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Treasure Island wrangle ending; development can begin

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The City will be taking the helm of Treasure Island now that nearly two years of back-and-forth discussions about the Bay land are settled, putting a historic redevelopment project in motion.

Treasure Island, which was built from Bay dredge in order to host the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, was used by the Navy from 1941 to 1997.

Since the military ceased operations there, The City has been working to hammer out a deal to take control of the land and redevelop it, which would include thousands of housing units.

Today, Mayor Gavin Newsom will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to announce the agreement. The project hung in the balance during negotiations between the Navy and the Treasure Island Development Authority, which is overseeing the project.

“The hiccup has been the transfer,” Newsom said. “This thing was dead on two or three occasions. Literally, this thing wasn’t going to happen because there was so much difference of opinion. We finally came together. Now, we are celebrating the deal.”

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The amount of money the Navy wanted for the land has long been an obstacle for the project. In December, the Board of Supervisors
finally signed off on a price — $55 million over 10 years, plus interest. In addition, the Navy will receive up to $50 million if the project’s return hits 18 percent from the planned housing units, hotels and retail stores.

After that, the authority and the Navy started working on the details of the deal, including timelines, site cleanup and a payment schedule.

It was agreed upon that the Navy would have to clean up the site before the authority needed it for redevelopment, which is expected to begin next year. A delay in the cleanup would mean a delay in payments to the Navy, said Jack Sylvan, Newsom’s economic adviser.

“There are certain milestones the Navy has to reach on some of the site before we make payments,” Sylvan said. “We have every expectation they will be done by the time we need it.”

The Navy did not return phone calls seeking comment.

With an agreement in hand, San Francisco can now work on executing the development plan.

Kheay Loke, project manager for the Treasure Island redevelopment, said the agreement is a defining moment for the project.

“Next for us is to get the environmental clearings secured,” he said, adding that he doesn’t anticipate any major issues.

Newsom said he expects to see shovels in the ground sometime next year.


Historic piece of property

Treasure Island, which sits between San Francisco and Oakland in San Francisco Bay, has gone through several stages since 1939.

  • Hosted the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition
  • Scheduled to become an airport until Navy took control of land in 1941 in exchange for property near Millbrae
  • Starting in late 1980s, old aircraft hangars used as sound stages for film and television productions
  • Navy ceased operations in 1997; part of island transferred to U.S. Department of Labor for job corps center, and portion of Yerba Buena Island transferred to Coast Guard for continued operations
  • Future plan to redevelop island to includes 6,000 residential units, three hotels, marina, restaurants, and retail and entertainment venues, plus nearly 300 acres of parks and open space

Sources: Navy, city and county of San Francisco

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