47 named residents of Treasure Island are suing the developers, contractors, and city and state entities involved in the redevelopment of the island, claiming among other things that they were misled about radioactive contamination levels on the island.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court, seeks to halt the development project slated to bring 8,000 new residential units to the island, and seeks $2 billion in damages for as many as 2,000 current residents of Treasure Island. As the SF Business Times reports, named defendants include the developer Lennar Inc., its offshoot Five Point Holdings, and two Navy contractors Tetra Tech, the company implicated in falsifying soil samples in the cleanup of the Naval shipyard at Hunters Point in San Francisco. Also named in the suit are the Treasure Island Development Authority, the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative, and San Francisco's Department of Public Health.
After the U.S. Navy ceased operations on the island in the 1990s and civilians — including the formerly homeless — began moving into rehabbed housing units there, the lawsuit alleges that the Navy did not adequately measure "the levels of cesium-137, a fission byproduct, in soil samples dating back to the 1970s." And the suit says that "In reality, contamination levels are some three times higher than the Navy reported, and 60 percent higher than the Navy's own safety guidelines."
Dustups over the contaminated soil on the island date back several years, and as the Examiner reported last May, residents were battling displacement even as they were complaining about the potential toxic effects of the land they've been living on. One former resident, Andre Patterson, claims he was retaliated against and "thrown off the island" for complaining that he had been diagnosed with cancer and spoke out about it.
Ground was ostensibly broken on the mega-project on Treasure Island in 2016, with evictions of some existing residents dating back to the fall of 2015. But there has been plenty of controversy ever since about the relocation of residents on the island, with a report in October 2019 detailing how those residents who had lived there since 2011, when an agreement was signed for the redevelopment project, have more relocation benefit options than those who have been there for less time. The first new residential units, which some residents will be eligible to inhabit, are set to be complete as soon as May 2021, with the entire redevelopment project extending in phases for 15 years, to 2035.
But now this lawsuit may further stymie the process, with existing residents now seeking monetary compensation for the contamination they've been living with.
In September 2019, as Curbed reported, the Navy disclosed that it had found a "basketball-sized" chunk of "low-level radioactive dirt buried beneath the front door of a Treasure Island home." This was after earlier soil remediation efforts had purportedly taken place, but the Navy insists that Treasure Island poses "no health risk to local residents or the public."
Assessing that risk and any ongoing radioactivity will apparently be key in how far the class-action suit gets.