Treasure Island May Strike Green Gold With New Plans
Bookmark and Share

Some say it could make Treasure Island a diverse community, thriving with sustainable living, while others are skeptical of its legitimacy and are concerned about evictions.

Presented in a shiny booklet, the newest development plans for Treasure Island were displayed at the Eighth Annual Treasure Island Community Day Festival on Saturday.

The plan included a proposed green design for the island’s future.

“Green products that are safe for the environment are to be sold on the island, as well as for the community. That’s how far we are taking this approach,” said Maryanne Thompson from the Treasure Island marketing and community development office.

There are three main public priorities in the latest development plan: to make TI a model of sustainability and green design, improving the community’s workforce, employing thousands of people with new jobs and offering 1,800 new below market-rate housing units, said Jack Sylvan of the Mayor’s Office of Base Reuse.

Before any plan gets the thumbs-up, one great concern must be addressed: this man-made island is susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading in a major earthquake.

Since its creation in 1939, parts of the island have sunk below sea level and when the earthquake shook the Bay Area in 1989, some buildings sank a couple inches when the forged land mixed with groundwater, an example of liquefaction.

Director of SF State’s California Studies program and TI resident, Lee Davis remembers signing the most peculiar clause she has ever seen in a lease when moving to the island in 2003.

“In the lease, I had to initial and sign my whole name after one paragraph called the ‘liquefaction clause,’” she said. “If the earthquake comes, we’re screwed. The island continues to sink.”

The new plan pours hundreds of millions of dollars into seismic improvements throughout TI, including the stabilizing of the 259,000 tons of rock used to craft a seawall during original construction.

The major seismic retrofitting will occur when what are called "pilings" are driven across the island, actually solidifying the transplanted earth.

The money made from the sale of the land will pay for the redevelopment process itself, said Sylvan.

The plan also includes the construction of a new school and 300 acres of open space.

“This plan calls for the biggest parks improvement project since the creation of Golden Gate Park,” said Sylvan.

Davis, known around the isle as the TI historian, considers the community one of the most fascinating social experiments in the country.

“Treasure Island should be studied and acknowledged,” said Davis. “There are about 1,000 people living out here including those in drug rehab, housed homeless and market-rate housing – yet, it works.”

Davis is concerned, however, for the future of these social services once construction begins.

“This is a temporary holding pen. Where will they put them once development starts? There are no good answers at all,” said Davis. “Most TI residents use social services.”

Social services, such as the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative, provide housing for the homeless and assure them economic development opportunities.

Sylvan assures these social services are there to stay. Reconstruction of the “existing housing will be the last phase of construction…they will have new units with this plan,” said Sylvan.

Clebert Triggs, 41, and Denise Grace, 44, both live at the Walden House outpatient recovery home on TI and were granted a one-year rehabilitation stay.

“I would like to be one of the first ones out here when homes become available,” said Triggs, who is in his fourth month at Walden. “It’s so nice out here – out of the congestion of the city. You can hear a pin drop at night. Out here I use seagulls as my alarm clock.”

Grace agrees, but realizes her future is tentative.

“I want to move in with my family, but it’s hard when all I get are closed doors at every corner I turn for help,” said Grace, a mother of seven who completes her one-year rehab in March, and then has nowhere to go.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom attended the festival, smiling and giving high fives.

Grace asked the mayor what she should do to assure housing on the island after Walden.

“He gave me a card and pointed to someone he said may be able to help me,” said Grace. “Another brick wall.”

The plans are to be reviewed by the Treasure Island Development Authority and the Board of Supervisors late this month.

For more information on Treasure Island’s redevelopment processes, visit



Gretchen Robinette | staff photographer
Mayor Gavin Newsom interacts with the crowd at the Eighth Annual Treasure Island Community Day Festival.





Email Address:

URL (optional):


Remember personal info:


Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University