by Carol Harvey

As a shockwave of disclosures expands the Hunters Point scandal, more startling historical and scientific facts were revealed by Daniel Hirsch, former University of California Santa Cruz Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy director on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.

A clutch of powerful federal, state and local politicians has been involved for decades in the remediation and redevelopment of Superfund sites Hunters Point and Treasure Island. Yet U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown and current Mayor London Breed are remarkably mute on this subject.

During his Oct. 8 KQED gubernatorial debate with Republican candidate John Cox, Gavin Newsom ignored the massive Hunters Point eco-fraud.

Since this huge story broke early this year, Nancy Pelosi has repeated ad nauseam public reassurances that the former naval base is safe.

This Treasure Island cleanup zone fence is covered with radiation warning signs. – Photo: Carol Harvey

Many of the same staff with the Navy and lead contractor Tetra Tech applied identical standards to Hunters Point and Treasure Island cleanups. Therefore, Hirsch’s conclusions are relevant, in equal measure, to Treasure Island.

  • At both former bases, the Navy hid its poor radioactive cleanup and safety practices.
  • The entire environment on both bases is poisoned due to migration of toxins through soil, groundwater and air – dirt underfoot, polluted water in puddles, cracked pipelines, drains, faucets and taps, and windblown dust.
  • The Navy failed to sample 100 percent of both bases for radioactivity. The Navy’s flawed 2006 Historical Radiological Assessment (HRA) failed to “impact” (scan) most of Treasure Island. These “omissions” along with 2013 cesium-137 findings prompted the California Department of Public Health to urge the Navy to re-do its cleanup. The Navy complied, but Tetra Tech’s 2012 draft and final 2014 Historical Radiological Assessment Supplemental Technical Memoranda (HRASTM) again failed to scan large swathes of land.
  • On Treasure Island, the Navy excluded measurements of a wide array of radionuclides and chemicals of concern. Only a few were considered.
  • Instead of basing proper cleanup levels on accurate naturally-occurring “background” and global radiation fallout measurements, the Navy artificially elevated “background” radioactivity levels above safe human tolerability limits.
  • In addition, according to the EPA, the Navy’s lead contractor, Tetra Tech, fabricated or falsified readings on Hunters Point from 90-97 percent of the survey units measured. Aware parties have yet to disclose the percentage of survey units measured on Treasure Island that Tetra Tech and subcontractors have falsified there.
  • In summary, only part of Hunters Point and Treasure Island’s land masses were surveyed, sampled or tested for chemicals or radionuclides of concern, and only a tiny fraction of Hunters Point radiological samples were not fabricated. The exact nature and number of falsified, under-reported and excluded Treasure Island samples has not yet been made public.
  • Taxpayers who spent billions funding these projects cannot be assured that the radiological cleanup by the Navy or its contractor, Tetra-Tech, has rendered either Hunters Point or Treasure Island safe for human habitation.
  • At both sites, “Effective cleanup will be a massive undertaking” requiring levels of diligence far higher than those heretofore seen and will cost taxpayers more than the billions they have already paid. Construction on toxic land, vulnerable to earthquakes and ocean rise, provides minimum benefit and maximum risk.

Blackout

Gavin Newsom on the air

If Newsom was chauffeured to KQED and escorted through a rear entrance, he missed the press conference on Mariposa Street, where the public, KGO (Channel 7) and KRON 4 cameramen had gathered for an actual report.

Convened by Steve Zeltzer, chair of United Public Workers for Action, speakers included Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, medical doctor and radiation expert; Dr. Larry Rose, former Cal-OSHA medical director; Tandra Lowe, Hunters Point community advocate; Tony Kelly, District 10 candidate for Supervisor; and Carol Harvey, San Francisco Bay View newspaper investigative reporter embedded on Treasure Island.

Zeltzer called for a criminal investigation into the fraud and corruption by government officials who claim these two toxic former Naval bases are “safe” so they can redevelop them, thus endangering peoples’ lives.

Steve Zeltzer calls for a criminal investigation into the fraud and corruption at Hunters Point and Treasure Island by governmental officials who falsely claim these two toxic former Naval bases are “safe” so they can continue to redevelop them and endanger peoples’ lives.

Zeltzer introduced Dr. Sumchai, the first African-American woman to run for mayor citywide, who founded the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board’s Radiological Subcommittee. Sumchai announced a public health emergency: “We now have residential housing where recently a radioactive radium dial was discovered.”

Aware that both former San Francisco Mayors Brown and Newsom, as well as Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, have connections that suggest they will benefit financially from both Hunters Point and Treasure Island redevelopment, Sumchai cited Newsom’s violation of California Government Code Section 81002 (c): “No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making, or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a government decision in which he knows, or has reason to know, he has a financial interest.”

Radiation expert Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai exposes the inbred politics of the corrupt cleanup.

Noting Newsom’s lack of concern for toxic site workers and Cal-OSHA’s failure to protect them, Zeltzer introduced Dr. Larry Rose, former Cal-OSHA medical director. Rose detailed Tetra Tech’s corruption leading to Hunters Point’s toxic mess and Cal-OSHA’s corruption impairing its ability to monitor Tetra Tech’s corruption.

Dr. Larry Rose, former Cal-OSHA medical director, details the truth of events leading to Hunters Point’s toxic mess, Tetra Tech’s corruption and Cal-OSHA’s inability to monitor that corruption.

Bayview resident Lowe reported offers of grant money from Hunters Point organizations that could not provide evidence any victim received financial aid.

Tandra Lowe, Bayview resident, reports opportunistic and greedy promises from organizations offering grant money to help those harmed, but with no evidence that anyone has been offered aid.

Tony Kelly promised as Supervisor he would fight to stop Lennar and promote “better shipyard cleanup.”

Tony Kelly, neighborhood advocate and District 10 candidate for Supervisor, fights to stop Lennar and wants to promote a better shipyard cleanup.

As an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, the only publication closely covering Treasure Island for the last five years, I described extensive malfeasance at Treasure Island duplicating corruption at Hunters Point.

Investigative reporter Carol Harvey describes extensive malfeasance at Treasure Island which duplicates exactly Tetra Tech’s corruption at Hunters Point.

Treasure Island media blackout

Politicians universally ignore Treasure Island, where sick and dying Navy personnel and San Francisco citizens have for decades been exposed to radiation, chemicals, asbestos, mold and lead. This EPA-designated Superfund site has suffered a news blockade ostensibly to conceal the contamination and protect redevelopment plans. Widespread toxification has only begun to reach public notice.

Though Treasure Island bears a certified EPA Superfund site identification number, CA7170023330, EPA officials like Jared Blumenfeld, TIDA board member who rose to direct federal EPA District 9, refuse to include this Bay Area toxic landform on the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites online, thereby concealing the truth from potential Treasure Island renters.

For decades, Nancy Pelosi, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom worked to redevelop former bases at Hunters Point, the Presidio and Treasure Island. Tetra Tech’s Hunters Point malfeasance has publicly exposed the toxicity these public officials have attempted, and failed, to conceal.

Denial

Political maneuvering, outright lies and promises of expanded housing in San Francisco’s overpriced rental market has plunged the public into denial about facts common sense tells us are true.

Starting in 1941, the military poisoned not only these three bases, but the entire Bay Area. We can’t see, feel, smell, taste or touch radiation, chemicals or the air through which they move. But we don’t need science to rip the blinders from our denying eyes. Elevated breast cancer rates have spoken for years to our common sense awareness that our bodies are immersed in these poisons flowing around and through us in our water, air and soil.

On Treasure Island, invisible gales constantly blast tiny dust particles across this flat sea level artificial landform. The Navy’s radiation cleanup personnel neglected to observe regulations to shut down dust-raising excavation equipment when wind gusts exceeded 25 mph. If they had complied, they would have been forced to stop working many times a day.

Starting in 1941, the military poisoned not only these three bases, but the entire Bay Area. We can’t see, feel, smell, taste or touch radiation, chemicals or the air through which they move. But we don’t need science to rip the blinders from our denying eyes.

On the island’s San Francisco side, earthmovers spread massive mounds of dirt from the City’s uncovered soil pile. Two formerly healthy islanders report that during their 18-year tenancy, invisible airborne dust has turned labored breathing into rattling coughs. Concerned that their respiration problems could morph into life-threatening Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), their doctors prescribed inhalers.

Like these undetectable poisons, Newsom and other politicians prestidigitate so skillfully they can convince us something unseen is one thing when it is entirely something else.

Recently, Sacramento Bee reporter Angela Hart quoted Newsom as he strolled the Tenderloin past liquor stores and Vietnamese restaurants observing homeless people: “Never been worse. Never in my life,” he sighed.

Wrote Hart, “Newsom has watched the (homeless) problem explode across California.” He can now say he will address the homeless problem as a statewide issue.

Like these undetectable poisons, Newsom and other politicians prestidigitate so skillfully they can convince us something unseen is one thing when it is entirely something else.

Considering Newsom’s past record on homelessness, his vision for California during his KQED gubernatorial debate amounted to the classic “Now you see it, now you don’t.”

“The California dream is predicated on social mobility,” he said. “The richest and the poorest state; we have to mind that gap. We have to address the issue of cost of housing … of affordability … of homelessness.”

During Newsom’s 2003 mayoral run, I interviewed radio and television host Jim Gabbert, who announced on KGO that one of Newsom’s political consultants confessed they were sitting around one day and cooked up “Care Not Cash,” a program to house the homeless. Observed Gabbert, it seemed a simple idea the public could grasp and voters would buy – an easy sell, without real sincerity or intention to help people suffering on San Francisco streets.

Considering Newsom’s past record on homelessness, his vision for California during his KQED gubernatorial debate amounted to the classic “Now you see it, now you don’t.”

Cynics renamed this proposal “Cash – Not Care.” It reduced homeless San Franciscans’ General Assistance checks from $350 to $59 a month – chump change that barely covered toothpaste and socks. The seized money was converted to vouchers for nonexistent shelter beds or SRO hotel rooms.

Newsom’s programs as two-term mayor (2004 to 2010) seemed to target – not help – the homeless. One San Franciscan observed that Newsom rode in on “Care Not Cash” and out on “Sit-Lie,” the “civil sidewalks” ordinance, jailing unhoused citizens, people with disabilities – even weary tourists – who sat and rested on curbs.

Along with tickets out of town, “No Sit No Lie” seemed another initiative torturing people who had nowhere else to go instead of constructing low-income housing. Consequently, between 2005 and 2011 during Newsom’s two mayoral terms, the homeless population rose.

The solution: Solve homelessness by cobbling redevelopment funds from Treasure Island HUD subsidies

Which takes us back to Newsom’s predecessor, Willie Brown. “Da Mayor” performed amazing sleight-of-hand tricks with the classic victims of environmental injustice – the poor, people of color and unhoused human beings.

From 1996 to 2004, Mayor Brown showed Newsom the way. In 1997, Brown addressed San Francisco’s perennial homelessness problem by “disappearing” at-risk people from city streets into HUD-subsidized housing on newly decommissioned Treasure Island.

As early as 1997, a July 1 SF Chronicle article announced the intention to house homeless people on Treasure Island. “Maceo May, director of housing for Swords to Plowshares, said his organization is proposing 371 housing units for the homeless – 90 on Yerba Buena, the remainder on Treasure Island.”

Soon, Catholic Charities, Community Housing Partnership and John Stewart became property managers for mostly people of color, expected to “fix” themselves in island drug and mental health programs. This classic victim-blaming assumed that people end up homeless not because they are too poor to pay San Francisco’s astronomical rents, but because they are all hooked on drugs or crazy – which is where most people unprotected by four walls will go.

The Redevelopment Plan

That same year, a Civil Grand Jury made “recommendations concerning the implementation, governance and oversight of (Treasure Island) redevelopment.”

“An interim plan” was devised “to preserve the housing stock which deteriorates rapidly with lack of use, and (to) provide an income stream.” Thus, homeless San Franciscans’ subsidized rents would slow Navy townhouse dilapidation. The funds became a war chest for a new eco-village for wealthy condo owners.

In 2000, the City began importing unhoused people to the island. Homeless after a fire, Joan Black could find housing only on Treasure Island. She observed exclusion zones surrounded by wire mesh fences but stated she was never told about radiation.

In 2000, the City began importing unhoused people to the island.

In 2000 when she moved to Treasure Island, Margaret Billsborough was healthy. After speaking publicly about the cleanup, she was evicted in 2016 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that makes her unable to walk.

Despite promises by Sherry Williams, Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI) director, that island residents will be grandfathered into low cost housing, it is widely believed that the number of redeveloped subsidized units will be too small to house them all.

Which explains why no hopeful formerly homeless Island resident living with a subsidy under TIHDI dares complain.

An additional safeguard became a testament to Willie Brown’s genius and advance planning. “Complainers” face immediate harassment and eviction to the streets. Brown and his political cronies developed restrictions that discourage residents from reporting illnesses caused by chemical and radiological toxins in Treasure Island soil and substandard conditions in moldy, asbestos-ridden housing where they and their children are forced to live.

One of Brown’s Machiavellian maneuvers was to contrive laws rendering Treasure Island the only City neighborhood not governed by the Rent Arbitration and Stabilization Board (Rent Board). In a violation of 14th Amendment equal rights, Treasure Island tenants lack “just cause” eviction protections enjoyed in other neighborhoods. This enables Treasure Island’s property manager, John Stewart, to launch evictions at will.

Brown and his political cronies developed restrictions that discourage residents from reporting illnesses caused by chemical and radiological toxins in Treasure Island soil and substandard conditions in moldy, asbestos-ridden housing where they and their children are forced to live.

In 2017, John Stewart attorney Mercedes Gavin evicted resident Smadar LaVie, a UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Department visiting professor on charges she defied orders to cease using her apartment as an Air BNB. LaVie, who made “demanding” requests of property managers, documented the charges to be false and retaliatory.

The Bay View newspaper was present in court for Gavin’s eviction of long-time renter Damian Ochoa following his pleas for maintenance protections against insect and rodent infestations and water damage to valued antiques and furniture.

Several tenants report that evictions continue to cull the population.

Politicians cycle through TIDA

In 1994, Willie Brown, who served 31 years in the California Assembly, 15 as speaker, and was subsequently elected San Francisco mayor, used his enormous political clout to tweak state laws, converting Treasure Island from Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) status to Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) status. This legislation placed mayoral appointments to the “Treasure Island Authority Board, which runs the island, “ under the sole control of the Mayor’s Office, i.e. the thumb of Brown himself – and his successors, Gavin Newsom, Ed Lee and London Breed.

They knew Treasure Island was radioactive and chemically contaminated

Over the years, a startling retinue of politically connected notables cycled through Treasure Island Development Authority Board (TIDA) tenures. From this vantage point, they could not escape awareness that the island was contaminated. In fact, Navy remediation had gone on so long it was obvious it could not be cleaned.

Paul Pelosi Jr. poses with Jared Blumenfeld, federal director for EPA San Francisco District 9, when Blumenfeld was on the Treasure Island Development Authority Board.

Nevertheless, everyone worked jointly to set in motion plans for a redeveloped eco-village.

Among these opportunists were Wendy Linka, Mayor Brown’s ex-girlfriend; Jack Sylvan, Newsom’s TIDA redevelopment director; and Jared Blumenfeld, past federal EPA administrator. Beginning on Treasure Island, a much-younger London Breed rose through the political ranks. After she worked on Brown’s 1999 re-election campaign, she was hired as TIDA board office manager. Later, Breed became a development specialist negotiating island leases.

Brown himself undoubtedly enjoyed fantastic Yerba Buena island views from Linka’s residence at the “caretaker’s cottage near the Admiral Chester Nimitz home,” until she was “booted” as Treasure Island events coordinator after double-booking too many parties.

This revolving group of politically connected people worked together tirelessly for years to redevelop the island.

Conveyance

And so it happened that on Aug. 18, 2010, a brilliantly sunny day, Gavin Newsom convened a “Mayor’s Press Conference” on Treasure Island attended by U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Willie Brown observed from the audience.

Newsom’s TIDA Redevelopment Director Jack Sylvan asked board members to stand. Among them was past TIDA board member Jared Blumenfeld, who, after directing San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, was elevated to regional administrator for Environmental Protection Agency District 9 in San Francisco, a federal post he held from January 2010 to May 6, 2016.

This EPA official was well aware of the Navy’s decontamination of Treasure Island, yet nowhere in Michael Krasny’s KQED 2016 exit interview of Blumenfeld did the former EPA director mention Treasure Island or Hunters Point. Blumenfeld spoke of environmental injustice against Native Americans but not the people of color being poisoned at both former bases.

After all three politicians delivered unctuous self-congratulatory speeches, they signed the terms for the conveyance of former Naval Station Treasure Island from the Navy to the City.

Treasure Island redevelopment – ongoing since the 1980s

The “Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process started in 1988,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus noted during his speech.

“We have been talking about this (transfer) since 1993,” stated Newsom, “with formal negotiations that began this BRAC process in 1994.”

On Nov. 8, 2005, a new redevelopment plan was announced.

On Nov. 10, 2008, SF Examiner staff reporter Katie Worth described an early version. “The City hopes to build 6,000 new homes, three hotels, a 400-slip marina, and a bevy of retail, restaurants and entertainment venues on the island, along with 300 acres of parks and open space.”

Even after Treasure Island was decommissioned in 1993, “outside audits continued to alert the Navy to a potential radioactive waste problem.”

Ten years later, on Aug. 17, 2010, Gavin Newsom’s and Pelosi’s conveyance terms exposed the fact that politicians had long been aware the island was toxic. In summer 2008, city negotiators offered to buy the island from the federal government for the price of cleaning it up ― the equivalent of $40 million, upfront ― plus 50 percent of future profits from the land.

Even after Treasure Island was decommissioned in 1993, “outside audits continued to alert the Navy to a potential radioactive waste problem.”

From 2008 to 2010, the Navy and city negotiators were embroiled in negotiations unable to come to an agreement on Treasure Island’s purchase price. Finally, through frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations that Newsom praised on Conveyance Day, Speaker Pelosi succeeded in solidifying the terms of the transfer in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. Newsom’s, Pelosi’s and Mabus’ florid self-congratulations flowed from the fact that, by 2010, the Navy (Ray Mabus) had “accepted that ($55 million) deal.”

Instead of the earlier proposal of $40 million for cleaning the island, the conveyance terms were raised to the City’s guarantee of a payment to the Navy of $55 million, followed by an additional interim amount of $50 million. This raised the total to $105 million that City taxpayers have been paying the Navy for decontaminating Treasure Island.

Referring to the promise of additional future profits by the Navy, Mabus crowed, “the Navy is going to get significant rewards by sharing in a portion of the revenues generated by this island.”

During the conveyance ceremony, Nancy Pelosi noted that, because of “the agreement between the Navy and the City of San Francisco, we can now move forward on plans to build essential infrastructure, open space and parks, hotels and affordable housing for local residents.” Then, she thanked Ray Mabus for “keeping Treasure Island safe for us.”

She neglected to mention the sick and evicted tenants or the insufficient number of spaces for the long-suffering poor and people of color who would end up back on the street.

Peering out over the crowd, Pelosi executed a vague wave in an unspecified direction. She intoned that they are “very respectful of the residents who are already here. Thank you for being with us today.”

Pelosi neglected to mention the sick and evicted tenants or the insufficient number of spaces for the long-suffering poor and people of color who would end up back on the street.

During interviews with hundreds of Treasure Island tenants, many reported viewing the conveyance ceremony video, but none recalled attending the event. In fact, one former tenant insisted Pelosi thanked Mabus for “keeping Treasure Island safe for us,” so they could all make millions from the redevelopment at the expense of formerly homeless, now ill and dying San Franciscans.

Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at carolharvey1111@gmail.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Abuse, injury, & injustice suppressed by media complicit with systemic corruption in San Diego, CA.

    No security, protection, or consideration provided to this impoverished destitute homeless crippled honorable USN retiree from socio-economic disparity, abuse, injury, injustice, rights violations, persecution, torture, theft, fraud, parasitic exploitation, neglect, kleptocracy, systemic corruption, …

    What philosophy & purpose promoting, protecting from what supposed external threat when indulging abuse, harm, injustice, disparity, crime & domestic terrorism? What purpose served when systemic corruption, kleptocracy, hypocrisy, & parasitic exploitation prevalent in San Diego, CA, that can injure, commit crime, rights violations, steal property, & force an honorable US Navy retiree into homelessness yet exposure suppressed & no protection provided? Systemic corruption indulged & suppressed exposure of abuses, fraud, crime, & neglect in Veteran’s Administration, city & county agencies, NGOs, fraudulent foundations, dubious non-profits, & other parasitic scams. Abuse & harm indulged by kleptocracy & systemic corruption, injuring & persecuting a citizen, wantonly violating rights by suppressing truth & evidence along with media exposure, then promoting misinforming propaganda along with fraud by manipulating records … Further crime & harassment, my vehicle sequentially vandalized, burglarized, then stolen but each crime was by kleptocracy & systemic corruption in San Diego, CA. Then fraud when altering reports & changing records to reflect I had committed those incidents to my own vehicle.

    Promoted Power for Peace & accepted the Oath upon entering honorable US Navy service, willing to fight terrorism from supposed external threats, resolve human rights violations, protect people from harm, but enduring injury, injustice, abuses, & rights violations while unprotected from crime, systemic corruption, persecution, kleptocracy, & domestic terrorism in my native country.

    7406840034 https://m.facebook.com/groups/996044080457069?vie

  2. This person stole Ms Lundgren’s research, is in no way embedded, her words,on treasure island and takes other peoples effort without credit. She lives in the Presidio, followed a woman around named Kat and took her work with no credit. The problem is real but this self-labeled reporter is fake. If this paper wants respect, they should put this hack out of publication. shameful.

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