Bayview–Hunters Point, San Francisco

Bayview–Hunters Point are two major neighborhoods—the Bayview and Hunters Point—in the southeastern corner of San Francisco, California, United States. The decommissioned Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is located within its boundaries and Candlestick Park, which was demolished in 2015, was on the southern edge. Due to the South East location, the two neighborhoods are often merged. Bayview-Hunter’s Point has been labeled as San Francisco’s “Most Isolated Neighborhood”.

Redevelopment projects for the neighborhood became the dominant issue of the 1990s and 2000s. Efforts include the Bayview Redevelopment Plan for Area B, which includes approximately 1300 acres of existing residential, commercial and industrial lands. This plan identifies seven economic activity nodes within the area. The former Navy Shipyard waterfront property is also the target of redevelopment to include residential, commercial, and recreational areas.

HISTORY

Primarily composed of tidal wetlands with some small hills, the area was inhabited by the Ramaytush and Muwekma Ohlone people prior to the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 1700s. The Ohlone inhabited the land for ten thousand years. The district consisted of what the Ohlone people called “shell mounds”, which were sacred burial grounds. The land was later colonized in 1775 by Juan Bautista Aguirre, a ship pilot for Captain Juan Manuel de Ayala who named it La Punta Concha (English: Conch Point). Later explorers renamed it Beacon Point. For the next several decades it was used as pasture for cattle run by the Franciscan friars at Mission Dolores.

In 1839, the area was part of the 4,446-acre (17.99 km2Rancho Rincon de las Salinas y Potrero Viejo Mexican land grant given to José Cornelio Bernal (1796–1842). Following the California Gold Rush, Bernal sold what later became the Bayview–Hunters Point area for real estate development in 1849. Little actual development occurred but Bernal’s agents were three brothers, John, Phillip and Robert Hunter, who built their homes and dairy farm on the land (then near the present-day corner of Griffith Street and Oakdale Avenue) and who gave rise to the name Hunters Point.

The Bayview–Hunters Point district was labelled “Southern San Francisco” on some maps, not to be confused with the city of South San Francisco further to the south.

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT

After a San Francisco ordinance in 1868 banned the slaughter and processing of animals within the city proper, a group of butchers established a “butchers reservation” on 81-acre (0.33 km2) of tidal marshland in the Bayview district. Within ten years, 18 slaughterhouses were located in the area along with their associated production facilities for tanning, fertilizer, wool, and tallow. The “reservation” (then bounded by present-day Ingalls Street, Third Street, from Islais Creek to Bayshore) and the surrounding houses and businesses became known as Butchertown. The butcher industry declined following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake until 1971 when the final slaughterhouse closed.

From 1929 until 2006 the Bayview–Hunters Point district were home for the coal and oil-fired power plants that provided electricity to San Francisco. Smokestack effluvium and byproducts dumped in the vicinity have been cited for health and environmental problems in the neighborhood. In 1994, the San Francisco Energy Company proposed building another power plant in the neighborhood, but community activists protested and pushed to have the current facility shut down. In 2008, Pacific Gas and Electric Company demolished the Hunters Point Power Plant and began a two-year remediation project to restore the land for residential development.

SHIPYARD

Shipbuilding became integral to Bayview–Hunters Point in 1867 with the construction thereof the first permanent drydock on the Pacific coast. The Hunters Point Dry Docks were greatly expanded by Union Iron Works and Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation and were capable of housing the largest ships that could pass through the locks of the Panama Canal. World War I increased the contracts there for building Naval vessels and, in 1940, the United States Navy purchased a section of the property to develop the San Francisco Naval Shipyard. Beginning in the 1920s, a strong presence of Maltese American immigrants, along with Italian Americans, began populating the Bayview, focused on the local Catholic St. Paul of the Shipwreck Church and the Maltese American Social Club. They were a presence until the 1960s when they began moving into the suburbs.

The shipbuilding industry saw a large influx of blue-collar workers into the neighborhood, many of them African Americans taking part in the Great Migration. This migration into Bayview increased substantially after World War II due to racial segregation and the eviction of African Americans from homes elsewhere in the city. Between 1940 and 1950, the population of Bayview saw a fourfold increase to 51,000 residents. 

Until 1969, the Hunters Point shipyard was the site of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL). The NRDL decontaminated ships exposed to atomic weapons testing and also researched the effects of radiation on materials and living organisms.  This caused widespread radiological contamination and, in 1989, the base was declared a Superfund site requiring long-term clean-up. The Navy closed the shipyard and Naval base in 1994. The Base Realignment and Closure program manages various pollution remediation projects.

RACIAL TENSION

By the 1960s, the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods were populated predominantly by African-Americans and other racial minorities, and the area was isolated from the rest of San Francisco. Pollution, substandard housing, declining infrastructure, limited employment and racial discrimination were notable problems. James Baldwin documented the marginalization of the community in a 1963 documentary, “Take This Hammer”, stating, “this is the San Francisco America pretends does not exist.” On September 27, 1966, a race riot occurred at Hunters Point, sparked by the killing of a 16-year-old fleeing from a police officer. The policeman, Alvin Johnson, stated he “caught [a couple of kids] red-handed with a stolen car” and ordered Matthew Johnson to stop, firing several warning shots before fatally shooting Johnson. In 1967 US Senators Robert KennedyGeorge Murphy and Joseph S. Clark visited the Western Addition and Bayview-Hunter’s Point Neighborhood accompanied by future mayor Willie Brown to speak to activist Ruth Williams about the inequalities occurring in the Bayview. Closure of the naval shipyard, shipbuilding facilities and de-industrialization of the district in the 1970s and 1980s increased unemployment and local poverty levels.

Building projects to revitalize the district began in earnest in the 1990s and the 2000s. As in the rest of the city, housing prices rose 342% between 1996 and 2008. Many long-time African American residents, whether they could no longer afford to live there or sought to take advantage of their homes’ soaring values, left what they perceived as an unsafe neighborhood and made an exodus to the Bay Area’s outer suburbs. Once considered a historic African American district, the percentage of black people in the Bayview–Hunters Point population declined from 65 percent in 1990 to a minority in 2000. Despite the decline, the 2010 U.S. Census shows the African American population in the Bayview to be greater in number than that of any other ethnicity.

In the 2000s, the neighborhood became the focus of several redevelopment projects. The MUNI[24] T-Third Street light-rail project was built through the neighborhood, replacing an aging bus line with several new stations, street lamps and landscaping. Private developer Lennar Inc. proposed a $2-billion project to build 10,500 homes, including rentals, and commercial spaces atop the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, and a new football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, and a shopping complex for Candlestick Point. The stadium would reinvigorate the district, but the 49ers changed their focus to Santa Clara in 2006. A bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics in San Francisco that included plans to build an Olympic Village in Bayview–Hunters Point was also dropped. Lennar Inc. proposed to build the stadium without the football team. Local community activist groups have criticized much of the redevelopment for displacing rather than benefiting existing neighborhood residents.

As of 2014, Lennar works on the mixed-use development, promising “12,500 new homes; 4 million-plus square feet of office, commercial and retail space; and 300 acres of open parks, trails and fields”, although no rentals.

EDUCATION

The Bayview, a historically predominant black neighborhood, is home to more elementary school-age students than any other neighborhood in the city and combined with the Mission and Excelsior, houses a quarter of all students in the district. Schools in the Bayview have suffered from declining enrollment for the past two decades. Out of the 6,000 students who live in the Bayview, more than 70% choose to attend school outside of their neighborhood. In 2016, in attendance with Jonathan GarciaAdonal Foyle and Theo Ellington, Willie L. Brown middle school in Bayview-Hunter’s Point commemorated the unveiling of the new Golden State Warrior outside basketball court at the school, donated by the Warriors Community Foundation. Bayview-Hunter’s Point has several elementary and middle schools, one high school and has two college campuses.

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Bayview–Hunters Point (ZIP 94124) had a population of 33,996, an increase of 826 from 2000. The census data showed the single-race racial composition of Bayview–Hunters Point was 33.7% African-American, 30.7% Asian (22.1% Chinese, 3.1% Filipino, 2.9% Vietnamese, 0.4% Cambodian, 0.3% Indian, 0.2% Burmese, 0.2% Korean, 0.2% Japanese, 0.2% Pakistani, 0.1% Laotian), 12.1% White, 3.2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (2.4% Samoan, 0.1% Tongan, 0.1% Native Hawaiian), 0.7% Native American, 15.1% other, and 5.1% mixed race. Of Bayview’s population, 24.9% was of Hispanic or Latino origin, of any race (11.5% Mexican, 4.2% Salvadoran, 2.6% Guatemalan, 1.4% Honduran, 1.4% Nicaraguan, 0.7% Puerto Rican, 0.2% Peruvian, 0.2% Spanish, 0.2% Spaniard, 0.1% Colombian, 0.1% Cuban, 0.1% Panamanian).

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Bayview–Hunters Point had the highest percentage of African-Americans among San Francisco neighborhoods, home to 21.5% of the city’s Black population, and they were the predominant ethnic group in the Bayview. Census figures showed the percentage of African-Americans in Bayview declined from 48% in 2000 to 33.7% in 2010, while the percentage of Asian and White ethnicity increased from 24% and 10%, respectively, to 30.7% and 12.1%. However, the eastern part of the neighborhood had a population of 12,308 and is still roughly 53% African-American.

According to the 2005–2009 American Community Survey (ACS), the Bayview district is estimated to have 10,540 housing units and an estimated owner-occupancy rate of 51%. The 2010 U.S. Census indicates the number of households to be 9,717, of which 155 belong to same-sex couples. Median home values were estimated in 2009 to be $586,201, but that has since fallen dramatically to around $367,000 in 2011, the lowest of any of San Francisco’s ZIP code areas. Median Household Income was estimated in 2009 at $43,155. Rent prices in the Bayview remain relatively low, by San Francisco standards, with over 50% of rents paid in 2009 at less than $750/mo.

A recent Brookings Institution report identified Hunters Point as one of five Bay Area “extreme poverty” neighborhoods, in which over 40% of the inhabitants live below the Federal poverty level of an income of $22,300 for a family of four. Nearly 12% of the population in the Bayview receives public assistance income, three times the national average, and more than double the state average. While the Bayview has a higher percentage of the population receiving either Social Security or retirement income than the state or national averages, the dollar amounts that these people receive is less than the averages in either the state or the nation.

MARGINALIZATION

Since the 1960s, the Bayview–Hunters Point community has been cited as a significant example of marginalization. In 2011, it remained “one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of San Francisco”. Root causes include a working-class populace historically segregated to the outskirts of the city, high levels of industrial pollution, the closure of the industry, and loss of infrastructure. The results have been high rates of unemployment, poverty, disease and crime. Attempts to mitigate the effects of marginalization include the city’s building of the Third Street light-rail line, establishment of the Southeast Community Facility (SECF) as a response from the SF Public Utilities Commission to a community-led effort to balance environmental injustice associated with public utilities, the Southeast Food Access Workgroup, initially formed by the SF Department of Public Health as part of the SF Mayor’s ShapeUp SF health initiative, and implementation of enhanced local hiring policy that recognizes that regulations requiring hiring for public projects prioritize City residents and contractors may not help specific neighborhoods where job seekers and contractors may still be overlooked. Place-based and asset-based community-building programs networked through the Quesada Gardens Initiative began in 2002 adding direct grassroots public participation to the social and environmental change landscape with a goal of preserving diversity and encouraging longterm residents to reinvest in their neighborhood.

The Hunter’s Point shipyard’s toxic waste pollution has been cited for elevated rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases among residents. These adverse health effects coupled with rising housing costs contribute to what one community member and organizer has characterized as behavior “meeting the UN standard definition of genocide”.

Gang and drug activity, as well as a high murder rate, have plagued the Bayview–Hunters Point district. A 2001 feature article in the San Francisco Chronicle cited feuding between small local gangs as the major cause of the area’s unsolved homicides. In 2011, The New York Times described Bayview as “one of the city’s most violent” neighborhoods. Police have made the removal of guns from the streets their top priority in recent years, leading to a 20% decline in major crimes between 2010 and 2011, including declines of 35% in homicides, 22% in aggravated assaults, 38% in arson, 30% in burglary, 34% in theft, 23% in auto theft, and 39% in robbery. Lesser crimes have also declined by about 24% over the past year.

FOOD DESERT 

Until the late 2000s, the neighborhood had no chain supermarkets, as many corporate chains could not afford to lease a retail space. In 2011, a San Francisco official described the area as “a food desert – an area with limited access to affordable, nutritious food like fresh produce at a full-size grocery store.” A large swath of the southeast sector of San Francisco sits within a Federally recognized food desert. A Home Depot was approved by the city to be built in the area, but the Home Depot Corporation abandoned its plans following the late 2000s economic crisis. Lowe’s took over Home Depot’s plans, and in 2010 opened its first store in San Francisco on the Bayshore Blvd. site. In August 2011, UK supermarket chain Tesco, owner of Fresh and Easy stores, opened Bayview–Hunters Point’s first new grocery store in 20 years, though this store has closed as part of Fresh and Easy’s larger corporate exit from the United States.

The neighborhood was the subject of a 2003 documentary, Straight Outta Hunters Point, directed by lifelong Hunters Point resident Kevin Epps, and a 2012 sequel, “Straight Outta Hunters Point 2,” movies that expose the daily drama of gang-related wars plaguing a community already fighting for social and economic survival. The Spike Lee film Sucker Free City used Hunters Point as a backdrop for a story on gentrification and street gangs.

ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY

The Bayview has also been a quiet hub for the arts and technology going back as far as 1984. The city commissioned a Malcolm X mural on the Kirkwood Star Market, painted by artist Refa-1 in 1997 and the murals painted on Joseph Lee Recreational Center by artist Dewey Crumpler in 1984 of Harriet TubmanPaul Robeson, two Senufo birds which in African culture oversee the lives and creativity of the community, King TutMuhammed AliWillie MaysWilma Rudolph and Arthur Ashe.

Black Girls Code, is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on providing technology education for African-American girls. Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer who had worked in biotech for over 20 years, founded Black Girls Code in 2011.

In 2012, Leila Janah started Samaschool with a pilot program in the Bayview-Hunters Point community. The model originally focused on training students to perform digital work competitively, to prepare them for success on online work sites like oDesk and Elance.

A collaboration was completed with singer-songwriter Michael Franti and Freq Nasty, in which Franti’s single “The Future” was remixed in support of a Bay Area nonprofit to help create a music studio for at-risk youth in Bayview-Hunters Point.

Started by Tyra Fennell, Imprint City is a non-profit organization located in the Bayview that seeks to activate underutilized spaces with arts and culture events as well as community development projects, encouraging increased foot traffic and economic vitality. The BayviewLIVE Festival, celebrates urban performing and visual artists with past featured headliners such as Talib KweliNef the Pharaoh and Jidenna.

Thrasher publication also houses its headquarters in the neighborhood.

The Hunters Point Shipyard is home to the country’s largest artist colony, “The Point”. Zaccho Dance Theatre, founded by Artistic Director Joanna Haigood, is the only professional dance company in BVHP since opening their studio in 1990.