The Hazards of Growing Up on Treasure Island: One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

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If you go by location alone, Treasure Island, California is a prime piece of real estate. Situated in the bay between Oakland and San Francisco, the island boasts some of the area’s most spectacular views; the island’s annual two-day music festival draws more than 15,000 attendees every year; and Kendrick Lamar even chose to film part of his music video “Alright” there earlier this year. You would think that residents would be excited to call the island home.

If some of them weren’t so worried about radiation exposure, that is.

After Treasure Island was constructed in 1939 for the World’s Fair, the U.S. Navy used the site to clean ships that were used to test atomic bombs. Many buildings on the island are still marked as radioactive, which concerns several of the families who live there.

Robert Williams, 16, used to live on the island as a child. He said his parents weren’t aware of the radiation warnings when they first moved to the island. He says living with the radiation risk meant taking certain precautions. “You can’t grow on the island’s soil, they have to be in a bed or put with new fresh soil in a pot,” he said. “This ground is questionable. You have to test it.“

“I have to salute the residents of Treasure Island for what they have to go through, while the Navy does their investigation and cleanup,” said Navy Environmental Coordinator, Keith Forman. He says that environmental data indicates that it is safe for the residents to continue living on the island while continued investigation and cleanups take place.

But not all the residents are reassured. “I’m worried about the radiation, because it could affect me later in life,”  said Treasure Island resident Tati Woodard, 16. “They paid some people to move off the island…Parts of the island are still closed off because of the radiation.”

According to the Treasure Island Development Authority, some residents have been paid to move off the island, for reasons that include nearby Navy clean ups of solid waste. Officials at the California Environmental Protection Agency say the levels of contamination of homes on Treasure Island have not been identified as “unsafe” at this time.

Currently, about 2,000 people live on Treasure Island, but that number is slated to increase in the next few  years. Recently, the U.S. Navy began to transfer ownership of Treasure Island to the city of San Francisco, encouraging residents of nearby Yerba Buena Island to relocate there. The Treasure Island Development Authority approved plans to add approximately 8,000 new homes and 140,000 square feet of real estate space to the island.


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