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10 Stellar Facts About Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island

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In honor of Outdoors Week, each day we'll highlight 10 amazing facts about some of San Francisco's favorite outdoor spaces. So far we've covered Ocean Beach, Angel Island, and Glen Canyon. From history to believe-it-or-nots, these lists highlight the best of the best.


Halfway between San Francisco and the East Bay lies the island duo of Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. Though connected, one is natural and the other is manmade. These two former naval sites are open to the public, and there's lots to explore. From 19th-century lighthouses to remnants of an Art Deco world's fair, the pair has a lot more to offer than just a throughway to the other side of the bay. So which one of them began life as Goat Island?

1) During the gold rush, squatters pastured a large number of goats on Yerba Buena Island, and people started referring to it as Goat Island. The name changed back to Yerba Buena on June 3, 1931. Logging and the goats had cleared the island, but trees were replanted on Arbor Day in 1886.
2) Yerba Buena had been a military post since 1870, when the Army Post Camp was constructed.
3) A lighthouse was built on the island in 1874 to help serve passenger boats and ferries traveling between SF and Oakland. The lighthouse is still in use—it even retains its original lens and is still an active aid to navigation.



4) Before 1936, Treasure Island didn't even exist. It was initially planned as an airport for Pan American World Airways flying boats, but instead was created from fill dredged from the bay for the Golden Gate International Exposition.
5) After the world's fair, the site was still slated for an airport, but the US Navy offered to trade their Mills Field on the peninsula as an airport site (now SFO) for ownership of the island.


6) Since the late 1980s, Treasure Island's old aircraft hangars have been used as sound stages for movies and TV: The Matrix ("bullet time" visual effect), Rent, The Pursuit of Happyness, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Berlin airport scene), Copycat, Flubber, What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams, The Parent Trap, Bicentennial Man, Battlebots, Nash Bridges, Mythbusters.
7) In 1996, Treasure Island (and the Presidio) were decommissioned and opened to the public.
8) Now there are major events held regularly: the Treasure Island Flea Market is the last weekend of the month, and the Treasure Island Music Festival happens every October.



9) Major development plans were hatched for the island, including 8,000 housing units, 140,000 square feet of commercial space, up to 100,000 square feet of new office space, the adaptive reuse of 311,000 square feet of existing buildings, roughly 500 hotel rooms, 300 acres of new parks and public spaces, waterside facilities for the Treasure Island Sailing Center, and a new ferry terminal. Lack of funding has put the plans on hold.
10) While folks rent housing on the island, rumors persist of radiation contamination dating from the Navy's occupation.

· Past coverage of Treasure Island [Curbed SF]
· Past coverage of Yerba Buena Island [Curbed SF]
· Outdoors Week 2014 [Curbed SF]