Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, California

Hunters Point, a heavily industrialized and contaminated Navy shipyard, is in the midst of the slow conversion to civilian use. It operated as a military shipyard from 1941 to 1974, servicing ships of all kinds, from submarines to aircraft carriers. After Pacific Island nuclear bomb tests in the 1940's, irradiated ships were brought back to Hunters Point, to develop decontamination methods, and the Naval Radiological Defense Lab was established primarily to develop defenses against the effects of exposure to radiation sustained during a nuclear attack. The legacy of this organization and the mountains of radioactive material they handled is one of the lingering concerns about the base, and in 1989 the EPA declared the shipyard a Superfund cleanup site. The Lab operated at Hunters Point from 1946-1969, and occupied many of the structures on base. The main laboratory building is a windowless, multi-story modern building on the edge of the base, overlooking the most notorious dump site at Parcel E. The building has been leased for years to Filesafe, a records storage company. Ships exposed to Operation Crossroads were sandblasted in Drydock 4, which is in use now by a ship dismantling company. The San Francisco police department consolidated their crime lab and special operations division at the yard in 1997. Other businesses use many of the remaining former military structures, though the largest ones are generally vacant. Surprisingly, what is probably the largest artist community in the Bay Area has developed at Hunters Point, occupying much of the former administrative headquarters building. Artists were able to sublease space from a somewhat reckless ship repair operation that leased the yard soon after the Navy left in the mid-1970's. That company (Triple A Machine Shop, Inc.), is no longer in business at the yard, but the artists have remained.