contaminated with radiation, heavy metals, pesticides, and more from the activity of the US military: particularly the region of the neighborhood that touches the shore, where the Navy conducted experiments with radiation at their shipyard.
Now, after a Navy contractor falsified soil tests and pretended it was no longer toxic, the Navy is going to perform another supposed clean-up and then open up the area of Hunter’s Point where the shipyard used to rest, for $8 billion in development.
During the post-war era after World War 2, the US military would test nuclear weapons on ships and things at Bikini Atoll, and Hunter’s Point is where they would take the radioactive remains of the ships to obtain data.
The Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) operated there, and they built a cyclotron “atom-smasher” at Hunter’s Point to conduct immoral, top-secret experiments with the effects of radioactive fallout on human beings and animals. They would inject radioactive chemicals into animals at this site.
One of the highest infant mortality rates in the country is reportedly in Hunter’s Point. Also referred to as San Francisco’s last African American neighborhood, works of art have been produced in the region.
90’s rap group RBL Posse hails from Hunter’s Point. In the 90’s and early 2000’s when the neighborhood was at a peak of violence, 2 out of 3 members of RBL Posse were shot and killed.
Mister Cee, RBL Posse rapper from the Point was shot and killed at the age of 22 on New Years Day in 1996, shortly after signing a deal with Atlantic Records. RBL Posse rapper Hitman was shot and killed on February 3, 2003 in Hunter’s Point, at the age of 24. He released his first solo album at the age of 16.
The section in the neighborhood they wish to develop is unavailable to the public without registering and getting a pass to enter. The site of the old Naval shipyard, and the blocks of abandoned buildings, some of which are over 150 years old, can be found beyond the orange cones that block off the particularly contaminated area.
We paid a short visit to Hunter’s Point recently, and took this footage.
The modern era of Hunter’s Point began in 1867, with the opening of the Hunter’s Point Shipyard for commercial use, with the West Coast’s first permanent dry dock being constructed. It was one of the largest in the world at the time.
In the beginning of the 20th century, San Francisco was the busiest port on the West Coast, and Hunter’s Point was its busiest repair facility.
A few weeks after the 1941 outbreak of war with the Pearl Harbor bombing, the entire Hunter’s Point shipyard was seized by the Navy. From this point, Hunter’s Point entered a dark era. By 1969, the NRDL that contaminated the Point with radiation, heavy metals, pesticides and who knows what else was shut down, and the base was decommissioned by 1974.
A person visited the abandoned buildings that lie beyond the orange cones in Hunter’s Point, and took these photos about 14 years ago in 2004.
The photographer wrote:
“The stories of widespread radioactive contamination, its location in one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in San Francisco and its high fences and locked gates have conspired to keep the base out of the public eye for decades. There are dozens of abandoned buildings: warehouses, offices and drydock pumphouses, some dating all the way back to 1870. These are some of the oldest buildings in San Francisco, just abandoned and forgotten. Giant gantry cranes loomed rusting, over the broken and flooded drydocks.
On the hill above the dockyards stood a residential neighborhood. It was built in the 1920s and ’30s and seized by the Navy for officers housing during the war. When the base was decommissioned in 1974 the homes were abandoned. They stood empty and untouched for 30 years, slowly decaying in San Francisco’s foggy air. It looked like a post-apocalyptic movie set during the day, but alone at night, it was beyond surreal.
The entire relic strewn base is just minutes from the downtown of one of the west coast’s largest cities. Most of San Francisco’s citizens have no idea of The Point’s checkered past and toxic legacy. Many don’t know it even exists.”
Now, the largest redevelopment project in the city of San Francisco since the earthquake in 1906 is being delayed at least another year, as it is now clear that the Navy-hired contractor Tetra Tech falsified data, taking soil from elsewhere to test for radiation and toxicity after a failed clean-up job.
About $8 billion is set to go into building housing on the radiation and heavy metal contaminated streets that lie beyond the orange cones: but now, that could be delayed. Who wants to develop the abandoned parts of Hunter’s Point? A spinoff of the US’ largest housing builder Lennar, the developer Five Point.
The Navy says it’s going to redo the clean-up it paid Tetra Tech $250 million to do before, which it did not accomplish. As many as 12,000 new housing units are planned to be built there, and several million square feet of office and retail space.
The Navy paid Tetra Tech since 2005 to test buildings, old storm and sewer drains, and soil for heavy metals and radiation.
However, whistleblowers working for the company came forward with accusations of fraud as far back as 7 years ago in 2011. They say as much as 50 percent of Tetra’s work contains “problems.”
Already however, about 300 homes in the radiation area are occupied and many more are under construction at the SF Shipyard. On a hilltop they rest, right above shipyard regions in which animals were injected with radioactive chemicals and ruthlessly experimented on, contaminated waste was poured down sinks, and ships destroyed by hydrogen bombs were sandblasted to “clean” them, probably spreading radiation all over soil.
However, for fraud that could really hurt people Tetra Tech may not face any consequences at all. They were fined a mere $7,000 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2016. They didn’t pay it though: they appealed it and saw success. They even won another contract from the state. Why?
The Navy had to have known the data was false. An order must have been given to Tetra Tech to fake the tests: why not?
According to an ABC7 news article about the whistleblowers:
“Their story was the red flag which got the attention of the U.S. Navy.
Two whistleblowers are now speaking out about a toxic cover-up at the former Hunter’s Point Navy shipyard in San Francisco. The former employees of the company, contracted to clean up radioactivity at the site, were told to fake soil tests.
“We were like puppets on a string, we did what we were told or else,” said former Tetra Tech employee, Anthony Smith.
Smith work for federal contractor Tetra Tech for seven years, testing soil around the Super Fund site for radioactivity. He remembers one instance where a site tested high for radioactive cesium. When he alerted his bosses, Smith was told to keep quiet.”
Hopefully the area will truly be cleaned up and Hunter’s Point will see better days, without suffering the unwanted consequences of gentrification.
(Image credit: Lost America)