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Treasure Island

Magic Isle
Landform and neighborhood
Treasure Island is "5,520 feet long by 3,410 feet wide" and has the Treasure Island Marina on the south near Yerba Buena Island (bottom)
Treasure Island is "5,520 feet long by 3,410 feet wide" and has the Treasure Island Marina on the south near Yerba Buena Island (bottom)
Treasure Island is the northernmost area of San Francisco's District 6
Treasure Island is the northernmost area of San Francisco's District 6
Country  United States
State  California
City-county San Francisco
Constructed 1936–37
Named for Treasure Island (novel)
 • Total 0.9 sq mi (2 km2)
 • Land 0.9 sq mi (2 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
 (2011 estimate)
 • Total 2,300
 • Density 2,560/sq mi (990/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area codes 415/628
GNIS feature IDs 236528 (island)
2624152 (Building 157)
2506912 (Job Corps Ctr)
Wikimedia Commons Treasure Island, California
California Historical Landmark
Reference #: 987

Treasure Island is an artificial island in San Francisco Bay and a neighborhood of the City of San Francisco. Built 1936–37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, the island's World’s Fair site is a California Historical Landmark. Buildings there have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the historical Naval Station Treasure Island and auxiliary air facility (for airships, blimps, dirigibles, planes and seaplanes) are designated in the Geographic Names Information System.


The San Francisco neighborhood that includes Treasure Island extends far into San Francisco Bay and includes a tip of Alameda Island. Yerba Buena and Treasure islands together have a land area of 576.7 acres (233.4 ha) with a 2010 total population of 2,500. Treasure Island is connected by a 900 ft (270 m) causeway to Yerba Buena Island, which in turn has on- and off-ramps to Interstate 80 on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.

The island has a marina and a bikeway connecting to the newly completed Eastern span replacement of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Raised walkways circumscribe nearly the entire island along five streets (Avenue of the Palms, Perimeter Road, Avenue N, Pan American World Airways Esplanade and Clipper Cove Way, formerly known as 1st Street).


Prior to the island's construction by the United States government, "Yerba Buena Shoals" of rock north of the transbay island had less than 27 ft (8.2 m) clearance and were a shipping hazard. The 400-acre (1.6 km2) island was constructed by emplacing 287,000 short tons (260,000 t) of quarried rock in the shoals for the island/causeway perimeter rock walls (a freshwater reservoir was quarried in the rock of Yerba Buena Island). Approximately 23 feet (7.0 m) of dredged bay sand filled the interior, was mitigated from salt, and then 50,000 cubic yards (38,000 m3) topsoil was used for planting 4,000 trees, 70,000 shrubs, and 700,000 flowering plants. Facility construction had begun by March 4, 1937 when two hangars were being built.

On Monday, February 18, 1939, the 'Magic Isle'" opened with a "walled city" of several fair ground courts: a central Court of Honor, a Court of the East, a Port of Trade Winds on the south and on the north: a Court of Pacifica, a 12,000-car parking lot, and the adjacent Midway (fair) of 40 acres (16 ha) with thrill rides and shows. The island had a lagoon ("Lake of All Nations"), and structures included the "400-foot Tower of the Sun" (with reflecting pools), the International Building, the $1.5M Federal Building, the Hall of Western States, the $800K administration building, various exhibit halls for industries (e.g., "Machinery, Science, and Vacationland"), and two 335-by-78-foot (102 m × 24 m) hangars planned for post-exposition use by Pan Am flying boats (e.g., the China Clipper through 1944) using the Port of Trade Winds Harbor later referred to as Clipper Cove between the two islands. In addition to Building 2 (Hangar 2) and Building 3 (Hangar 3), remaining exposition buildings include Building 1 (Streamline Moderne architecture) intended after the expo as the Pan American World Airways terminal. The expo's Magic Carpet Great Lawn also remains.)

A couplet from the song "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", in the Marx Brothers' 1939 film, At The Circus, reads "Here is Grover Whalen unveilin' the Trylon/Over on the West Coast we have Treasure Island", citing, in the Trylon and Treasure Island, two prominent features of international civic events happening that year (as the 1939 New York World's Fair vied for tourist patrons with the Golden Gate International Expo).

Military base

Treasure Island Admin Bldg
Headquarters Building at US Naval Station Treasure Island

Naval Station Treasure Island began under a 1941 war lease as a United States Navy "reception center" and in 1942, the Navy offered to exchange its Mills Field on the San Francisco Peninsula for the island. The U.S. Navy seized Treasure Island on April 17, 1942 and instead of an island airport, the city built an airport at Mills Field that became the San Francisco International Airport (the naval station closed in 1997).

The station had a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility to support helicopters, fixed wing planes, seaplanes, blimps, dirigibles and airships. And a U.S.Navy/USMC electronics school. In the '70s, '80s, and '90s the U.S.Navy Conducted Naval Technical Training NTTC . Training Hull Maintenance Technicians. The U.S.Navy Rate consisted of the old Shipfitter Rate and Damage Control Technicians. The U.S.Navy Technical Training also included NBC Warfare Decon. The New U.S.Navy Rate was classified as HT Hull Maintenance Technicians. Multiple Maintenance Skills were included into The Naval Technical Training Command NTTC. During World War II over 12,000 men a day were processed here for Pacific area assignments, and thousands more were processed for separation in the aftermath of the war. In recognition of his naval base leadership and development efforts since the inception of US Naval Station Treasure Island, Rear Admiral Hugo Wilson Osterhaus Square was established in front of Building 1 Administration Building, Treasure Island. Medal of Honor and Navy Cross recipient USMC Gunnery Sgt John Basilone movie theatre Building 401 @ 680 Avenue I was established in recognition as being one of the earliest World War II heroes. The station was identified by the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and remaining military structures include Bldg. 600 @ 750 Avenue M (former Naval Firefighting School, now SFFD's Treasure Island Training Facility & Temporary SFFD Fire Station 48), Bldg. 157 (Navy Fire station 2 built circa 1942 wood frame building which lacks modern earthquake Seismic retrofit) @ 849 Avenue D (SFFD Station 48 closed March 7, 2014 due to health hazards & excessive deferred maintenance), and the 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2) Bldg. 180 by US Naval Station Way & California Ave (now a winery).

SAC radar station

The Treasure Island Radar Bomb Scoring Site (call sign San Francisco Bomb Plot) was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) automatic tracking radar facility established on the island. Major Posey was the c. 1948 commander of Detachment B (Capt Carlson on August 1, 1949) which evaluated simulated bombing missions on targets in the San Francisco metropolitan area for maintaining Cold War bomber crews' proficiency. A nearby "Stockton Bomb Plot (Det I)" moved to Charlotte in 1950, and the Treasure Island unit was redesignated Detachment 13 in 1951, the year 3 other SAC detachments used a nearby staging/preparation area for deploying via the bay for Korean War ground-directed bombing (cf. the Sacramento Bomb Plot at a McClellan AFB Annex in 1951.) On October 16, 1951, Treasure Island's Det 13 was assigned under March AFB's 3933rd Radar Bomb Scoring Squadron before moving from the island by August 10, 1954 when the 11th RBS Squadron was activated.

Treasure island from yerba buena
Treasure Island beyond Yerba Buena Island's rooftops and trees, which obscure the causeway and marina. The large curved white building (right of center) is the Administration Building (Building 1) which housed the island's museum 1976-97 (the museum association's offices returned in 2008.)

Film stages and settings

From the late 1980s, Treasure Island's old aircraft Hangar 2 (Building 2) and Hangar 3 (Building 3) served as sound stages for film-making and TV, e.g., The Matrix ("bullet time" visual effect), Rent, and The Pursuit of Happyness. Treasure Island was a film setting of the 1939 Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, 1988 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Berlin airport scene), 1995 Copycat (private compound), 1997 Flubber, 1998 What Dreams May Come, 1998 Patch Adams, 1998 The Parent Trap and 1999 Bicentennial Man. An establishing shot of the 1954 The Caine Mutiny shows the main gate and Administration Bldg 1 to indicate the location of the fictitious court martial. For three years Treasure Island served as the site of the Battlebots TV show. The offices and penthouse apartment sets in Nash Bridges were located on the island during the show's production (1996–2001). The island was featured as the base of operations for the prototypers in the 2008 Discovery Channel series Prototype This!. Building 180 (warehouse) and Building 111 (former firehouse) on Treasure Island served as film settings for an NBC series titled Trauma.

Remediation and redevelopment

Cleanup crews spent several weeks cleaning the island's coast from the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill just a few hundred yards from Treasure Island, and the Navy sold the island to the city for $108 million as part of a redevelopment project. The Federal government still maintains an active presence on 40 acres (16 ha) occupied by the United States Department of Labor Job Corps (not part of the redevelopment). The Job Corps moved in and took over 40 acres (16 ha) and 13 building facilities just after the US Navy vacated the island. The Administration Building (Bldg. 1) and Hall of Transportation (Bldg. 2) were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. On June 8, 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved new neighborhood development for 19,000 people over the next 20–30 years by Wilson Meany Sullivan, Lennar Urban, and Kenwood Investments. The 2012-2014 US$1.5 billion Treasure Island Development project for up to 8,000 new residences, 140,000 sq ft (13,000 m2) of new commercial and retail space, 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) of new office space, 3 hotels, new Fire station and 300 acres (120 ha) of parks. The island's gas station pumps and canopy were also removed (the island has a high risk of soil liquefaction and tsunami damage in an earthquake). All island natural gas, electricity, sewer and water utilities are serviced by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

By December 17, 2010, "Navy contractors had dug up and hauled off 16,000 cubic yards [12,000 m3] of contaminated dirt, some with radiation levels 400 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s human exposure limits for topsoil." The contaminated dirt is to be replaced by dirt removed during construction of the fourth Caldecott Tunnel bore. In April 2013, caesium-137 levels three times higher than previously recorded were found (the island hosted "radioactive ships from Bikini Atoll atomic tests and [was] a major education center training personnel for nuclear war"—the USS Pandemonium (PCDC-1) mockup had begun nuclear training in 1957.

Water supply

The main waterlines under the causeway are backed up by yellow above-ground emergency manifolds to which blue six-inch (150 mm) diameter hose can be connected from a large hose spool affixed to a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission / SF Water Dept' mobile truck dispatched from the SFWD Newcomb Avenue Yard after an earthquake provided the Bay Bridge from SF to Treasure Island is still operational.


Looking north towards the Marin Headlands from the western shore. 
Looking south towards Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge from the western shore. 
Treasure Island Marina on the island's south shore 
The bridge's new eastern span is best viewed ovarial from near the marina 

With good weather, the island offers a spectacular view of San Francisco
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