Thursday :: Nov 30, 2006

Happy End to Militarism for Alameda, California

by paradox

At last, at long last, serious urban development plans are underway to utilize a sparkling jewel of city location and potential: Alameda Naval Air is finally being completely torn down, cleaned up and turned into ground designed to nurture humans, not kill them.

At the end of the Cold War and long overdue naval base consolidation California was basically stripped of all of its naval bases and anything left over was plunked in San Diego and Tacoma. Alameda Naval Air used to be a busy hub of roaring jets, aircraft carrier battle groups and support ships, the history of countless ships and men serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam pounded into the sandy soils of one of the most beautiful and wondrous harbors in the world.

How strange it has been in the nine years since Alameda Naval Air shuttered to only see a few token Navy ships in the bay, visiting San Francisco for whatever reason, when for the previous fifty years the legendary shipworks at Kaiser Steel and Mare Island (a yard that built the famous USS California of Pearl Harbor fame and later the ship I served on) crawled with Navy ships and personnel. Of course there was always vast Alameda Naval Air and a few other small installations, a big brute force of haze gray killing power seemingly always ingrained to San Francisco Bay.

All of it gone, except a hospital in Oakland and a ghost fleet at Suisun Bay (USS Iowa, legendary hull for an amazing ship of which only four where ever built, sleeps there now). For nine years Alameda Naval Air was a huge flat wasteland of weed-infested asphalt, an old carrier and supply ships rusting at some piers, un-sold for scrap because only the Navy knows why. One hundred million dollars is the cost—twenty-five percent of development costs—to clean up the nightmare environmental mess the Navy left behind, most of it in contaminated soils.

The San Francisco Chronicle didn’t specify how those soils were going to be “cleaned” of very dangerous toxins and heavy metals; one presumes it will simply be trucked and dumped away, but it’s not clear. Many, many stunningly beautiful Navy installations around the bay and the country are silent dumps because finding a developer willing to pay 25% for cleanup is very difficult, let alone all the torturous environmental and urban planning hoops that have to be jumped through.

Alameda is fortunate a competent, compassionate, extremely good human developer took on Alameda Naval Air—the city got virtually everything it wanted, while the developer bets $400 million the investment will someday pay off. It took nine years but God Bless America, right? Poor snobby San Francisco, the city that sometimes knows how, still sits there stupidly sucking its thumb as it eternally stares at Treasure Island, the landfill island from the Bay Bridge construction taken over/abandoned by the Navy, one of the most potentially amazing urban development projects the bay has ever seen, just dead and silent. How can it not be possible to develop condos on Treasure Island? Jesus.

The rich tradition of great ships, service and sacrifice the Navy represented for San Francisco Bay (not to mention all the jobs, money and fine humans) is missed, yes, but the truth is that all that investment and human energy is designed to kill and destroy human life, a pathetic posture for a race to be continually cornered into by fear and immaturity. Finally, at last, some of the most beautiful urban landscape in the world will shed its ugly militarism and nourish humans to live, not die.

paradox :: 5:53 AM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!