Do not fear loyal reader -The Grand Tour (Recession Version!) continues, after a brief hiatus. To recap, we have made our way south from the Golden Gate Bridge,to the south bay, and back up to the through East Bay. Part 9 takes us to our second island on the tour: Treasure Island. Here’s the route:
As most know, Treasure Island is a man made island, linked by a causeway to the the “natural” Yerba Buena Island, through which millions of us have passed through on arriving in San Francisco .The impetus for its creation was the hosting of the 1939-40 World’s Fair.
Being held as it was at the end of the 30’s; the World’s Fair perhaps unintentionally marked the wind down of the glorious deco/moderne period in American architecture, a period of highly-stylilized and geometrically chiseled building facades and sculptural figurines. There is currently a show at the Presidio Officer’s Club that has some outstanding photos, guidebooks, and maps commemorating the 70th anniversary of the fair. Here’s a few remarkable excerpts.
The plan at the time of the island’s inception was to host the Fair, and then turn the island into the main bay area airport. But the navy offered a land swap to the city, for some of their land on the penisula, (the future SFO). Treasure Island thus became a naval base, and stayed that way until it, along with the Presidio, were decomissioned in 1996. The island is part of the city of San Francisco, and while the Navy has not yet officially handed over the island, it functions as part of the city. It is home to about 1,500 residents housed in former naval housing, along with the Treasure Island Job Corp, and a film studio. There are very few services on the island, and public transit is limited to one Muni bus line- the trusty 108- that connects it to the city.
For the most part, when walks Treasure island, one sees a decomissioned military base, though the southern end of the island does have three buildings that date from the World’s Fair. I once had a friend stationed there, and he said one day he went into an obscure storage room and giant 10 foot tall head from the fair was staring back at him!
The island is a mish mash of industrial sites and suburban style apartment blocks, these facades dominated by gangly carports. Some buildings are occupied , some are deserted. In short, it is a place between worlds, adapted from the previous use, counting down the days until the island is redeveloped. Here are some shots of the island today.
And what of the future?Treasure Island will be redeveloped, but when it is hard to say. The Navy still has to officially relinquish title. And their will be many challenges in the redevelopment- liquifying and contaminated soil, rising sea levels, and the economy to name just 3.
But the plan is pretty incredible, an uber-green dense new neighborhood. Designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, it will build very densely (3,500 t0 5,500 units of housing) on a small piece of the island, and leave the balance of the site as park and open space. The island development will produce its own energy, and recycle its own waste. It will create a tidal marsh, and feature organic farms. A unique grid has been devised to maximize sun, and minimize wind. And finally, a new ferry terminal will be created. (But what about the 108 Bus??) At any rate, here’s the well-publicized aerial view. This is the right way to redevelop.