Treasure Island Today
1997 – Present
Preserving the History of the Golden Gate International Exposition
Starting in 1975, the Treasure Island Museum Association campaigned to return to public view the Pacific Unity Statues from the GGIE’s Court of Pacifica and the Pacific Basin Fountain from Pacific House. Four of the statues stand in front of this building. The other 12 surviving statues will be restored as part of the island’s redevelopment.
The Court of Pacifica was located at what is now Mersea Restaurant’s parking lot. Pacific House was at Avenue M and 6th Street. Treasure Island was named a California State Historic Landmark in 1989; the plaque is now at Mersea.
NSTI Decommissioned & Transferred to San Francisco
As the Cold War subsided with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Department of Defense began closing bases that were no longer deemed necessary. Like most of the other bases in the Bay Area, Naval Station Treasure Island was designated for closure under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) act. The decision to close NSTI led to reconsideration of Treasure Island and its role in the Bay Area community.
After the closure, a long negotiation with the Navy led to a 2011 agreement to lease and then transfer most of Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands to the City of San Francisco (aside from the U.S. Coast Guard Station that remains on the southern half of YBI). To manage the transformation of TI, the California State Legislature created the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), an agency of San Francisco that is responsible for the ongoing planning, reuse, and redevelopment of Treasure Island.
As part of the land transfer process, the Navy has been responsible for the investigation and remediation of contamination on the Islands. Over the years, the Navy has identified sites on TI that may pose a threat because of historic usage for training and waste disposal. The Navy continues to survey and mitigate risks posed to those who live and work here. (To learn more, visit https://www.bracpmo.navy.mil/)
1997 - Present
Civilians & Services Move in
Naval Station Treasure Island was officially closed on 30 September 1997. Soon after, San Francisco approved a proposal to allow new residents to move to the island. Much of the former Navy housing was repurposed, with 375 units earmarked for the housing of vulnerable populations, including people with a history of homelessness.
The Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI), now known as One Treasure Island (OTI), was founded in 1994 to plan for and serve the new population. OTI continues to provide housing and vital services on the island, including food pantries, health and dental services, education, and vocational training.
35 acres in the center of the island were set aside for the Federal Department of Labor to establish the Treasure Island Job Corps Center in 1998. As one of the largest Job Corps centers in the country, it provides free education, career, and technical training programs for young people.
A charter high school, Life Learning Academy, was founded in 1998. LLA provides free student housing to many of its students and is the only remaining school on the island.
The Treasure Island Community YMCA, founded in 2000, provides free access to families living on Treasure Island and continues to develop programs and opportunities for the community.
Arts and Culture on Treasure Island
As part of Treasure Island’s transformation, it has been woven into the Bay Area arts and music scene, has become home to a variety of business enterprises, and provides much-needed space for recreational activities such as sailing, rugby and basketball.
Treasure Island provided space for sound stages and production for television shows and films including Nash Bridges (1996-2001), The Parent Trap (1998), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Milk (2008), Rent (2005), Hulk (2003), and James and the Giant Peach (1996).
Notably, the Administration Building was depicted as the Nazi-era Berlin Airport in Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade (1989). The city would not allow Nazi banners on the building, so they were added in post-production. The building was also used as a primary setting for the second season of the sci-fi Netflix series The OA (2019).
For over 12 years, from 2007-2019, The Treasure Island Music Festival held massive music festivals and performances on the island. Many world-famous performers came to perform on Treasure Island, including Outkast, The Flaming Lips, M.I.A., LCD Soundsystem, A$AP Rocky, Belle & Sebastian, Tame Impala, Modest Mouse, Justice, Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, and FKA Twigs.
The redevelopment of Treasure Island is a public-private partnership twenty-seven years in the making (1994 - present). The former base has slowly been redeveloped and repurposed, providing housing and social services to the diverse community living on the island today. TI continues its mission of supporting underserved members of the Bay Area while growing to further supplement San Francisco’s needs.
Of the 2,000+ current residents, approximately 400-500 are under the age of 18.
About 50% of Treasure Island residents live under the poverty line, making it one of the most impoverished zip codes in San Francisco (median income of $59,211).
Many housing providers on TI are run by non-profit organizations that support permanent and transitional housing for those who’ve experienced economic disadvantage and homelessness. Among these are Catholic Charities (supporting homeless families), HealthRIGHT 360 (assisting substance use recovery), Home Rise (providing permanent supportive housing), and HomeFree (supporting newly released women, and those who have experienced domestic abuse).
Infrastructure improvements are underway to meet the needs of the future population including new water reservoirs, streets, and traffic lights, a new switchyard, a wastewater treatment plant, and a ferry terminal. To reinforce the artificial island and prepare for seismic activity and sea level rise, geotechnical projects are underway. (Visit our online exhibit about sea level rise at slr.treasureislandmuseum.org).
Construction on Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands has been bustling over the past few years as housing developments break ground and new businesses and services emerge. The redevelopment of TI and YBI is a tremendous undertaking and includes the building of thousands of new housing units, ten acres of retail and historic reuse space, and three hundred acres of parks, the largest addition of open space in San Francisco since the construction of Golden Gate Park. These plans are expected to be complete, including all buildings, infrastructure, parks, and open spaces, around 2035.
To continue to provide housing for vulnerable people and to avoid displacement of current residents, redevelopment plans include 8,000 new housing units, including 2,173 below-market rate or affordable homes (a marked increase from the 260 below-market rate and 360 market-rate units currently on the island). Of the affordable homes, 20% are reserved for formerly homeless households, and 14% will be integrated within market-rate buildings. The first project to be completed will be the Maceo May Apartments, named for the national advocate for homeless military veterans. These units will provide affordable housing for 104 formerly homeless veterans through Swords to Plowshares.
As the island is transformed, Treasure Island Museum will continue to share stories about the past, present, and future of Treasure Island with visitors and residents. TIM is currently working with the National Park Service to honor the site of the Port Chicago Trial on Yerba Buena Island.