Does Treasure Island’s Equity Vision fix problems in Maceo May’s Veterans’ Housing? 

Architecta€™s-redevelopment-illustration-with-Maceo-May-1400x875, Does Treasure Island’s Equity Vision fix problems in Maceo May’s Veterans’ Housing? , World News & Views
This architectural rendering of the redeveloped Island shows the location of Maceo May Veterans Apartments. – Photo: Fox News

First report card on Treasure Island’s new non-racist, non-classist Equity Vision

by Carol Harvey

On Saturday, Jan. 20, 2023, at the Ship Shape Community Center, District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, TIDA (Treasure Island Development Authority) and One Treasure Island (formerly TIHDI, Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative), announced a “Vision for Treasure Island and Yerba Buena.”

Posters displayed “Upcoming Equity-Centered Work” that “uplifts and invests in the needs and visions of underserved communities—and prioritizes Indigenous, Black, and other people of color, seniors, people with disabilities, youth, and low-income workers.”

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This equity poster hangs in the Ship Shape Building on Treasure Island. – Photo: Carol Harvey

George Floyd’s 2020 murder, the Covid-19 pandemic and global warming are forcing social justice and equity to be re-imagined across cultures and nations. International recognition is growing that improved conditions for marginalized people will lift outcomes for everyone.

TIDA insists on excellence – even superiority – in its redevelopment plan. Board President V. Fei Tsen constantly brags about affordable housing – Maceo May and Starview Court – and TIDA’s LEED-ND Platinum score.

In 2016, Lennar Corp., lead developer of new housing on Treasure Island, posted a press release to PRNewswire stating, “Treasure Island Community Development, the partnership between Lennar Corp. and Stockbridge-Wilson Meany, announced today that its plan for redevelopment of Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island has been awarded LEED-ND Platinum plan certification, the highest designation possible for green, sustainable development.

“The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human-health performance.”

It maintained that Treasure Island has responded proactively to challenges of our time: global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive energy sources “and threats to human health.”

Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island received high marks for “reduced dependence on automobiles” and affordable homes.

This raises questions:

[1] Can TIDA take credit for an unrealized “vision?” LEED-ND Platinum ranking wasn’t awarded for an accomplished fact.

[2] How can the LEED-ND Platinum ranking be awarded for mitigating “threats to human health” on an island the Navy reports has been polluted with radiation, chemicals and heavy metals and now the “forever chemicals,” PFAS (per- and polyfluroalkyl substances) that attack the immune system?

[3] How can TIDA claim equality as its cornerstone when its past 27 years have “come straight from a guidebook of white supremacy,” according to Smadar LaVie.

An island resident referred to TIDA as the “Treasure Island Dissonance Authority,” depicting TIDA as a magician using sleight of hand to conceal inequality behind an illusion of equality and equity.

“(TIDA is) making the elephant in the room disappear one lie at a time. …

“They are tearing down the third most diverse neighborhood in America and the only affordable neighborhood left in San Francisco, making hundreds homeless, to build a diverse, inclusive neighborhood that addresses classism and gentrification?

“That is possibly the biggest lie ever told in all of human history. Never have I seen so much hypocrisy crammed onto one sentence.”

During the 27 years following the island’s 1997 decommissioning, the Navy, TIDA and One Treasure Island have failed to bring “equity and inclusion” to impoverished, low-to-moderate income white and people of color they have enticed to sign leases. They focus on using subsidies and low rents to finance redevelopment and sell condos and townhomes.

White supremacy

TIDA has operated under a fixed white supremacist model directed by men who allow women and people of color to work within it.

Legal scholar Frances Lee Ansley defines white supremacy as “a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources; conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread; and … white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”

Treasure Island’s past is littered with victims of racism and white supremacy.

On Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, African-American Andre Patterson led an ABC TV crew and reporter, Sergio Quintana, to plastic bags of radioactive dirt piled on Navy cleanup zone Site 31, the island’s elementary school yard. This public disclosure to the press triggered Andre’s eviction.

Andre-Patterson-rad-piles-in-elementary-school-playground-1400x875, Does Treasure Island’s Equity Vision fix problems in Maceo May’s Veterans’ Housing? , World News & Views
Andre Patterson exposes radioactive dirt piles behind him in the elementary school playground. – Video: Andre Patterson; Screenshot: Carol Harvey

In May 2014, Lita Hyland, Hispanic Navy wife and 1113 Hutchins Court resident, traveled from Virginia to warn islanders about radiation. At a TIDA Board meeting, Lita held up a photo of her newborn daughter with radiation burns. TIDA Board President V. Fei Tsen stopped her from speaking. Bob Beck, Island Director, ushered her out of the building.

Lita-Hyland-with-photo-of-burned-newborn-daughter-1400x875, Does Treasure Island’s Equity Vision fix problems in Maceo May’s Veterans’ Housing? , World News & Views
Former Treasure Island resident Lita Hyland holds a photo of her newborn daughter born with radiation burns. – Photo: Lita Hyland; Screenshot from video by Carol Harvey

Former Reeves Court resident Professor Smadar LaVie, author, anthropologist and expert on race, held a tenured position at U.C. Davis. Lavie said she was evicted after exposing the fact “that the City acts as a slumlord towards the residents of Treasure Island.”

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Smadar LaVie

In a four-minute award-winning video by videographer Noemie Serfaty, LaVie observed that when the Navy decommissioned Treasure Island, the City of San Francisco “took a bunch of homeless people – most … African-Americans, some Latino and disabled people – and shoved them here into the military base.”

“They want to use me as – a scare example,

[A] for people to shut up about issues of race;

[B] to shut up about the practices of the management here that come straight from a guidebook on white supremacy. White supremacists believe that America is theirs and people of color are guests on their land.”

LaVie explained that a white supremacist model directs the U.S. Navy, TIDA and property manager John Stewart in the administration of Treasure Island with:

[1] A sense of entitlement to land. The Navy then owned the land.

[2] A sense of entitlement to property. The property owner is TIDA.

[3] In subleasing the property from TIDA, John Stewart replicates TIDA’s white supremacy model.

In 2017, when John Stewart’s attorney, Mercedes Gavin, came to evict her, LaVie explained, “It’s hard for me to move. I have many books and collections.

“She (Gavin) said to me, ‘Come on. People on Treasure island don’t read.’”

“My eviction is for my whistle-blowing,” said Lavie. “I am being targeted because I conjoined the issues of ecology and … who gets justice and who has rights as a resident of the City of San Francisco.”

As the Island undergoes redevelopment in 2024, are TIDA and One Treasure Island reversing course and moving toward diversity, inclusion and equity?

Is Treasure Island’s new Equity Plan improving life for low-income veterans at Maceo May, the Swords to Plowshares residence named for a black vet?

Maceo-May-1400x875, Does Treasure Island’s Equity Vision fix problems in Maceo May’s Veterans’ Housing? , World News & Views
Maceo May, a Vietnam combat veteran and homeless veteran advocate, rose to housing director and board member of the San Francisco Swords to Plowshares organization. – Photo: Swords to Plowshares
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Maceo May Veterans Apartments, 55 Cravath St. at Seven Seas Avenue – Photo: Carol Harvey

When this affordable housing was completed, San Francisco’s press featured the building as a great achievement. Mayor London Breed attended the opening.

However, during construction in spring 2023, an atmospheric river poured rain through the roofless top causing $35 million worth of damage.

I received word on Feb. 9, 2024, that plumbing problems probably created in this downpour caused flooding with water and garbage. Vets were being moved out.

Veteran residents reduced rumor to fact. “They had flooding in someone’s apartment and moved the man to a hotel while they fixed the problem.” Later I was told that only three people were flooded out. All were relocated.

My contacts remain anonymous to protect them from eviction. One vet said, “You can use (these quotes) but don’t put my name (in) because I don’t want to get kicked out.” He said he was “fed up, but I have nowhere to go.”

He was urgent. “Something has to be done about our veterans’ living standards here at Maceo May.”

Inside Maceo May

Guests enter from a sidewalk strewn with needles and are required to show identification.

“People on drugs go in and out of the building.”

Crack pipes litter the hallways. Homeless people sneak in.

One vet said, “I still don’t have hot water in my apartment, and I’ve been taking cold showers” – brutal after a day’s hard work.

His lights and fans turn on and off because “the electricity is not calibrated properly.”

“Maintenance ‘isn’t qualified,’”he said. If they enter while the tenant is out, they sign a work order saying the repair is done but don’t fix the problem. “They’ve done that many times on my work orders,” he said.

Maintenance couldn’t fix his front door lock which has been broken for months. They jerry-rigged a repair for loud rattling in his vent with tape and cardboard. The racket wakes him. He is exhausted at work.

“They smoke cigarettes and weed. It goes through the vents. There are families here with children.”

“Fire alarms go off and blackouts occur two or three times a month.”

“People complain all the time. I’m not Maintenance. I can’t do anything. I feel bad for them. People are paying Maintenance to work for them, and they aren’t doing their job.”

“Management doesn’t do anything.”

After a lottery forced one homeless vet into Maceo May, they promised him a one bedroom but gave him an over-priced studio.

This vet has heart and breathing problems that cause difficulty walking. Most Maceo May residents must take the bus to San Francisco for groceries. Residents have complained that there are only two bus stops on Seven Seas Avenue, and they are too far away for a person with shortness of breath and ambulation pain to reach comfortably even with a walker.


Fewer parking spaces at buildings and on the street discourage vehicular traffic in TIDA’s green redevelopment plan.

A vet reported, “There is no parking for handicapped residents or motorcyclists.

“They want us to pay over a hundred dollars for parking in a lot with no security, and we’re already low income.”

At the Feb. 14, 2024, TIDA Board meeting, no veteran risked eviction for complaining about these problems. One of two commenters asked for a post office and a store. The other respectfully requested parking improvements.

Classism is being played out at Maceo May, a building for low income vets. Racism is occurring. Many are Black. Would the actual Maceo May, a Black veteran, approve?

It seems disrespectful to Maceo May’s name and veterans who return from wars with PTSD, anesthetizing pain with alcohol and drugs. They enter recovery programs, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the Ship Shape Community Center on an island rendered radioactive by the Navy that enlisted them. Finally, they are warehoused in a building that a vet compared to an upscale SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotel.

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Maceo May Lobby – Photo: Carol Harvey

Homeless Vets die on the mean streets of San Francisco, disabled after fighting our wars. They deserve better than this.

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