The U.S. Navy began building the 1,734-acre base on Alameda Island in the late 1930s, and for more than fifty years it was a repair and maintenance facility for Navy aircraft, including carrier-based planes and helicopters. Eventually the base was closed in 1997 due to budgetary constraints, but over ten years would elapse before the land was returned to the city of Alameda. While the U.S. Navy initially quoted a transfer price of $108 million, in 2011 they decided to return the land free of charge. Since then the city has been researching how best to exploit and develop the area, portions of which remain contaminated by a variety of hazardous materials (the base was declared a Superfund cleanup site in 1999). Several military ships still dock at the station, mostly part of the MARAD reserve fleet, and one aircraft carrier (the USS Hornet) is now a museum. Large naval seaplanes were stationed here, and their ramps and hangars remain. As with other recently closed military sites in the Bay Area, among the first major users of the hangars and closed runways is the film industry, which often occupies these between places with abundant space and few restrictions on use. The locally filmed MythBusters TV show regularly uses the asphalt expanses for field tests. Remains of a milelong highway set built for one of the Matrix movies remains visible. Otherwise more than a full square mile of abandoned runways and munitions bunkers, with views across the Bay to San Francisco, are fenced off from public use, enjoyed by nesting birds, while lingering ground contamination continues to be addressed.
Alameda Naval Air Station Site, California