Can Treasure Island Live Up to Plans to Make It the “Super-Green City of the Future”?

San Francisco planners have decided to make Treasure Island a model of urban sustainability. For those of you unfamiliar with Treasure Island, it is an entirely man-made 400-acre property in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Originally built in 1939 from sea bottom, quarried rock, and loam, it is currently home to an abandoned naval base and a small number of low- and middle income residents. The new Treasure Island, however, is set to become a hotbed for eco-living. Check out the Treasure Island interactive city map that shows just what planners intend to do.
Although Triple P author Lexington Blood wrote about this project last month, I am wondering whether, in fact, the plans can really become a reality.

Among some of the plans include LEED-certified residential towers to increase urban density, a pedestrian-friendly downtown center, bike lanes, open green space to promote biodiversity, city-sponsored composting/recycling, “living machine” wastewater treatment, an urban farm, and solar/wind/tidal renewable energy generation. This is an extremely ambitious and commendable project. The new Treasure Island proposal is a testament to what our world is capable of when the political will exists to make sustainability a reality.
But, is it smart to invest this kind of capital and talent on Treasure Island? When Inhabitat reported on this project, readers commented on the fact that Treasure Island is only 10 feet above sea level. It appears that there is also a “high risk of liquefaction during an earthquake.”
Understanding the larger geological and long-term climate issues is important when planning an eco-city. So are social issues. Although planners intend to provide mixed-income housing on the Island, I think that such a vast amount of resources could be geared towards improving low-income neighborhoods in San Francisco proper. Why not eco-fy the Mission District, for example? If city officials, developers, and sustainable experts are serious about creating a model of urban sustainability, then it makes more sense to create this project in an existing urban center, not on an abandoned island.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

2 responses

  1. Good point! I still think they should build it. Worst case scenario they’ll have to build dikes. Hunter’s Point and the Alameda shipyard should also be developed in this manner – if for no other reason than to take reassure off San Francisco home prices!
    PS – might wanna check the size of that image, it’s pushing the site apart :-)

  2. OK, but what happens when sea levels rise?

    Or will this eco city completely solve that problem?

    Regardless, I hope this gets done, the US needs a few Model Cities to incubate sustainable city planning and living.

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