Nestled in the Bay just east of San Francisco is an island that, if you’re not aware of it, might be overlooked.
Treasure Island is a man-made landmass that was built in 1936 and named after a novel of the same name written by Robert Louis Stevenson, a writer who lived in San Francisco from 1879 to 1880. It has served as the site of the 1939 World’s Fair for which it was built, as a military base for the US Navy, and since the 1990s, home to the formerly homeless and others in need of supportive housing. And despite its whimsical name, it has a bit of a past.
It was used for nuclear-training operations in its Navy days, a practice that resulted in toxic substances seeping into the landfilled island’s ground and contaminants being dumped into large garbage pits burrowed into the soil. The Navy conducted a large-scale cleanup on the island, attempting to rid the land of any remaining pollutants, but the risk of radiation lingers, and the accuracy of the Navy’s cleanup has been debated.
The island’s contamination has been widely reported on, especially as residents over the years have come forward claiming health conditions, like cancer, hair loss, and tumors, that they believe arose due to exposure to the island’s toxic materials. They believe so strongly that the island poses a health risk that current and former residents filed a joint lawsuit seeking $2 billion in damages on January 23.
And besides the financial compensation, the lawsuit also stipulates that a long-anticipated $6 billion redevelopment of the island — which would add 8,000 new homes to the city’s crowded housing market as well as a hotel, a new ferry terminal, and upscale retailers — be stopped until an independent report can prove that radiation is no longer lurking beneath the island’s surface.
For the time being, however, the development will continue. It’s in its early stages, with preliminary digging mostly being conducted on-site. “It’s ugly out there,” Mike Bartell, one of the island’s residents that we visited in 2019, told Business Insider. “It looks like a war zone.”
But there are renderings of what the final island project will look like. Take a look.