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As Phase One of Treasure Island redevelopment gets under way, the Island’s subsidized and market rate residents are experiencing increasing intimidation and harassment and fewer services. Damian Ochoa, a seven-year market rate renter in good standing at John Stewart’s “The Villages,” describes intensifying “habitability issues,” amounting to prohibited Eighth Amendment “cruel and unusual punishment,” officiated over by John Stewart Property Manager Dan Stone.
The truth about the radiation and chemicals that poison Treasure Island has been deliberately hidden from view since 1941, when the Navy began using the island as a trash dump. To conceal the extent of the toxicity and the poisoning of many sailors and civilians, recent plans to redevelop the island have required powerful players to shroud activities there in an even thicker fog than the mist that daily crawls under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Since 2000, when the family moved to the island, everyone has been plagued by mild to severe respiratory and gastrointestinal problems that they believe are caused by island pollution. These illnesses, however, have given Child Protective Services a pretext for repeatedly taking Liz’ children and placing them in foster care, accusing this devoted mother of dereliction in her child-rearing.
“I’m trapped and it sucks. Our lives are in danger. I must get out of here but can’t afford it. We are guinea pigs in a big radiological experiment. I know how the Alcatraz prisoners felt hearing the City’s sounds and laughter, but unable to be there. (Island management) is so slick at promoting life on the island, covering up the Navy’s mess and shushing us.”
Generations of Treasure Island residents are living with radiation from the Navy ships exposed to the atomic bomb tests at Bikini in the South Pacific, which were brought to San Francisco to see if they could be cleaned. Though the Navy has the data, it never conducted longitudinal studies of adults and children it impacted with radioactivity. Help the people of Treasure Island win justice at the RAB meeting Tuesday, Aug. 19, 7-9 p.m., Casa de la Vista, 191 Avenue of the Palms, Treasure Island.
Gentile, soft-spoken Sandy Agee represents a group of African-American Bayview Hunters Point residents who thought they escaped radiation and chemicals that the Navy dumped at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, turning it into one of the nation’s most radioactive EPA Superfund sites. They discovered the Navy also carpeted their refuge, Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.
Damian is clear that people should feel their home is a safe, healthy place. If parents’ and their children’s health is compromised or damaged, they should not be retaliated against for going to management and asking them to fix unsafe conditions. “Do not let fear keep you trapped where you’re not happy and not getting your issues addressed,” advised Damian. “You have your children to keep in mind.”
Like all residents on Treasure Island, a man-made landform drenched in water, heat and humidity, wherever Damian Ochoa moves in John Stewart's market rate “Villages,” mold spores float stealthily in the air behind him. Three years ago these spores “mushroomed” into spotty patches in his immaculate home. But Damian is winning. He shows ways that renters can get what they want from a realtor or manager.