Advocates and Treasure Island residents are urging San Francisco leaders to reexamine the Treasure Island cleanup and halt ongoing land transfers for a major housing and commercial development on the man-made island. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

Treasure Island residents looking for a chance to be heard

From frequent power outages to fears of lingering radioactive and toxic contamination, Treasure Island residents say that their complaints about life on the island have for years largely fallen on deaf ears at City Hall.

But at a town hall hearing scheduled to take place this Thursday, their new supervisor says he plans to listen.

“My goal is to understand the experiences and needs of residents and make it clear to them that I will be an independent voice and resource for them as they face the unique challenges associated with living and working there,” District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday.

Those challenges include service accessibility issues as well as a proposed vehicle toll for drivers entering and exiting the island that has met with strong opposition from residents, a majority of whom are low-income. Haney said that he plans to advocate for current residents lacking basic services as the island undergoes massive redevelopment that add new infrastructure, commercial space and up to 8,000 new homes.

Last month, Haney, who was instated as supervisor in January, spoke out about service interruptions on the island after all of its estimated 1,800 households were cut off from power for more than 12 hours. He called on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which services the island, to procure data on the frequency of such outages and present a plan on how to improve communications with residents in the event of an emergency.

The San Francisco Examiner previously reported that the prolonged outage in February was the fifth recorded power outage on the island so far in 2019. In 2012, as many as 22 outages were reported.

Haney said the frequent service interruptions are unacceptable and stoke concerns among residents ahead of the island’s planned transformation.

“Treasure Island’s governance is unusual —there’s the Treasure Island Development Agency, and the PUC [provides] their power….and there is a massive development plan that will impact the lives of everyone who lives and works there,” said Haney. “It’s important that they have an independent advocate who they can trust.”

Thursday’s hearing will include representatives from the SFPUC, TIDA and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, according to Haney.

Environmental and health advocates are also pushing Haney to address issues over tenant protections and evictions on the island, as well as long standing concerns over the health impacts of radioactive and toxic contamination.

State and city officials have confirmed that contamination lingers on the former U.S. Naval base, and ongoing radioactive remediation efforts have involved some of the same players implicated in an allegedly fraudulent radioactive cleanup at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

Advocates are calling for Treasure Island’s cleanup to be held to the same standards and level of scrutiny as has been ordered at the shipyard, which is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated superfund site.

They are also urging The City to halt all development planned for Treasure Island pending further investigation.

“We need to treat Treasure Island just like [the shipyard] and put all development on hold until we find out how much testing was falsified by Tetra Tech and other contractors,” said Eric Brooks, an environmental advocate with Our City San Francisco.

Brooks said testing for radioactive remnants on the island should be “broadened” to include other toxins, such as dioxins. His group is also urging Haney to “take the lead” on relocating current residents off the island.

“It may be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s clearly not safe for residents who currently live there to live there,” Brooks said.

Haney said that he is prepared to talk about the island’s toxic history.

“I want to talk about the environmental issues and how residents feel about the cleanup — and any concerns around their health and wellbeing,” said Haney. “I’m also interested in the tenant protections and tenants’ rights issues — I’ve heard from some concerned about residents are being either pushed out or that there’s inadequate information about what is going to happen as the development occurs.”

The Treasure Island town hall hearing will take place Thursday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ship Shape Community Center.

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