by Carol Harvey
At 11:00 a.m. Monday, April 16, 2018, community organizer Steve Zeltzer introduced former Treasure Island residents Andre Patterson and Felita Sample, who had been invited to speak at this press conference where whistle-blowers exposed the malfeasance of remediation contractor Tetra Tech on Hunters Point and Treasure Island.
“I want to introduce two people today who’ve been personally affected by the corruption and the coverup at Treasure Island. They are both whistleblowers who put their lives in jeopardy by speaking out about what’s happened. They have been terribly harmed.”
The couple stood side-by-side on the broad concrete entrance to the massive 21-story Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Ave., the location of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco.
“We’re not just talking about money, (but) people dying,” said Zeltzer. Powerful politicians, he explained, are involved in a criminal violation of the RICO act “to cover up this development regardless of the cost, regardless of who dies, regardless of who gets cancer. This U.S. attorney, this government, has to hold these politicians accountable. That’s what we’re calling for here today.”
Community activists join with Zeltzer in reporting that TIDA, its partners and associates, FivePoint-Lennar, John Stewart and more, conspire openly, operating a racket in which they violate federal and state laws by conducting fraudulent, dishonest business dealings for profit in contravention of the 1970 Federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a United States federal law “that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.”
The result is that Treasure Island parents and children have, since 1999, suffered great harm renting substandard housing living feet from remediation zones filled with chemical and radiological contaminants.
Patterson, a well-traveled, intelligent, outspoken, honorably discharged U.S. Marine addressed the crowd. Andre had blown the whistle on corruption, collusion and obstruction of justice among and by powerful individuals and organizations conducting fraudulent business on radioactive Naval Station Treasure Island.
In You Tube videos and interviews with the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Andre cited “racketeers” who conspire in violation of the RICO Act.
“This spot is like this on Treasure Island,” Andre stated, “because of HUD, the U.S. Navy, the EPA, the California Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Shelter Plus Care, Catholic Charities and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, who allow mentally disabled Black tenants to be radiation poisoned on Treasure Island.”
Andre described briefly at the press conference how a San Francisco city agency, the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), and its partners use HUD subsidies in violation of federal law and the RICO Act.
“Hi! I’m Andre Patterson. I was on Treasure Island from 2004 to 2013. I am mentally disabled, and I was in a program called Shelter Plus Care which is ran through HUD.”
“They didn’t tell me there was radiation out there,” he continued. “I had two cancerous tumors and went through a series of meltdowns with my health. I complained to my landlord, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. They get our rent money. The Archdiocese is getting fat, and everyone has covered up for the Catholic Church.
“How can a church put the parishioners on a contaminated site? If you say anything about it, they’ll throw you off the island. The church needs to be accountable for all the deaths on Treasure Island.
“Everyone’s involved in this coverup. HUD is the biggest player of this contamination.
“Despite HUD’s own rule, 24 CFR 50.3, prohibited use of a contaminated site, HUD is responsible for allowing the City of San Francisco to fund about $44 billion (in subsidies) in 20 years.”
Felita Sample spoke next: “Hi! I’m Felita Sample. I lived on Treasure Island from about 2004 to 2017, 13 years. I lived right by 1101 Bigelow Court, where Don Wadsworth, a Navy expert … who had extensive experience working with radiation, said, ‘No, people were not supposed to live on Treasure Island.’
A slender, 51-year-old woman with delicate features, Felita gazes from eyes worn by chronic pain but brightened by sudden flashes of a shy smile.
“I never had any health problems. (Now,) I have an enlarged heart. I have bad kidney problems. I almost died twice.
“I moved out last year in October 2017. Max Garcia (John Stewart Property Manager) has put two other people in that apartment, 1406 Sturgeon, Apartment B, on Treasure Island. That’s right by 1101 Bigelow Court.
“The first lady that moved in there, she got sick and she had to move. So, they put someone else in there. It’s really bad out there.”
Andre and Felita report that because Treasure Island authorities are violating federal and state laws that would have prevented residents from being poisoned, the island could be shut down today.
In April 2017, Andre informed me that Treasure Island is a Superfund site with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Identification No. CA7170023330. Despite the island’s toxicity by radiation and chemicals, the EPA has not included it on the National Priorities List (NPL), thus leading the public to believe that Hunters Point is San Francisco’s only Superfund site.
During interviews and video sessions conducted at Felita’s Treasure Island residence by the San Francisco Bayview newspaper, the couple described the deafening silence of a bevy of public figures and agencies whose activities amounted to a tacit agreement between themselves to violate United States law and California regulations that outlaw rentals on chemically and radiologically contaminated land in substandard housing and failing to report such conditions to market rate and subsidized tenants before they sign leases.
Violations of federal law
Andre reported that TIDA, TIDHI, John Stewart Co. and other power brokers running the island have been paying themselves illegally using HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money to subsidize housing for mentally disabled people of color on the Island’s toxic land.
Stated Andre, “At first TIDA was getting redevelopment funds they be using to pay salaries.” But, “In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated California’s Redevelopment Agencies. They had to figure out some way for them to get paid their salaries,” declared Andre, so they procured HUD funding. However, federal HUD regulations prohibit use of a contaminated site.
In this April 11, 2017, video, Andre blew the whistle on the failure to disclose that radiation the Navy deposited on Treasure Island existed at levels far above EPA standards for safe human occupancy.
Violations of California state law
In the video, Andre holds up a copy of the California landlord-tenant disclosure law. “Down on number 7,” he states, “if a landlord was renting to a prospective tenant within a mile of a closed military base, the landlord has to acknowledge that to the prospective tenant.” No Treasure Island renter is informed of these facts before they sign a lease, nor does this wording appear in the contract.
Further, stated Andre, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1942.4 “clearly discusses that a landlord cannot collect rent on an uninhabitable building.”
Power brokers who run the island have been breaking California state habitability laws for years.
News reports don’t cover the fact that Treasure Island tenants live on toxic land in substandard housing covered with toxic lead paint that flakes off and is blown about in the island’s relentless winds. Townhouse walls are stuffed with asbestos around which grow clumps of toxic black mold. Homes are infested with rats, mice and other vermin. Tenants descend their stairs clinging to dilapidated, shaky railings.
Though federal and state laws have been broken, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have said nothing to address this glaring malfeasance by public officials.
The associations are telling. A company associated with Richard Blum, Sen. Feinstein’s husband, has a contract with Lennar to build Treasure Island condos.
Working with her personal friend Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Pelosi acquired conveyances for Treasure Island, and the Navy returned former Naval Station Treasure Island to the city on Aug. 18, 2010. In March 2004, Laurence Pelosi, Pelosi’s nephew by marriage had been head of real estate acquisitions for Treasure Island developer Lennar. Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi Sr., is himself a wealthy developer.
Andre further testified that more than 20 powerful federal, state and city agencies and politicians responded minimally or not at all to reports of radiation and chemicals that the Navy admits it simply cannot clean or the plight of the many people made ill at Treasure Island by living with radiation, chemicals, heavy metals, asbestos, toxic mold and lead. The deafening silence of these powerful politicians and agencies who possess interest and investment in the redevelopment at the former Naval base amounts to a blind eye, a turned back, a quietly smoking gun, and obstruction of justice.
The making of a Treasure Island whistleblower
In Part Two, Andre’s biography, ‘The making of a whistleblower,’ Andre Patterson discusses in depth his years as a child, teenager and young adult. He was raised by a military man who taught him discipline and a strong sense of right and wrong. Training as a United States Marine intensified his love for order, ethics and responsibility that was inculcated in him as a boy by his uncle.
Returning with an honorable discharge, Andre developed post-traumatic stress after his lived experience machine-gunning enemy troops from a CH-46 helicopter over Vietnamese jungles was complicated by untreated childhood emotional abuse and a skull fracture.
Following his years of military service, Andre became a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service.
In 2004, the Veterans Administration issued Andre a HUD voucher for head-injured veterans.
He was diagnosed with PTSD. “I’m mentally disabled. But, the VA ruled me mentally incompetent.” His San Francisco Veterans Hospital doctor signed a form verifying that Andre’s PTSD meant he required private living quarters in a two-bedroom apartment at 1419 Striped Bass St. on Treasure Island that accommodated a 24-hour caregiver to act as his conservator and fiduciary, handling daily affairs he could not manage himself.
During nine years on the island, Andre developed two large tumors on his side and back. He became concerned about living near radiation and chemicals.
On a bright autumn day in November 2013, Andre and his partner, Felita, encountered ABC7 reporter, Sergio Quintana and his TV crew filming resident interviews on a Treasure Island street. A few days later, Quintana published an article, “A new report finds people living on Treasure Island might be at risk of radiation poisoning.” Quintana cited a state health department memo that said workers “found radioactive shards buried in lawns on the western side of the island.
“Treasure Island resident Andre Patterson says his brother lives right next to where they recently found a highly radioactive hunk of metal. He lives in subsidized housing and says he was never told about these radioactive risks.
“’I would have never moved on this island here had they told me there was radiation,’ said Patterson.”
Andre believes that his public disclosures about radiation to the press that day triggered retaliation by Catholic Charities.
Andre and Felita began to suffer abuse and harassment. “Me and Felita are getting leaned on hard,” he told me. “We’re the only two. If everybody stood up, they can’t evict everybody.”
Felita, who also spoke with Quintana about the radiation, soon experienced repeated acts of sexual harassment from a Catholic Charities property manager.
Felita’s daughter, Lakrista Jackson, was to receive survivor benefits from a dedicated account after her father’s death. However, the Shelter Plus Care administrator improperly paid the family’s subsidy with Lakrista’s funds. When a social security worker informed Felita that her daughter’s money was meant only for Lakrista, the administrator blocked the refund.
Later, Andre was warned by his worker that he was considered a “nuisance” for discussing radiation, especially with press. “HUD’s Shelter Plus Care program manager, Shane Balanon, manufactured a clever loophole that rendered Andre a “single person” who appeared not to need his two-bedroom apartment. Balanon further manipulated Andre’s HUD subsidy so the hearing judge received the mistaken impression Andre had refused housing.
Andre was evicted.
He told his brother Charles, “I’m fighting for what I lost.” Along with losing his health, Andre was deprived of his two-bedroom apartment with separate quarters for himself and his live-in 24-hour caregiver. Without a voucher he was no longer eligible for subsidized housing.
Despite these setbacks, Andre and Felita trudged from house to house attempting to alert other Treasure Islanders of their right to protest being poisoned without their knowledge in their subsidized homes. Said Andre, “Everyone walks around,” ignoring “this pink radiation elephant that is known to cause cancer and death.”
Though they were frustrated by their neighbors’ disbelief and nonresponse, they struggled through intense pain from Felita’s kidneys and Andre’s tumors and finally found a safe way off the island.
“This happens … because the powers that be say it’s that this be like this,” Andre testified. “Everybody they moved out here at first were Black. And they’re dealing with a lower class of people, people asking for housing in a super-high city for rent.
“They’ll say, ‘Well, we’ll fix you! If you don’t want to get you a job and pay $3,000 a month for a unit, we’ll put you in the spot where you get radiation poisoned, and there goes your low-income housing for you!’
“This quagmire of radiation contamination is done in a mean-spirited way toward African-Americans that are mentally disabled.”
Andre and others suspect another twisted racist motive: “This is a Treasure Island experiment, which is akin to the Tuskegee experiment, when they offered something knowing full well what they were offering was dangerous.”
Four years after Andre was evicted, in 2017, Damian Ochoa and Smadar LaVie were harassed and evicted when they complained about racism, substandard housing and contamination.
I observed that perhaps Treasure Island residents don’t protest because they fear retaliation. Andre replied that fear has less to do with it than the fact that mentally disabled HUD-subsidized renters are “the most vulnerable population that you could ever want to do anything dirty to.”
“There are three levels of disability on this island,” said Andre, “mentally disabled, mentally incompetent, and mentally retarded.”
A person with a mental disability is defined as having “significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, covering many everyday social and practical skills.
Said Andre, “A mentally disabled person (will) do something that a person that’s normal won’t do. For instance, they’ll be sick and do nothing about it. You’re feeling something, and you might know what it is, but you can’t make the right moves to get something done about it. You can’t express yourself.
“(Second is) mentally incompetent,” continued Andre. The legal definition of mental incompetence is the inability of a person to make or carry out important decisions regarding his or her affairs by reason of mental defect. I have empathy,” he offered, “because I’m in the mental health system. I have a VA form that I’ve been mentally incompetent since 1998. I have to have a 24-hour care giver (and) a fiduciary to pay my bills.”
“I’m the same,” said Felita.
Mental incompetence in both Andre and Felita excludes their obvious high intelligence.
“(Last is) mentally retarded,” concluded Andre. Mental retardation involves “a development disorder characterized in varying degrees by a subnormal ability to learn and a substantially low IQ.”
“One-third of our community out here are mentally retarded. They all stay over here where they’re tearing the buildings down. I’ll bet it’s close to 50 or 60 or 70 of them that are mentally retarded.”
He didn’t know the name of the program. “They’re very secretive. But they get people to pay their rent, and they all stay in these townhouses. I don’t know how many per unit.”
“They can’t take care of themselves at all, period,” stated Andre. “The housemother stays with them, buys food and cooks for them. The only thing they don’t do is dress them.
“It’s different levels. Some of the people that are mentally retarded, they’ll speak to me on the bus. But some of them are so severe that they can’t communicate with us. They sit around, and they slobber their mouth and things like that.”
Corruption – how Treasure Island runs
In a video entitled “Andre breaks down island corruption that keeps him & Felita ill, Andre documented collusion and corruption between multiple entities running the island.
Starting in 1999, TIDA, the Treasure Island Development Authority and its board, used market rate and subsidized rents to fund island maintenance and the long-promised redevelopment.
Andre testifies that after 2011, when TIDA could no longer pay salaries with redevelopment funds, they procured money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The stated mission of HUD, a cabinet-level department in the executive branch of the federal government, is to “support community development by … increasing safe and affordable rental options and reducing chronic homelessness.”
HUD’s long-running Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funds…”affordable housing,” (and) “anti-poverty programs.”
The tongues of men and angels describe the CDBG program’s solid gold mission. However, because it lacks charity, it has “become as sounding brass.” Put simply, the idea is far prettier than the sordid, ugly reality played out on Treasure Island.
“TIDA, TIHDI and John Stewart, run the island,” Andre said. Through HUD subsidies, Community Development Block Grant money pays the staff of John Stewart, TIDA and TIHDI, the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative, an umbrella agency over Treasure Island’s HUD housing programs.
There is a catch. As Andre pointed out, federal agencies are governed by laws and regulations.
Violations of federal law
Andre pointed out on video that radiation contamination on Treasure Island violates federal law. The text of federal HUD policy 24 CFR Part 50.3 specifically mandates, “All property proposed for use in HUD programs be free of hazardous materials, contamination, toxic chemicals and gasses, and radioactive substances, where a hazard could affect the health and safety of occupants.”
Said Andre, “Any time you have the federal government that has a rule that states that you can’t radiation poison somebody,” then they “turn around and pay the subsidy in violation of their rule prohibiting use of a contaminated site, this program should have never been launched.”
In his April 11, 2017, video, Andre stands in front of Site 31 near the former elementary school. “You can see behind me the mounds of dirt that is radioactive,” he says. “(The Navy has) always used the school as a dumping spot for radioactive material.
“These buildings have radiation underneath them, which has given people radiation poisoning.”
This former elementary school complex later housed the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco. But, shortly after June 5, 2014, club president Rob Connolly wrote residents that due to dangers posed by environmental toxins at the site, the club was permanently closing the building and would not return to the island.
Land contaminated with petrochemicals and heavy metals, lead and arsenic
A network of cracking, rusted lead pipes runs throughout Treasure Island soil and beneath all the townhouses.
Andre continued, “To make sure that if you are not poisoned by the radiation on Treasure Island, surely it will get done by the arsenic in the water pipes.”
In 2016, the Navy began digging out an underground bubble of old petroleum which had converted into arsenic and was spreading throughout the soil under the Westside Solid Waste Disposal area along the shore facing San Francisco. Their “TPH/arsenic” dig site was located at the old Westside Drive-Gateview Avenue intersection. Toxic water flows widely throughout the pipeline system to Andre’s old address and to nearby Sturgeon Street where Felita Sample lived.
Racketeering: fraud, deception, and failure to disclose for financial gain
Fraud constitutes wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
On the basis that racketeering is fraud for profit, Andre said island agents must be “crooked racketeers,” because they are “allowing people to get radiation poisoned so they could make a salary.
“We got a pig in a poke,” stated Andre, “’cause they ain’t told any of these people out here … (about the radiation and chemicals). Out here on Treasure Island they failed to disclose a material fact that there was and is radiation at 1 million times over the EPA standard threshold for safe occupancy for humans.
“This failure to disclose goes all the way from HUD down to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.” “Failure to disclose” is legally actionable.
Andre states that when HUD pays millions for housing programs on toxic Treasure Island and does not inform people that their homes are sitting on chemicals and radiation, “This is a major fraudulent operation.
“I want to bet you this project brings in probably $4 hundred million or $5 hundred million a year – half a billion dollars – with all the jobs that’s associated with Treasure Island.
“If you pulled the plug on all the alcohol and drug programs out here (paid for by HUD), all those jobs would be gone.
“It’s conducive for people to be radiation-poisoned in order for people to pay their bills. See, it can’t happen unless we get poisoned. Because the island can’t function without tenants. They won’t give you a dime for it. This is HUD money for people to live and for you to have support staff.”
Andre listed some of the HUD-funded programs under which residents like himself are fraudulently governed.
Shelter Plus Care
The website for Shelter Plus Care (SPC) states the program “provides rental assistance for homeless people with disabilities, primarily those with serious mental illness, chronic problems with alcohol and/or drugs, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and related diseases.”
“The culprit of this fiasco out here is Shelter Plus Care, which is for mentally disabled people,” Andre testified. He stated that SPC “has taken mentally disabled tenants off of the waiting list for HUD and placed them in a dangerous situation.”
“This is where they dump mentally disabled tenants and citizens of San Francisco – on radiation-contaminated, toxic Treasure Island where they have eight other chemical contaminants that are known to cause cancer.”
SPC “has over a hundred employees down in the Department of Human Services that gets paid for radiation poisoning people. So, (if) they pull us off this island, they all lose their jobs.” Andre named Shelter Plus Care workers Shane Balanon, Santiago Juan, Salvador Lopez, Beryl Wong, Ashley Millburn and Joyce Crom.
Andre and Felita claimed many of these agents have been disciplined and fired for illegal actions they inflicted upon the couple.
HealthRIGHT 360 is a program claiming to offer “integral primary medical care, mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”
Among others, the program administers HUD funds to the Female Offender Treatment and Education Program (FOTEP), intended to reduce prison recidivism by educating female offenders.
“You pull the plug on this program here,” said Andre, “you got maybe 200 people that’s laid off.”
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, under the auspices of the Catholic Church, a global religious institution headquartered at the Vatican, operates Catholic Charities, which uses HUD CDBG money to subsidize housing for mentally disabled people on Treasure Island. Andre pointed out, “This is a cruel way for them to get a subsidy – to poison people they are supposed to be serving in the manner of God.”
Violations of California state habitability law, substandard housing
In his video clip, Andre testified that the island’s power brokers don’t stop at federal violations. They break state laws as well.
Andre addressed “everyone who has a lease on Treasure Island: The day you signed your lease, the lease became null and void according to the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1942.4, (which) clearly discusses that a landlord cannot collect rent on an uninhabitable building.
“Section 1942.4 states that a landlord cannot demand, collect, or increase rent” in certain situations: (1) substantial habitability breaches; (2) landlord has been officially notified to repair the breaches; (3) conditions must have been unabated for 35 days since the notification; and (4) the conditions were not caused by the tenant.”
Section 1941.1 describes “untenantable conditions in a dwelling”: “A dwelling shall be deemed untenantable for purposes of Section 1941 if it substantially lacks any of the following affirmative standard characteristics or is a residential unit described in Section 17920.3,”
Section 17920.3: “Any building or portion thereof … in which there exists any of the following listed conditions to an extent that endangers the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants thereof shall be deemed and hereby is declared to be a substandard building.” Among the conditions listed are lack of kitchen and bathroom appliances; faulty heat and light; inadequate ventilation; insect, vermin or rodent infestations; black mold; sewage, garbage; structural hazards; faulty wiring etc.)
Section 17920.10 adds the presence of lead-based paint.
Toxic black mold: “There is black mold in everyone’s home out here, which is dangerous to people and children – their respiratory systems,” said Andre.
Disrepair and dilapidation: “This property out here is dilapidated. The railings (and) the porches are rusted through.”
Under state law governing “California landlord-tenant disclosures for residential leases,” a landlord is required to make certain disclosures to tenants and prospective tenants for residential rentals.” No Treasure Island tenant has ever been informed of the following disclosures before signing their lease, nor does any of the listed wording appear in the leases.
- Lead-based paint: Before lead-based paint was outlawed in 1978, it was slathered over every Treasure Island building. This paint has never been removed but flakes off and blows in the wind.
- Pest control: Multiple tenants report insect, rat, and mice infestations
- Asbestos: Asbestos insulation was packed into Treasure Island townhouse walls before 1970s danger warnings. Breathing asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma and lung cancer. Though cautions are posted on many buildings, asbestos insulation generally has not been removed.
- Carcinogenic material: Cancer-causing toxins have been present on Treasure Island in abundance since 1999 when poor and people of color were invited to come and live there. Residents have languished within feet of remediation zones while the Navy conducts a decades-long cleanup. To date, they claim to have dug an array of chemicals and 1,280 radiological objects from Treasure Island soil under and beside tenants’ homes.
- Demolition permit: Treasure Island tenants have been informed that in the future their buildings will be demolished. The Navy, however, is conducting demolitions of other old structures. People reported labored breathing, nausea and fainting after inhaling toxic, asbestos-laden dust released into the island’s high winds from the Starburst Barracks demolition in 2016.
- Proximity to a closed military base: If a unit is within one mile of a closed military base, especially where ammunition or military explosives were used, “the landlord must give written notice of this to a prospective tenant, before the tenant signs the lease.” Prospective Treasure Island residents are not generally informed in writing that ammunition was stored in bunkers on this closed base or that they live in Navy townhouses built on soil that covered these old bunkers. Nor are they informed that skeet shooting happened for sport on Clipper Cove, where the Navy has conducted a heavy metal cleanup.
- Death in the unit: Before she moved into her unit, Felita was not informed that two women died there of kidney failure.
“This is a big coverup,” announced Andre. In his video, he warned, “I’m letting you know the horrors of the people on Treasure Island.”
This former marine recognizes battle strategy. “Anytime you put someone in a situation where they could die, and you do not tell them,” he said, “this is wartime tactics.”
Outreach to government agencies
Andre and Felita conducted a strategic letter-writing, email and phone campaign exposing the malfeasance to officials in government agencies including the Navy, HUD, the EPA and the FBI. Return letters and emails acknowledging receipt of the couples’ notifications function as official documents obligating these organizations to take immediate corrective action. Failing this, they are perpetrating obstruction of justice.
Andre said, “(After) that interview that I did with Channel 7, me and Felita called (the Navy’s) Southwest Command (for) about a week straight. We finally got a chance to talk to the media officer, who is a lieutenant. He said, ‘Yeah, man, you guys complaining? There’s no more radiation than you get on a subway.’”
Outreach to HUD
Four years ago, February 2014, they wrote HUD Inspector General Daniel A. Montoya reporting fraud on Treasure Island. “They sent us something back (stating) that they got the information. ‘We’ll get back to you.’”
Investigating the Federal Bureau of Investigation
They contacted the FBI, the investigative arm of the Department of Justice, to look into violations of federal law on Treasure Island.
“The FBI knows this is a fraudulent” operation. We sent the information to Washington, D.C.
“I called the FBI about a month ago and complained again. (They) said, ‘We’ll get back to you.’
“They clearly must be a racketeer, because they have not closed this island down and thrown people in jail.”
Felita added, “I’m calling the same places he’s calling, and I’m getting the same thing. So, it’s not just one person calling; it’s two people calling.”
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not shut down this contaminated former Naval base. That fact that Treasure Island, an official Superfund site does not appear on the National Priorities List (NPL) amounts to obstruction of justice by the EPA. When the EPA moved tenants off a lead-polluted Indiana site, Andre notified the office of Scott Pruitt asking that tenants be moved from Treasure Island because of wide-spread lead deposits. There was no response.
Regulators from the California State EPA Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Toxic Substances Control attend Treasure Island’s Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meetings and sign off on remediation overseen by Tetra Tech, a contractor whose corruption in the Hunters Point cleanup is now legendary.
The San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese
On Thursday, May 11, 2017, I joined Andre in his outreach, phoning former Chronicle reporter, Rick DelVecchio, who since September 2010 has been the editor of the official archdiocese newspaper, Catholic San Francisco.
That his responses to both Andre and me were “dismissive” is an understatement. DelVecchio listened to my testimony about toxins on Treasure Island, then quickly hung up.
Andre emailed that he was not surprised by this response from “an organization like the San Francisco Roman Catholic Archdiocese, who are renting apartments on Treasure Island, which is a Superfund site, and have raked in over $45 million in 18 years from HUD and Catholic Charities. The Catholic newspaper editor gets his salary from Treasure Island.”
“I guarantee the Pope in Vatican City, Rome, Italy, (will) bail out the San Francisco Archdiocese financially. I checked the archdiocese’s budget out. The archdiocese brings in $12 million a year. The archdiocese pays out $10 million a year in liabilities. That leaves $2 million. Treasure Island brings in $2 million a year. Treasure Island is all the money they have.”
Obstruction of justice
Though they have been repeatedly informed, federal agencies such as HUD, Shelter Plus Care, HealthRIGHT 360, the FBI, FEMA and state agencies like the California Department of Public Health have not moved to shut the island down.
City agents have been equally unresponsive. Though Amy Brownell, environmental engineer for the San Francisco Department of Public Health did not enumerate Treasure Island tenants sickened by contamination, she stated at a 2014 RAB meeting that the number was too small for DPH to conduct research or longitudinal studies.
San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim has done nothing to help Treasure Island tenants in her District 6.
Completing the mission
Andre called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rescue Treasure Island residents from openly radioactive and chemically contaminated land.
“This spot needs to be closed,” urged Andre. “Everyone needs to be evacuated by FEMA. FEMA is not giving us any play in the ride because our skin color is Black. But, had any other race in this country here been radiation-poisoned, they’d have brought out the band and everything else to make sure they get their due process.”
Andre concluded his video, urging “everyone who watches this film to contact their local congressperson, their local senator, their local board of supervisors and their local assembly person. And I want you to scream in horror and tell them to transfer the tenants off of Treasure Island with housing choice vouchers.”
Until Treasure Islanders are made whole and receive remedies for all insults and injuries perpetrated against them by this criminal organization, Andre’s mission will not be complete.
Both market rate and HUD-subsidized tenants should be given open-ended unlimited subsidized housing choice vouchers to move to safe homes off the island. Following that, FEMA should conduct rescues, removing all tenants and children, now in the third generation, to secure off-island housing protected from toxins and from dilapidated housing they have been forced to live in for years.
Because TIDA, TIHDI, The John Stewart Co. and all involved associates enticed them to the island through fraud in the form of lying by omission and failure to inform them fully of the island’s high toxicity, and because they were then subjected to substandard housing conditions, all past rent should be returned to them.
Because they were in danger and are in future danger of becoming ill through years of radiation and chemical exposure, TIDA and all involved associates should pay their past medical bills and medical bills, anticipated and unanticipated, into the unforeseeable future.
Any governmental agent or public official who reads this notice and fails to act will be guilty of perpetrating obstruction of justice in not reporting human rights abuses and violent crimes violating federal and state laws.
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.