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″N 122°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.

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.

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.

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.


"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.

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.

Navy purchase[edit]

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. 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.

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.[1] 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 crane with a 630-ton capacity was completed at the site by the American Bridge Company. It was the largest crane in the world. This was used to remove the turrets of battleships so the guns could be quickly replaced while the old set was being refurbished on land. In 1959, a 230-foot tall trapezoidal tower was added to the top of the crane, bringing its total height to nearly 500 feet. 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 is easily visible from miles around.[2]

Navy closure[edit]

The Navy operated the yard until 1974, when it leased most of it to a commercial ship repair company.[citation needed]

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.

In 1989, the base was declared a Superfund site requiring long-term clean-up.[3][4]

The Navy closed the shipyard and Naval base in 1994 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). 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.[5]

Aerial view in May 2010
Abandoned building in October 2016

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.[6] While developer Lennar has built and sold hundreds of new condominium units in the SF Shipyard development on the property,[7] 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,[8] deliberately falsified radiation test results at the site to falsely show that there is little remaining radiation,[9][10] and fired employees who attempted to force workers to perform radiation tests as required.[11] New homes built on the property were set to be available to tenants in the winter of 2014/2015.[12] The first residents began moving in in June 2015.[13]

In September 2016 the US Environmental Protection Agency again halted the transfer of additional land at Hunters Point from the Navy to the city and to real estate developers.[14] The EPA cited a record of falsified soil tests and other data that cleanup contractor Tetra Tech provided to the Navy in claiming that the site is now safe for redevelopment and habitation.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Military Analysis Network. "Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco Naval Shipyard". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Hunters Point Crane". Department of the Navy. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Treasure Island Naval Station-Hunters Point Annex Superfund site progress profile". EPA. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  4. ^ "Treasure Island Naval Station-Hunters Point Annex Superfund site partial deletion narrative". EPA. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  5. ^ "Former Naval Shipyard Hunters Point". BRAC Program Management Office. Department of the Navy. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference :1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ "Housing blooms at last at once-toxic Hunters Point shipyard site". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "Former Contractors Claim Hunters Point Cleanup is Botched". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  9. ^ "Worker Claims Supervisors Ordered Him to Hide Radiation". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  10. ^ "Radiation samples falsified to make Hunters Point look clean". nuclear-news. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "Regulators Question Hunters Point Radiation Testing". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  12. ^ Joe Rosato (14 November 2014). "Old Shipyard About to Become San Francisco's Newest Neighborhood By". NBC universal media. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Peter Fimrite (8 June 2015). "Housing blooms at last at once-toxic Hunters Point shipyard site". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst newspapers. 
  14. ^$FILE/20829317.pdf/9%2013%202016%20EPA%20DTSC%20Ltr%20to%20Navy%20re%20Tetra%20Tech.pdf
  15. ^

External links[edit]