San Francisco Naval Shipyard

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San Francisco Naval Shipyard
San Francisco

Hunters Point California aerial 2006.jpg

2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard. View looking northeast
Coordinates 37°43′32.18″N122°22′8.19″W / 37.7256056°N 122.3689417°W / 37.7256056; -122.3689417
Type Shipyard
Site information
Controlled by United States Navy
Site history
Built 1870
In use 1941–1974
Battles/wars World War I, World War II, Cold War

The San Francisco Naval Shipyard was a United States Navy shipyard in San Francisco, located on 638 acres (258 ha) of waterfront at Hunters Point in the southeast corner of the city.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second largest and second most powerful air force in the world.

Shipyard place where ships are repaired and built

A shipyard is a place where ships are built and repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial construction. The terms are routinely used interchangeably, in part because the evolution of dockyards and shipyards has often caused them to change or merge roles.


Originally, Hunters Point was a commercial shipyard established in 1870, consisting of two graving docks. It was purchased and built up in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by the Union Iron Works company, later owned by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company and named Hunters Point Drydocks, located at Potrero Point.

Union Iron Works shipbuilding firm in San Francisco

Union Iron Works, located in San Francisco, California, on the southeast waterfront, was a central business within the large industrial zone of Potrero Point, for four decades at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

Potrero Point

Potrero Point in San Francisco, California, is the location of the earliest and most important industrial facilities in the Western United States on the eastern extension of San Francisco's Potrero Hill, a natural land mass extending into San Francisco Bay south of Mission Bay. Potrero Point, the point of Potrero Hill, was systematically blasted and cut, its serpentine cliffs removed. The work yielded two square miles of rock for fill and hundreds of acres of flat industrial land east of Illinois Street between 20th Street and Islais Creek.

The shipyard was purchased by the Navy in 1940, a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It began operations the next year as the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, and operated until 1974 when it was deactivated and renamed Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Used commercially for a time, in 1986 it was taken over by the Navy again as the home port of the USS Missouri battlegroup, under the name Treasure Island Naval Station Hunters Point Annex.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States' formal entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

USS <i>Missouri</i> (BB-63) Iowa-class battleship of the U.S. Navy

USS Missouri (BB-63) is an Iowa-class battleship and was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named after the U.S. state of Missouri. Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II.

The base was named redundant as part of the Base Realignment and Closure effort in 1991, and was closed permanently in 1994. Since then the site has been part of a superfund cleanup effort to remediate the leftovers of decades of industrial and radiological use. Parcels are being sold off as they are cleaned up, mostly for condominium development.

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is a process by a United States federal government commission to increase United States Department of Defense efficiency by planning the end of the Cold War realignment and closure of military installations. More than 350 installations have been closed in five BRAC rounds: 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 2005.

Superfund United States federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances

Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Sites managed under this program are referred to as "Superfund" sites. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). It authorizes federal natural resource agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states and Native American tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances, though most states have and most often use their own versions of CERCLA. CERCLA created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The EPA may identify parties responsible for hazardous substances releases to the environment (polluters) and either compel them to clean up the sites, or it may undertake the cleanup on its own using the Superfund and costs recovered from polluters by referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A condominium, often shortened to condo, in the United States and in most Canadian provinces, is a type of living space similar to an apartment but independently sellable and therefore regarded as real estate. The condominium building structure is divided into several units that are each separately owned, surrounded by common areas that are jointly owned. Similar concepts in other English-speaking countries include strata title in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the Canadian province of British Columbia; commonhold in the United Kingdom; and sectional title in South Africa.


"Artisit's Conception of Proposed Improvements for Hunters' Point when acquired by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. LTD." circa 1900 "Artisit's Conception of Proposed Improvements for Hunters' Point when acquired by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. LTD." - NARA - 296813.jpg
"Artisit's Conception of Proposed Improvements for Hunters' Point when acquired by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. LTD." circa 1900

The original docks were built on solid rock. In 1916 the drydocks were thought to be the largest in the world. At over 1000 feet in length, they were said to be big enough to accommodate the world's largest warships and passenger steamers. Soundings showed an offshore depth of sixty-five feet. During the early 20th century much of the Hunters Point shoreline was extended by landfill extensions into the San Francisco Bay.

Landfill site for the disposal of waste materials by burial

A landfill site is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial. It is the oldest form of waste treatment. Historically, landfills have been the most common method of organized waste disposal and remain so in many places around the world.

San Francisco Bay bay on the California coast of the United States

San Francisco Bay is a shallow estuary in the US state of California. It is surrounded by a contiguous region known as the San Francisco Bay Area, and is dominated by the large cities of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland.

Between World War I and the beginning of World War II the Navy contracted from the private owners for the use of the docks. The docks provided deep-water facilities between San Diego and Bremerton, Washington. The main naval base in the area was at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, but the continuous silting in the area made it only suitable for relatively shallow-draft ships. A Congressional hearing on Pacific Coast Naval Bases was held in San Francisco in 1920 at San Francisco City Hall, wherein city representatives, Mayor Rolph, City Engineer O'Shaughnessy and others testified on behalf of permanently siting the Navy at Hunters Point.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

San Diego City in California, United States

San Diego is a city in the U.S. state of California. It is in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico.

The battleship crane dominates the skyline of the Hunters Point area. Drydock 4 Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, CA 11-4-2012 3-54-26 PM.JPG
The battleship crane dominates the skyline of the Hunters Point area.

At the start of World War II the Navy recognized the need for greatly increased naval shipbuilding and repair facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in 1940 acquired the property from the private owners, naming it Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. A bill that would have set aside $6 million for the purchase of the Hunters Point property from Bethlehem Steel was deferred in March 1939. [1] The property became one of the major shipyards of the west coast. It was later renamed Treasure Island Naval Station Hunters Point Annex. During the 1940s, many workers moved into the area to work at this shipyard and other wartime related industries.

Aerial photograph taken on 24 May 1945. San Francisco Naval Shipyard aerial 24 May 1945.jpg
Aerial photograph taken on 24 May 1945.

The key fissile components of the first atomic bomb were loaded onto USS Indianapolis in July 1945 at Hunters Point for transfer to Tinian. After World War II and until 1969, the Hunters Point shipyard was the site of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, the US military's largest facility for applied nuclear research. [2] The yard was used after the war to decontaminate ships from Operation Crossroads. Because of all the testing, there is widespread radiological contamination of the site. After the war, with an influx of blue collar industry, the area remained a naval base and commercial shipyard.

In 1947 an enormous gantry crane with a 450-long-ton (460 t) capacity was completed at the site by the American Bridge Company. It was the largest crane in the world, and was intended to be used to remove the turrets of battleships so the guns could be quickly replaced while the old set was being refurbished on land. The Hunter's Point crane succeeded YD-171, better known as Herman the German, as the largest crane in America. [3] In 1959, a 230-foot (70 m) tall trapezoidal tower was added to the top of the crane, bringing its total height to nearly 500 feet (150 m). This made the crane the tallest man-made structure in San Francisco until the completion of 44 Montgomery in 1967. The addition was created to facilitate Operation Skycatch, where Polaris missiles were fired and caught via a string of arresting cables, before being lowered to the ground for testing. Previous versions of the test had the missiles flung out into the bay and retrieved from the ocean floor. The crane dominates the landscape in the area as it is easily visible from miles around. [4]

The Navy operated the yard as a repair facility until 1974, when it leased most of it to a commercial ship repair company, who used it until 1986. [5] A copy of the planned closure list was obtained by the Associated Press in 1973. [6] The Hunters Point Shipyard was reactivated briefly between 1986 and 1989 as an annex to Naval Station Treasure Island. [7] :1–3

The Hunters Point Shipyard Artists (HPSA) is a community of artists who rent studios in the former U.S. naval shipyard on Hunters Point in the Bayview community of San Francisco. An artist community since 1983, the Hunters Point Shipyard is now home to more than 250 artists.

1971: carriers Ranger, Hancock, and Coral Sea at Hunters' Point. Hunters Point NS with three carriers 1971.jpeg
1971: carriers Ranger, Hancock, and Coral Sea at Hunters' Point.

In 1987, the Navy considered reopening the shipyard as the home port for the newly reactivated USS Missouri (BB-63), which would move from Long Beach. Rear Admiral Robert L. Toney and Mayor Dianne Feinstein signed an agreement that committed San Francisco to spend up to $1 million per year to maintain the infrastructure, including dredging and traffic improvements. After Feinstein was succeeded as mayor by Art Agnos, Agnos declared his opposition to the new home port, stating the costs would outweigh potential benefits. A referendum was held on the issue in the November 1988 general election; one proposition offered support for the Navy's plan, and another proposition, sponsored by Agnos, stated the infrastructure costs would be borne by the Navy, and 351 new civilian jobs were required to be created. [8] Despite the passage of the proposition supporting the Navy's plan, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended building the base for Missouri at Long Beach, San Diego, or Pearl Harbor. [9] In 1989, the base was declared a Superfund site requiring long-term clean-up. [10] [11]

The Navy closed the shipyard and Naval base in 1994 as part of the next round of BRAC recommendations. Besides radioactive contamination, Hunter's Point had a succession of coal- and oil-fired power generation facilities which left a legacy of pollution, both from smokestack effluvium and leftover byproducts that were dumped in the vicinity. The BRAC program has managed the majority of the site's numerous pollution remediation projects. [12]

Aerial view in May 2010 San Francisco Naval Shipyard aerial view in May 2010.jpg
Aerial view in May 2010
Abandoned building in October 2016 Abandoned building at Hunters Point Shipyard, San Francisco.jpg
Abandoned building in October 2016

Shipyard Redevelopment

The former shipyard site is still being decontaminated, and has been split into multiple parcels to allow the Navy to declare them clean and safe for redevelopment separately. [13] While developer Lennar has built and sold hundreds of new condominium units in the SF Shipyard development on the property, [14] a number of regulators, activists, and cleanup workers have claimed that the site is still heavily contaminated and that the company contracted to handle the cleanup and testing has repeatedly violated established cleanup protocols, [15] deliberately falsified radiation test results at the site to falsely show that there is little remaining radiation, [16] [17] and fired employees who attempted to force workers to perform radiation tests as required. [18] According to the Navy, at least 386 out of the 25,000+ soil samples that have been collected over the past two decades were identified as "anomalous." [19] New homes built on the property were set to be available to tenants in the winter of 2014/2015. [20] The first residents began moving into homes in June 2015. [21]

In September 2016 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) halted the transfer of additional land at Hunters Point from the Navy to the city and to real estate developers. [22] Per a letter sent from the EPA to the Navy, the process was placed on hold until “the actual potential public exposure to radioactive material at and near” the shipyard can be “clarified." [23]

See also

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  1. "Defer Hunter's Point, Oakland Base Actions". Berkeley Daily Gazette. United Press. 10 March 1939. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  2. Military Analysis Network. "Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco Naval Shipyard". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  3. Stimson Jr., Thomas E. (September 1947). "Spanning the Navy's Mole at Hunter's Point, Calif., is the World's Largest Crane". Popular Mechanics. Vol. 88 no. 3. pp. 124–128; 256. ISSN   0032-4558 . Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  4. "Hunters Point Crane". Department of the Navy. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  5. "Former Naval Shipyard Hunters Point". BRAC Bases, United States Navy. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  6. "Military Cutback Will Eliminate 37,000 Jobs". The Virgin Islands Daily News. AP. 18 April 1973. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  7. Historical Radiological Assessment, Volume II, Use of General Radioactive Materials, 1939-2003, Hunters Point Shipyard (PDF) (Report). United States Department of the Navy. 2004. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  8. Reinhold, Robert (18 September 1988). "Navy Is Waging a Battle For San Francisco Port". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  9. Bishop, Katherine (30 December 1988). "San Francisco Deplores Plan To Cut Ship Base and Presidio". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  10. "Treasure Island Naval Station-Hunters Point Annex Superfund site progress profile". EPA. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  11. "Treasure Island Naval Station-Hunters Point Annex Superfund site partial deletion narrative". EPA. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  12. "Former Naval Shipyard Hunters Point". BRAC Program Management Office. Department of the Navy. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  13. Roberts, Chris (12 January 2017). "SF housing development planned on former nuclear test site". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  14. "Housing blooms at last at once-toxic Hunters Point shipyard site". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  15. "Former Contractors Claim Hunters Point Cleanup is Botched". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  16. "Worker Claims Supervisors Ordered Him to Hide Radiation". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  17. "Radiation samples falsified to make Hunters Point look clean". nuclear-news. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  18. "Regulators Question Hunters Point Radiation Testing". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  19. "Alleged radiation cover-up at Hunters Point draws EPA investigation". Curbed SF. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  20. Joe Rosato (14 November 2014). "Old Shipyard About to Become San Francisco's Newest Neighborhood By". NBC universal media. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  21. Peter Fimrite (8 June 2015). "Housing blooms at last at once-toxic Hunters Point shipyard site". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst newspapers. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  22. "Integrity of data from Navy's contractor Tetra Tech" (PDF) (Letter). Letter to Lawrence Lansdale. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 13 September 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  23. Roberts, Chris (21 September 2016). "Faked Soil Samples Thorw Hunters Point Shipyard Development into Disarray". San Francisco magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2017.