How SF, EPA are turning previously toxic areas into thriving community spaces

Julian Glover Image
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
How SF's turning 'Brownfield' site into thriving community spaces
How San Francisco and the EPA are turning 'Brownfield' sites into thriving community spaces in Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- This Earth Day, we are looking into the work being done to turn previously toxic areas into vibrant and thriving community spaces.

One of those spaces is on the shores of San Francisco's iconic Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

This project led by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department is years in the making - restoring what's called a "Brownfield site" - a previously toxic area into something so much more.

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"1.7 miles of waterfront that has been long neglected for generations by San Franciscans. This is where San Francisco put stuff many generations ago that nobody wanted in another neighborhood, you'll see a sewer treatment plant, there used to be a power plant," said Phil Ginsburg with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.

But soon - this old shipbuilding yard will be a place for families to get out on the Bay with kayaks and canoes. There will be a farmers market, a food pavilion, and 2,500 units of affordable housing.

Howiet Morgan remembers what this place looked like when he was a kid.

"When I grew up, it was basically just all grass park and everything right here. It was not there," said Morgan.

Now, it's a place he brings his kid.

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"You got the kids up there, chillin' hanging out doing anything. So, so beautiful thing," said Morgan.

A beautiful thing - born out of an ugly past.

The restoration and rehabilitation - all started with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"In 2017, we were provided $348,000, cleanup grant, and in 2015, we provided another $400,000, cleanup grant, to assist a lot of our money is seed money," said Mike Olokode with the EPA. "So it's kind of that first money in and then they take that money and they usually leverage our funds to get money from other organizations."

Those funds have been used to leverage a number of state agency grants and bond funds to make this project possible. It even plans for the future by creating marshes to prepare for sea-level rise.

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Another EPA grant was awarded to the A. Phillip Randolph Institution - which trains workers from this community on environmental remediation and green construction techniques.

Yoshida Pitts who calls the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood her home - was one of those workers.

"I'm improving it for not just for me, but for the community," said Pitts.


Project completion is still years away but the India Basin project is already bringing the community together in this historic neighborhood.

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