by Carol Harvey
From 2014 to 2019, the San Francisco Bay View newspaper has published investigative reports grappling with the observed truth that poor and lower middle class Treasure Island residents’ subsidized and market rate rents have been used by the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) and developers Lennar and Wilson-Meany to maintain and ultimately convert the toxic former Navy base into an exclusive community of wealthy condo owners.
In a recent townhall meeting, middle and low-income residents expressed their suspicion that they are being “encouraged” by various means – the most recent of which is a toll tax – to depart from the island to make way for the rich.
A packed room
Matt Haney was elected District 6 supervisor in November 2018 and sworn in on Jan. 8, 2019. District 6 comprises Treasure Island, Mission Bay, Rincon Hill, South of Market, Civic Center and the Tenderloin. Within his first seven weeks he chose Treasure Island for his first townhall meeting. At 7:00 p.m. on March 7, 2019, the Ship Shape Building overflowed with a standing room only crowd.
“To have a packed room and you all here to be a part of this conversation is really exciting,” said Haney, whose warm introduction raised high expectations.
“My family’s from San Francisco. I’m a lifelong Bay Area native, born and raised here … by my mom. I live in the Tenderloin on Leavenworth Street.
“I’ve spent my entire career in public service. I’m a tenant rights attorney defending people facing eviction, including people here on the island.
“I was a School Board member for six years (and) started a national organization advocating for criminal justice reform.”
Haney said throughout his campaign he spoke with many constituents. He told Treasure Islanders he would be accessible, listen to people, learn about issues, follow his words with actions, and “stand up with you and fight for you as an independent advocate.”
His Treasure Island legislative aide, Courtney McDonald, committed to “figuring out how we can best support you all as our constituents.”
Haney asked how many people were residents, worked on Treasure Island, owned businesses, or worked in an island non-profit? A show of hands indicated most island groups were represented.
Addressing the lack of transparency surrounding Treasure Island redevelopment, Haney said he plans to advocate for islanders’ rights and access to island housing.
He acknowledged that, because Treasure Island is not under the jurisdiction of the Rent Board like other neighborhoods, it has unique tenant issues. Therefore, city and island representatives have a heightened responsibility to guarantee they’re advocating for islanders.
To ensure that “the people who are managing a lot of this work are here for you as well,” he brought city department representatives to speak about tolls, blackouts, bus service, redevelopment housing and contamination.
“I wanted to have a direct conversation,” Haney said. He insisted on an honest, open relationship. “If I’m going to actually represent people, I want to know how they really feel. If you have something to tell me that you feel like I need to know, say it.”
“If people are upset and have strong feelings,” he urged them not to hold back.
What is it like to live on Treasure Island?
Emily Rapaport, 18-year-resident of Treasure Island was very direct. She thanked Haney for coming but joined other islanders in asking, “Help us, please.”
Emily’s life on Treasure Island is pretty typical. However, she shares big worries with her neighbors.
An island resident since 2000, Emily worked at the Treasure Island Job Corps Center.
“I love this city,” she said. “I love this island. This is my community, my home.
“My job situation is that I’m 62. I would like to work, but I’m taking a small pension now.
“I had to retire to take care of my mom, (who) is 92. She’s the only family I have. I don’t want her in a home.
“We’ve had to deal with lack of services since I’ve been here.
“At least we have a store now, which is wonderful. But it doesn’t have everything that I and my mom need. We have no pharmacy here.
“Apparently, we live in such a ‘terrible place’ that agencies refuse to send health care workers out to help my mom.
“Also, there’s been other illness in my family. My brother passed away two years ago. He got sick and died. I had to take care of him.
“My aunt died. I tried to take care of her long distance.
“I can’t even get the Chronicle out here. They won’t come out here and deliver.
“I’ve put up with this for all of this time. I mean, this is where we live.”
“We need help out here with power,” Emily Rapaport continued.
“In the bad old days when I first moved here, there was a power outage every other day. The outages we’re having now – it’s a hardship.
“My mom is on oxygen – on a condenser. Every time the power goes out, I’m in serious trouble.
“I have e-tanks (cylindrical oxygen tanks). But I’m told by the people who supply the oxygen that I cannot use the e-tanks for my mom at night.
“The oxygen she gets in the e-tanks is limited because Medi-Care will only allow her a certain number of tanks per month. The power outages have pushed her over the limit.
“When the power goes out, I’m told we have to go someplace else. Well, we don’t have any place else to go.”
Bad cell phone service
“Even with the power on, our cell service is terrible out here,” Emily Rapaport continued. “I had to get a booster for my house. If the power is off, my booster goes. I either have to hang out the window or go out into my parking lot to try and get service.
“Emergencies create greater emergencies because we’ve only got one cell tower.
“Peoples’ refrigerators go out. Food is lost. I’m living on a small pension. I can’t afford to replace everything in my refrigerator every time the power goes out. I need help with generators.”
She asked Bob Beck, island director, “You’re supposedly going to put solar power on the redeveloped island. Why don’t you put solar in the residential areas now so that we have a backup for those of us with handicapped individuals who need oxygen or other support. Then move it to the new places when you start the redevelopment.
“With the power outages, the oxygen, all of that stuff – it’s becoming untenable.”
Tolled to leave the island
“The development has come,” announced Emily.
(To fund new “eco-village” transportation infrastructure, islanders may be incentivized by a Bay Bridge toll to go car-free and take the bus.)
“We’re not being treated like the rest of the city. No other neighborhood is forced to pay a toll to leave and return to their home.
“I have to take my mom to doctors’ appointments. I’m going to hospitals and doctors for me and her. Even though I’m (grandfathered in), I can’t afford a toll – even an off-hours toll.
“I’m not sure I’m going to be able to use mass transit because of my situation.
“People have kids. They have after-school activities (and) all sorts of stuff going on.
“I have a (free) parking space now, but not after redevelopment.
“Unlike our present units which have washers and dryers, the new apartments will have shared laundry rooms. I can’t go down some hall and fight with people to have a washer and a dryer to do my laundry, to do my mom’s laundry.
“As a long-time resident, I have the right to stay. But, because my mom just moved here, she is not grandfathered in.
“I’m getting a little old and disabled myself. I’m not sure I will be able to afford to stay on the island. It would be nice to know that I can stay here because I’m retired.
“You know, it has become frightening for a lot of us who have reached a certain age, are facing retirement and caring for family members. I mean, it’s ridiculous. It’s a joke. It’s scary for a lot of us.”
Proposed tolls, outages and deficient bus service
Robert Beck, director of the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), announced upcoming meetings. Then, four city officials addressed Treasure Island’s most pressing problems:
1) Tilly Chang, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) spoke on the proposed tolls.
2) John Scarpulla, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) contract worker, addressed power outages.
3) Francis Zamora, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, discussed emergency preparedness.
4) Matt Lee, a representative from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, talked about Treasure Island’s lagging bus service.
After Haney led the 150 plus attendees in confronting 1) tolls, 2) power outages and 3) deficient bus service, they felt safe to talk about extremely urgent issues – 4) possible loss of their housing to redevelopment and 5) critical environmental problems.
Tillie Chang, San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) director, said that she and assistants, planner Rachel Hiatt, Eric Cordoba and Eric Young, have, for years, constructed models for TIMMA’s mobility program to make Treasure Island San Francisco’s best-served transit neighborhood with a ferry, new AC Transit service, more Muni (and) an on-island shuttle. TIMMA’s plan would be funded partly through tolls charged to island residents and businesses, ostensibly to mitigate “congestion.”
During public comment at a Dec. 11, 2018, Board of Supervisors hearing at City Hall, island residents and business owners soundly rejected TIMMA’s toll proposal, which did not pass. Chang reported that, after the board’s “No vote,” TIMMA was directed to consult further with residents and businesses on how this policy should be more fairly designed.
A resident asked Chang, “Are you planning on consulting with Supervisor Haney’s office regularly, and does his office actually have the ability to disrupt your plans should it affect his constituency?”
Chang said she meets with the supervisor “as often as he would like.” Haney serves as “chair of our Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency” with other board members who act collectively to manage the transportation program.
The Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) was signed July 14, 2011. People who lived on the island before that date are grandfathered in to the redevelopment and, if the toll proposal passes, pre-DDA people will be exempted from tolls while tenants who moved to the island and signed leases after that date don’t have the right to stay and must pay tolls.
Flynn Darby, long time island resident, protested the lack of a coherent toll policy. “Island residents understand that (TIMMA needs) some way to finance all the new transit that they’re going to have,” but why arbitrarily toll one group and not another?
Said Haney, “I agree with you a hundred percent. I absolutely would not support that, and I would have power to stop it.”
Another resident protested, “Not a damn person who lives on the island should be subject to a toll.” It is outrageous to ask “low income people to pay for improvements for the rich people that displaced – and then replaced – them!”
Jasmine Harvey spoke “on behalf of me and many families … We strongly oppose any toll at all.”
Said Daniel Menzies, who has a thriving DJ business, “Consider what a lot of the people on this island do for a living. We’re security guards, waiters, bartenders, couriers, Uber drivers. These jobs may not pay a lot of money, but they are absolutely essential to keeping San Francisco running.
“If you kick people off this island or have a toll that makes it unaffordable for people to live, (they’re) probably going to move to the other side of the (Bay) bridge,” which will then be more congested.
“The only people that profit are the developers and the landlords.”
This comment evoked loud applause.
Tolls and equal treatment
Jim Mirowski, owner of Treasure Island Wines, saw the toll proposal in terms of equal rights. “We here on Treasure Island want to be treated like every other part of San Francisco.
“Congestion mitigation must be done citywide and region-wide, because the congestion is happening over the whole region, not just Treasure Island.
“If you do a Treasure Island toll, you’re just going to displace a lot of people, businesses, residents, everybody here because a lot of people here will have to move.
“I can’t support my business with a toll (Mirowski would be forced to pay his employees’ tolls).
“Instituting a toll three to four years before there’s a significant buildout is going to do nothing for mitigation of congestion on the Bay Bridge.”
The developer will be upgrading the infrastructure
For years, the island has been plagued by power outages which John Scarpulla, SFPUC representative, addressed.
Scarpulla emphasized that TIDA owns Treasure Island’s power, water and sewer systems. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) works as TIDA’s contract operator.
“We (SFPUC) do not own the wastewater treatment plant here. We do not own the water system here. We do not own the power system here.”
Because Treasure islanders aren’t direct SFPUC customers, SFPUC cannot use ratepayer funds to make repairs or provide island services.
Scarpulla posted a chart showing that outages had dropped over the last four years – eight in 2015 and 2016, six in 2017, and five in 2018. But, by March 2019, the number shot up again. Said Haney, “Five in six weeks is unacceptable.”
Scarpulla’s chart listed nine causes, first an aging utility system, then failed equipment, vandalism, weather, vegetation in the lines, vehicular accidents, kites and balloons, birds and animals.
Scarpulla said, “We are trying to fix a system from 1938, beyond its useful life.” Repairing 80-year-old infrastructure takes much longer. “When something goes out, we get our best electricians out here, and they have to troubleshoot it.”
Scarpulla acknowledged that when power is out for a such a long time, it creates the medical crises Emily described.
We’re getting new infrared technologies so we can isolate residential areas to locate where outages are happening and “keep the power and the medical folks going.”
The SFPUC is forming an internal command center just for Treasure Island. If a power outage takes two hours, that’s “a stage one emergency,” said Scarpulla. It will be very important to get all hands on deck rapidly.
“We need better communications so islanders know what’s happening sooner.
“We wouldn’t do that for other parts of the city, but we know how important it is to keep Treasure Islanders informed.
“Our priority is to keep this island going” and “keep (outages) as low as possible,” said Scarpulla.
We’re not worth it, whatever
Instead of entertaining the possibility that construction could be launching a barrage of rolling outages, Bob Beck described utility improvements that would “come on line” in 2021. “All of the infrastructure on the island will be replaced over the course of the development.” After that, it will be owned by the SFPUC.
First, “we have to do geotechnical work,” stabilizing island soil. Then, two years from now, the development will be installing new primary electrical switch gear for the service as it comes onto the island.
A new 12KV (1,000-volt) transmisson line will be coming from the new switch gear to feed sections of the island. That will break the entire island into smaller pieces so, if there is an outage, it won’t be island-wide.
“This equipment has much greater fault tolerance, so if a goose flies into the lines, it won’t bring down the whole island.
“That, honestly, will make a significant improvement in the frequency of outages, probably more than anything we’ve been able to do to date.”
A young man in a knit cap reported seeing “power lines running around,” and “trucks pumping the water out of the ground.” He said he understood that “the substations are underground; it floods …”
Corrected Beck, “Portions are overhead; portions are underground.”
The young man continued, “Obviously, this is a temporary fix.
“When you’re doing all this developing in the future, (and) all these million dollar homes are going to be here, obviously the power’s not going to be run the way it is now. So, there is a plan in the future to change this over.
“But it seems like you’re not doing the new plan (creating improved infrastructure) now for whatever reason, because the money’s not there (or) we’re not worth it, whatever.”
A man in blue said, “My street looks like vegetation management of the lines and transformer maintenance isn’t done. Both island transformers are rusting out.”
He suggested locating a couple of generators to back-feed in case the lines are down. “That would enhance reliability and go a long way to help us.”
Beck explained, “We have generators on the island capable of supporting the entire island if there’s an interruption in the feed from Oakland. Unfortunately, when the fault is in the distribution system, those generators need to push power across that same distribution system.
“Unfortunately, with this prior incident, a fault in an underground cable line created one of our most challenging problems. It takes time for crews to locate and isolate where in that area of the line the fault has occurred. Then, they have to install new lines to physically bypass the area that has failed.”
A young mother reported, “Every time you have a power outage, our sewage is cut off completely. We have sewage backing up in our homes.
“We are sitting without any food, so our kids can’t eat. (It) is ridiculous that I can’t feed my cat or my children. In addition, we have to walk out and find cell reception somewhere to even respond to your attempts to communicate with us.
“We have random people who don’t belong here. Kids in the neighborhood, elderly – we have break-ins when this stuff happens. We’ve had sexual assaults happen during this time.
“Driving is unsafe. It’s unsafe to go back and forth. We can’t safely get off the island.
“That was more than 12 hours that we had no power, no lights, no sewage. Six or seven outages in six weeks. It’s not acceptable to keep having this over and over again in a short period of time.
“You talk to the workers, and they’re like, ‘We don’t know what to do. We don’t even have the power to order equipment, repair, function or do anything.’
“So I want to know what’s going to happen the next time. I hear all this ‘Wonderful’ about in the future. But what’s going to happen right now? What’s the outages plan? (I need) an answer.”
Matt Haney asked, “Why is there no plan?”
In his own defense, Scarpulla explained, “I work for the SFPUC as a contract operator.
“And I know you want to know when are the sewers going to be updated? When are the pumps going to be fixed? When is the new power going to make an arrival; and I can’t just point (to it).
“Ideally when we come out here, we are doing our best. Our workers say you are the best. So, they feel so much love for you all. And, they’re trying to do their best.
“It’s really about the way the development is being set up. It’s the developer (who) will be upgrading the infrastructure as he’s building it.”
Beck stated, “Unfortunately, this is the infrastructure we have to deal with.”
Christophe Oppermann expressed dismay. “It’s going to take two more years until something gets improved!”
Emily Rapaport said, “But Bob, you’re going to put solar stuff out here. Solar construction doesn’t take that much time. You’re going to get funding from the state or the federal government for it. Help us out and put the stuff out now so that we can hook up.
“I mean, solar is do-able.”
“The workers have asked for that,” said the young mother. “They say their requests get denied.”
Beck addressed Emily, “Two hours into an outage, SFPUC is going all hands on deck. At four hours, TIDA is in communication with the Department of Emergency Management. TIDA has been talking with DEM about identifying households with power-dependent medical equipment, so, in an extended outage, they could respond to people with critical needs” such as Emily’s mother who is on a concentrator for oxygen.
Beck encouraged “self-identifying to TIDA or to your housing provider that you have important life-saving medical equipment.
“During the event the Monday before that, we were prepared to open a warming center in San Francisco for people to move to.”
However, can Emily safely drive her oxygen-dependent mother through a dark island without streetlights to a warming center in San Francisco?
Unreliable bus service
Said Haney, “Problems with public transportation in general are unacceptable. But, for Treasure Island, transportation is everything. This is often the one way people can get off or on the island.” Haney asked people to describe their transportation experiences.
Several islanders immediately complained that, because buses often don’t come, or two or three buses arrive together off-schedule, kids are late for school. Adults lose jobs because they don’t get to work on time.
Said Flynn Darby, long-time island resident, “Treasure Island is the one place where the bus is our only recourse. This is the only way for most people who live here to get on and off the island. Many don’t have money for Ubers.
“Often, I’m sitting at TransBay Terminal.” The sign says, “5:00 o’clock, 5:15, 5:30. Three buses in a row don’t come. There’s 75 people waiting. We don’t know if we have time to go for coffee” or use the bathroom before the bus arrives and leaves.
A white-haired man applauded Muni morning service – 10 minutes apart, consistent, not overcrowded. But, sometimes during the evening rush hour, “buses sit at the other end of the block, and we wonder why they’re not coming.”
Daniel Menzies said, “Often when people are depending on a bus to get home, to work and so forth, there’s absolutely no notice given. Notify people if buses they are counting on will be 20 minutes late, so they can make other arrangements.”
“Will anybody who’s had similar experiences raise your hand?” Haney asked. Hands shot up everywhere.
Haney said he pressed Municipal Transportation Agency Director Ed Reiskin to address chronic problems on the 25 Treasure Island line and guarantee “that Treasure Island is absolutely the last place service is ever cut.” He urged Reiskin to apply for funds for more buses to “make sure when there is any delay, they have additional backup.”
“I feel your pain,” said the MTA representative. “We’re hearing service is unreliable.” Traffic on the Bay Bridge is getting worse. Muni has an operator shortage. Operators have to stop to use the bathroom.
He said, “Sometimes, the situation is beyond Muni’s control.” Once, when SFPD mandated a shelter in place in the city, we couldn’t get buses to the island safely, islanders couldn’t get into San Francisco, and people couldn’t get home to the island.
“It’s probably a broken record,” he said, “but I encourage you to call 311 every time there’s an issue. It’s better to let us know.
“We see it, but the public just needs to keep calling us and documenting it. That’s not something I can initiate. Members of the public have to ask.”
However, a mother noted Muni’s general tone-deafness to multiple 311 requests for supervisors to ride through the island monitoring bus safety, regularity and driver behavior.
Unable to relocate the commenter in the crowd, Haney joked, “Did the person leave? (She’s probably) “outta here to catch the bus.” Laughter.
Transportation and tolls
“You’re asking people to pay a $7.00 round trip toll a day for transportation, when you’re providing substandard service.”
Haney agreed that they are proposing a toll “when we haven’t got it right in terms of what’s happening now.
“There’s a strong feeling,” said Haney, that creating an arbitrary cut-off date “to levy a toll is unreasonable. Don’t divide it based on pre- and post-DDA,” he said.
“Absolutely,” affirmed a post-DDA resident. “The whole thing is unreasonable to begin with. I’ve been living here for 10 years. I’m 40 years old. I’ve lived here a quarter of my life. On what planet is 10 years short-term?”
Responded Matt Haney, “Thank you. YES.”
Staying housed after redevelopment
“I hear a strong concern about the impact (the redevelopment) is going to have on residents,” Haney observed.
A resident asked, “How do you justify getting rid of the last affordable, low income neighborhood in the city.”
Another observed tearfully that “rich people,” future wealthy condo owners, have more options than poor islanders.
An older gentleman asked: “What’s the actual intent? Are they trying to remove everybody from the island, or are they trying to help people stay? If you’re going to put a toll on, then you’re trying to get rid of people.”
Voices in the crowd called out, “Money.” “Poor tax.”
Another resident recalled, “Because we had no place to live in the city, we were under duress to sign a lease that said we wouldn’t get a payoff.”
The waiver and release section of John Stewart leases states: “You will not be entitled to any relocation benefits provided under URA or Title 25. If you have to move or your rent is increased as a result of the above (redevelopment) project, you will not be reimbursed for any such rent increase or for any costs or expenses incurred by you in connection with a move as a result of the project.”
Identifying himself as “a 19-year resident,” Jeff Kline referenced federal law that entitles relocation payments and aid to people displaced by government-funded projects.
Kline wanted to know why TIDA failed to follow federal relocation law. “Why doesn’t TIDA do a last resort housing study for all these people out here?”
“The city did a last resort housing study for the Central Subway Project. They even rented empty apartments in Chinatown in case people were displaced.
“The DDA (cut-off date) doesn’t mean anything,” Kline said.
“Acquisition of the Site 12 housing area by the city is conditional on the success of the Navy cleanup. The Navy has not fully cleaned up Site 12. It’s still being cleaned. It may never be completely cleaned. So, the ‘conditional’ agreement to buy it is, in fact, ‘conditional.’ The memorandum of agreement (MOA) is not a binding contract for the Site 12 housing area.”
Because there has been no acquisition by the city of Site 12, reasoned Kline, the housing area, all lawful residential tenants – the people occupying townhouses in Site 12 – are covered by the URA and are entitled to relocation benefits.
We need a timeline for the redevelopment
Haney noted the community’s concern about the time it would take to redevelop the island and its impact on access to affordable housing. He asked island director Beck to “give some sense of the redevelopment timeline?”
Said Beck, “The complete redevelopment of the island will take more than 15 years from today. Construction is starting on the west side of the island and Yerba Buena, then will move along Clipper Cove to the east side of the island.
“Change is not imminent. The existing residential neighborhood (will be demolished) in 2022 or 2023, or much likely further out. Portions of the residential neighborhood will be here for another decade or more.
“If you’re a resident with Catholic Charities, Community Housing Partnership, Healthright360 or Swords to Plowshares, all of those housing providers will be developing new island housing, and … more than a third of our existing residents will be moving in there.”
“All the people who were here prior to 2011 when the project was entitled (at the cut-off date), will also have opportunities to move into …”
Someone interjected, “What about the other people? They don’t count? I moved here in 2005, displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It’s not about just losing your house. You’re losing your city, your network of resources, your home. I’ve lived in the city for 20 years. It’s hard to move to another city.”
A 60-ish gentleman asserted he’s resided in SF for 28 years. He moved to Treasure Island because, “I got forced out of the city.” He’s been evicted twice “and is not ready to do this a third time. I want some stability in my life. Where am I supposed to go now?”
He asked, “Do we need to get together as a community and find a ourselves a lawyer to find out what’s going to happen to us? Do we need an eviction lawyer here?”
An elder pressed Haney, “You know what’s going on in this city – the housing crisis. That’s what makes me angry.”
Haney responded that he ran for District 6 Supervisor to represent this community. “I’m trying to understand so I can fight for you.”
“I’m learning there are categories of residents who either are not being told or are not having access and ‘transparency’ around what their rights will be, WHEN they would have to leave, IF they have to leave, what other types of housing they have access to. That’s not okay.”
Haney said he needed to “get clear” the answers to the above questions and residents’ rights “to stay if you want to stay. But I’m learning that there are entire categories of residents who have not been told their access.”
“You’re just finding that out?” asked a resident.
“I’m just finding out that part of it, yeah,” answered Haney.
“Obviously, there was an effort for you not to know that,” rejoined the resident.
“That’s why I’m here. I’m learning,” said Haney.
One politically aware elder took the long view: “This has been in the making for 50 years. This is not new. We all know what’s going on here. Corporate America is moving in, and they’re making as much money as they can. They don’t give a rat’s ass about anybody else but themselves.”
Redevelopment of Clipper Cove as an exclusive yacht zone
Byron Kaufman, executive director of The Treasure Island Sailing Center, doubled down on that theme, asking Haney to prevent “Clipper Cove, a city treasure, from being taken from the city and turned into an exclusive (yacht) area that in the future we can’t use.”
Homelessness programs and housing subsidized under TIHDI
A formerly homeless mother urged Haney, “Keep in mind we’re trying to reduce homelessness and keep families in the city.” She asked him to “look at the deep history of why residents first got here.” Treasure Island is a neighborhood that was established under a homeless relocation initiative (TIHDI). A number of residents that came to Treasure Island were homeless.
A resident since 2006 reminisced, “Somebody reminded me today that when we moved over here, they had a picture of us, and I was homeless.
“My daughter is disabled. The school bus picks her up. Because of (her) disabilities, there wasn’t a lot of things for her to do on the island.
“I just don’t want to see us (get to the) point where we’ve got to move. My only concern about being off the island is that she grew up here; she knows everybody on the island, and everybody on the island knows this child now.
“I like the island. I’m retired. I’m trying to live the rest of my life peacefully.”
Another mother observed, “We are not treated equally here. We don’t have resources to Park and Rec. We don’t have schools, stores or gas stations.
“We are a very active community, and we still aren’t being heard. Again, treat us like any other neighborhood in the city. “
To general laughter, a politically astute Treasure Islander observed, “Actually, we ARE being treated like other neighborhoods. It’s called gentrification.”
Healthright 360 FOTEP, a subsidized housing program
A woman in orange introduced herself, “Good evening, everyone.
“I’m a formerly incarcerated individual, released from prison August 2007. I chose San Francisco as a re-entry point because it had so many resources.
“I raised my hand to say I love this island. I had a soft place to land. I feel very welcome here. My dream is to stay forever.
“I am a part of Healthright 360, Female Offender Treatment and Education Program (FOTEP) on Gateview and Avenue B. I have a fairly decent job in construction.
“On Nov. 21, 2018, I moved to the Sober Living Environment (SLE). My lease is up in three months. I’m scared about my housing.” Worried about her ability to stay in San Francisco, she began to tear up.
“I want to give the community a shout out. You and people that I see on the buses almost every day welcomed me. And I just thank you very much.”
Procuring subsidized redevelopment housing
Jeannette Adejobi described technicalities created to block procurement of subsidized housing.
“You have to be on the lease from a certain time. If you lived here 20 years and you got on the lease last year, you don’t qualify for all these programs.
“You must meet certain restrictions. You can’t make a certain amount of money. You have to be impoverished, but even then you’re not guaranteed anything.
“They’re going to find a way for you not to qualify. They will find something – oh, you’re on drugs – so you won’t qualify.”
Aware that Treasure Island “is not going to be sustainable for everybody,” she threw herself for two years into the uncertainty of the city lottery.
But, like San Francisco, some subsidized Treasure Island housing also uses a lottery to assign housing in newly constructed buildings. She believes that even though there will be a section of homes for people in these programs, you will have maybe a thousand people who have qualified with only 100 units available. Maybe a third of the people who are on those lists or who do qualify will get anything. There’s no guarantee, and “no one is saying concrete things, nothing just to live by.
“So, even though these people are being told, ‘You’re safe. No problem. You don’t have to worry about anything,’ I do not believe it,” said Adejobi. “Even though it is Catholic Charities, not everybody’s going to get in.”
Affordable housing? Low income housing? Moderately low income housing? Market rate housing?
Someone verbalized a commonly accepted fact supported by statistics. “In San Francisco, there is no affordable housing. There are only two (groups of) people who can live there – millionaires and people housed through welfare. Treasure Island is literally the last San Francisco low income neighborhood with affordable housing.”
The definition of “low income” and “affordable” housing was not established.
“What do Treasure Island and the people who are developing this Island consider affordable housing?” someone wanted to know.
An African-American veteran asked Haney, “What is the economics on affordable (housing) – the dollar figure? What is affordable housing?
“I came to Swords to Plowshares. I was making too much money. So, I’m in a little gap there.”
Haney answered, “I don’t know how much you will pay at Swords to Plowshares. Every project is different. They’ll say 60 percent of AMI (Area Median Income).
“I was at a project for families on Mission Street today,” said Haney, “and they had one bedrooms that are going to be for $1,200 or $1,400.
“One Treasure Island (at the TIDA office in Building One) does a lot of the affordable housing here. They can answer questions for you – what a one-bedroom, a studio, a two-bedroom would be. Each affordable housing project can be different in terms of who qualifies, what level.
“It’s their job to know that. They can explain that to you.”
A market rate renter asked, “Bob, did you realize you gave ‘The Villages’ less visibility than subsidized housing. You just kind of waved a wand and said, ‘Oh, The Villages,’ and mumbled off. What are the dates (on the timeline) for The Villages?” (John Stewart’s “The Villages” offers market rate rentals.)
A second renter said, “That’s my question as well. When I moved here, they said, ‘We’re going to build housing in seven years. We’re going to have you either move into housing, purchase a house, or buy other housing. It’s been 20 years. I’m still waiting.
“We see a lot of dirt being moved around, but I don’t see any houses being built. Where’s the housing?
“We all need affordable housing, but we also need housing for people living and working inside San Francisco who are not millionaires or billionaires. We need moderately low income housing.
“Twenty years ago, the price of housing was much different. Back then, I’m not looking at paying one million plus, which is the fair market value now.
“We’re considered middle class. But middle class in San Francisco cannot afford market price.
“To me, a house that is $1.2 to $1.5 (million) is not affordable housing. When I asked someone at the meeting, they said, ‘Oh, well, it will probably be $2 million or up.’ That’s ridiculous!
“We don’t make enough money to get any kind of support. To get assistance, people have to be at poverty level. I waited 20 years.”
Beck rolls out the housing timeline
“Over the last year, all of the pre-DDA households should have met with a relocation advisor who talked about your potential benefits.”
Beck announced that on the evening of April 10, 2019 , at 5 p.m. in the Treasure Island gymnasium, the TIDA Board will hold “a big conversation” about potential housing benefits for pre-DDA households. The board will also highlight the schedule for housing construction.
“Next month (April 2019), they’re going to begin the site work, upgrading for the first housing on YBI (Yerba Buena Island).
“The first housing here on Treasure Island is expected to break ground March of 2020. We will be building that first building with Swords to Plowshares and Catholic Charities. The next one will be with Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown. We’ll be following that another year later with the next building.
“An interview with our real estate consulting firm and relocation advisor, Associated Right of Way Services (ARWS), would be a source for information for updates. But also come to the next open house.”
A market rate renter reported, “I’ve come to TIHDI to talk about first time home-buying. I’ve asked how much is the housing going to be? Who’s developing it? Who is the developer? They don’t have information.
“People living in The Villages paying rent don’t qualify for the low-income housing, and we won’t to be able to afford the new housing that you build. So, that’s kind of like you’re kicking us off, too.”
“So, you met with a housing counsellor, but they couldn’t really tell you much?” asked Haney.
“Yes. They really couldn’t tell us anything,” she answered.
A woman sitting nearby agreed. “My daughter is a teacher. She was here pre the deadline. She has talked to the counselors.
“She earns a little bit too much to qualify for housing. She discussed rentals. They said she could have one bedroom at the same rate she’s paying for a three-bedroom right now. But, there are three of us in the house.”
Paris Hayes said, “My wife and I have been here 15 years. I met with a relocation counselor and the Relocation Advisory Group. They questioned us: ‘How much do you make? Do you want to rent? Do you want to buy?’ We were like, ‘Well, we would like to have the option of both. But how much is a house?’
“‘Well, we don’t know. We can’t tell you that.’
“They wanted our guarantee that we were committed. But they’re not committed to the residents.
“We don’t know anything. We’re all in the dark, day by day. So, as far as communicating to the residents, they’re not.
“(Also), we’re a diverse group here. They need to communicate in Cantonese, Chinese, Russian, Spanish – because a lot of these residents are not being reached. And, there would be a whole lot more (people) in here if they did communicate to these residents.
“So, I don’t think they’re doing a good job (of either reaching people or) expressing what the future holds for us.”
Buthienah Taha offered, “I came to meetings in this building. They said, ‘If you have three bedrooms, you’re going to have two bedrooms. If you have two, you’re going to have one.
“If you want to buy a house, you can’t bring more people into it. It’s like it’s not your house even if you bought it. We don’t know what to do.
“First they said there was radiation. Now they’re going to redevelop the island. And we can’t do anything about the houses that we’re going to buy. We got lost.”
Voice from the back, “It sounds like everybody’s getting a raw deal.”
Christophe Oppermann summarized the collective sentiment: “You get the drift that there’s a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and worry. If this development goes the wrong way as it looks like it will for most of us, a lot of people living here will have nowhere to go.
“I have lived here 20 years. I started out at YBI, so I already had a relocation. I’m not looking forward to another.
“We are dealing with the ground breaking, construction, power outages. Now the toll issue.
“(It’s) a little overwhelming. We don’t even know what’s going to happen (except) there seems to be a tendency to get rid of most of us.
“They’re telling us, ‘You’re not going to get this, this, this or this.
“And the downgrading of our households – We have families. We need three-room households, four-room households, two-room households. You are eligible to be relocated into a significantly smaller place without a dryer, or washer. If there is parking, it is only for one car.
“When I have a household with two people, I need three rooms, a washer and dryer, and two cars.
“And, the price you will have to pay is probably more than you can afford. So why don’t you just move on and find something else?
“Like Paris, I went to one of those meetings that asked me questions (like) household income.
“In the meantime, SFPUC says … we don’t own the system. TIDA does. We can’t repair it. We can only maintain it … That makes us more and more and more powerless.
“I got nothing out of it whatsoever in terms of – what shall I say – confirmation – that yes, you may have a future here.
“Where are the developers tonight? Wilson-Meany? Lennar? They don’t even show up.
“Matt, you heard tonight that there’s a lot of people who found a home on this bizarre little island you came to visit for the seventh time. A lot of us fully intended to stay here. We are gravely worried and extremely thankful that you are here.”
Matt Haney: “Thank you.”
Affordable housing funding shortfall
A renter asked, “Hi, I’m Sam. I live here. In 2017, the Board of Supervisors published something about a funding shortfall of over $380 million for new affordable housing units in the redevelopment. Has that shortfall been accounted for?”
Answered Haney, “The city has not identified the funding sources for all of the 100 percent affordable housing projects that will be built here. I asked the Mayor’s Office of Housing about the unfunded gap – what’s needed to build the affordable housing here. (They said) there are a couple of projects (for) supported affordable housing.”
Said Beck, “We do have a gap over the full life of the program, and we are going to continue to try and close that gap. The Mayor has proposed an affordable housing bond for the November 2019 ballot.
“We continue to pursue outside funds as well. We’re getting state funds to develop Swords to Plowshares, veterans supportive housing.
“We are pursuing just under $14 million from the state under an Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. We filed earlier in February, and around June will get word whether or not our application is successful.
“For existing residents, that won’t impact on our obligations to you to provide replacement housing.
“And, in terms of the overall total number of affordable units that the city will be constructing, ultimately we’re going to find a way to close that gap and deliver the housing that has been cleared environmentally.
“(Of) the 8,000 new homes that the city is committed to delivering, more than 2,173 will be affordable.” (Note: But they’ll be available only to pre-DDA households that were grandfathered in before the arbitrary cutoff date.)
A man in a red shirt was angrily puzzled, “How can you say radiation cleanup will be done in 15 years? Bob Beck said 15 years to complete the housing. Then he said something about 20.
“How can you do anything if the testing isn’t even done yet?” The crowd agreed.
“Like this lady said, ‘seven years’; now it’s been 20 years. You have no timeframe. There is no plan.
“You let these guys come in and say, ‘We’re going to develop the island,’ but you don’t even know if you can because it’s polluted and hazardous to live here? It’s ridiculous!
“Sorry, I’m yelling. But I’m fed up.” Laughter.
A young man observed, “This being a Superfund site, I’d like to ask a direct question. Since TIDA is the Development Authority, with authority over development, I would think you’d know this.
“The press coverage every four or five months of something new that’s discovered about toxicity and radiation, and this being a site that should not be developed until evidence has been found about what’s really going on, is that holding up the development, and making it difficult for you guys to come up with a timeline?”
“No,” answered Beck. “The work continuing the cleanup of the island is not delaying development. The cleanup has been completed on about two-thirds of the island. That land has been transferred to the city, and that’s where the development activity is starting.
“The Navy is currently projecting that by the end of 2021, they will have completed all of their work on the island.
“For the continuing work in the residential area at Site 12, the Navy updates and publishes annually a Site Management Plan available on the Navy’s website.”
Cyndi Hayes asked, “During the holidays or the beginning of the year, there was radiation testing on our block. They had to come back a second time. What happened to the results? We have not heard anything.
“While this was going on, there was that issue with Hunters Point with Tetra Tech and how they falsified the sampling. There’s a big controversy whether or not that occurred here on the island as well.
“I don’t know who was actually conducting the testing most recently. If it was Tetra Tech, we need to find out.”
“Tetra Tech!” voices around her echoed.
“If they falsified the information at Hunters Point, I’m pretty sure they’re doing the same damn thing here. Is someone else going to be a watchdog and re-do the testing?
“If you’re going to move forward with the development building million dollar properties and later find out it’s toxic, then what? Why would you even pursue that until you first get the final results?”
Beck answered, “The Navy’s current ongoing project is not with Tetra Tech. It’s with a contractor named Gilbane that is doing chemical cleanup in various locations where they know there are materials in the ground that need to be excavated.”
(Beck failed to mention that, from 1992 to 2016, Tetra Tech was a major contractor conducting island cleanup. He omitted that, in 2013, after the California Department of Public Health pressured the Navy to re-do radiological cleanup that they reported in their flawed 2006 Historical Radiological Assessment, Tetra Tech (along with Tri-Eco, LLC) wrote an entirely new radiological scanning and cleanup plan that the Navy followed between 2014 and 2019. As a result of that work, the Navy recently reported locating a grand total of 1,280 radiological objects on Treasure Island.)
“Any time they do excavation in Site 12,” continued Beck. “They do radiological scans to make sure they’re not unearthing anything radiological.
“They take soil samples of the bottom and the sidewalls (from) each location that they are excavating. Those are sent to a lab to make sure that they have completely removed all of that excavation. They will publish a report at the end of the current project and present that to the EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), who oversee their work.
“They expect to complete work on this current contract by the end of July.”
Radiation and notification
Matt Haney cautioned, “There’s a lot of questions about this, and a lack of clarity. If anybody deserves to know what’s happening with environmental and health-related issues, it’s the people who live here. They have to be completely informed. I’m honestly shocked to hear that this isn’t something that’s shared with you on an open basis in a regular way.”
“Yes,” remarked Cyndi, “We have to look for it.
“We should be notified. You notify us by mail or on our door that someone’s going to be digging up the land in front of our yard, right? So, can’t you present the results or let us know what’s going on?”
“Yes,” said Haney, “there is concern that Tetra Tech did some of the work here, and some of those people are in charge of the fraud. We’re looking into having a possible hearing on that.”
The geotechnical program
Though Nancy McCormick, 19-year resident and her two sons know about the radiation, they live on the island by choice.
Her research revealed that “to put buildings on this island over a certain number of feet and stories, they have to be in contact with native stone. But,” she joked, “we don’t have no stone.”
“It has been historically proven that this island is basically a mud puddle,” with dubious ability to support new buildings, including her current townhouse.
Beck answered, “At our Wednesday, March 13, board meeting at City Hall, we will have a presentation on the geotechnical program to improve soil conditions on the west side in the front of the island. The improvement will allow certain buildings to be built on mat foundations on earth. Taller and heavier buildings will be built on piles extended down to old Bay clay, with the tallest buildings on piles to deep bedrock.
“Future development will be concentrated on the west and south sides of the island. Much of the existing residential neighborhood will be parks.” Instead of citing the community area’s well-documented chemical and radiological toxicity as a reason, Beck named agreements with the State Lands Commission to convert portions to open space.
“Our board meeting next week,” continued Beck, “is not convenient for everybody. But it is also recorded on SFGovTV for viewing at a later date if you’re interested.”
Haney concluded, “To respect everybody’s time, I’ll have to wrap it up.
“I will be your supervisor for at least the next four years. We will be working on all of these things together. I learned a lot tonight. There’s a lot that I will follow up with and a lot that you all learned and hopefully you will follow up on.
“It’s my job to make sure that we’re always working on these things that you’ve brought up. Hopefully, we’ll be able to address some of these issues.
“I’ve heard loud and clear this issue of residents’ rights as the development comes. Whether it’s based on where you live or your economic situation, I want to talk about, better understand, work with you all and make sure I’m there for you on this problem, ever mindful of your access to information and your protection.
“This is just the beginning of our relationship. So I hope you share with me more. If things come up directly that you need help with or you have concerns about, either contact me or Courtney.
“My email is email@example.com. My website is matthaney.com. You can access me through there and (find out) what I’m up to.
“I also have a newsletter that you can sign up for that we send out every month, (on) what I’m doing.
“I check my email myself. Courtney’s email is there. She’s your direct point of contact. You can also call our office. So, there’s a lot of ways that we can continue to be in touch.
“Thank you for coming, sharing, telling your personal stories and experiences. Thank you for educating me. I’m in my seventh week as your representative. I’m learning.”
Supervisor Haney’s final remark, “Thank you all for staying late as well,” was met with loud applause and thank yous from the crowd.
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.