Toxic site ready for renaissance 

Underground pools of oil pollution will be removed from beneath a recently toppled power plant to prepare a sunny swath of southeastern San Francisco for new waterfront buildings.

The Hunters Point Power Plant was shuttered in 2006 — leaving just one major power plant operating within city limits — and demolition of the aboveground parts of the facility finished this year. Some underground structures still need to be removed.

The future of the India Basin-flanked site, which is expected to be decontaminated and ready for  construction efforts in 2011, has not been agreed on.

City planners tentatively slated the site — which is between Evans Avenue, Jennings Street, Pier 96 and the Bay — for a mix of buildings that includes housing.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency is considering whether the entire India Basin shoreline should be incorporated into a redevelopment encompassing the nearby former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Candlestick Park.

The India Basin Neighborhood Association opposes plans to build homes on the waterfront site, in part because it’s close to busy recycling and postal operations, member Jill Fox said.

The association wants the site to be publicly accessible, according to Fox.

“It’s the only privately owned waterfront property in San Francisco,” she said.

The association advocates zoning the land for entertainment and food-related uses, such as cafes, grocers and nightclubs, according to Fox. The surrounding Bayview district is sparsely filled with such destinations.

PG&E Corp. contractors have moved heavy machinery into place that’s needed to remove underground pollutants that built up during the 76 years of power-generation operations.

Workers recently began digging trenches to trap oil that infests the soil.

“There’s jet fuel and heavy oil,” said Carol Northrup, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup efforts. “There’s so much that you have it floating and pooling in the soil.”

The oil could pollute San Francisco Bay if it’s not removed, Northrup said.

Oil will be removed after it pools in the trenches, according to Northrup. Additionally, chemicals will be injected into the soil to help break down oil into nontoxic chemicals, she said.

A one-year final cleanup phase is expected to begin this spring, according to Matt Nauman, a spokesman for PG&E, which owns the site.

“It’s premature to get into a lengthy discussion about the end use of the site,” Nauman said. “The No. 1 priority is the remediation.”

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