Warm Water Cove and Pier 70

Today’s random expedition led me to Potrero Point and Warm Water Cove, a tiny, gritty park one step above a vacant lot in an industrial wasteland. It’s a vacant lot in an industrial wasteland with a bench! I love this park. Right now it’s full of wild mustard, radish, dock, mallow and other great edible plants. The remains of a creek ooze out of a scary tunnel. It’s all surrounded by warehouses, parking lots surrounded by barbed wire, and off in the distance, rusting ocean-going cargo ships. Apparently there used to be weekly punk concerts there run off generators and lots of campers. While I was there today a woman and a dog in a very DIY camper van were doing some housekeeping and enjoying the late afternoon sun, so the camping, or homeless-person-occupancy, probably continues despite the recent community makeover, graffiti cleanup and daily policing. A few years ago people were still fishing from a pier to take advantage of the warm water coming from the power plant outfall (which attracts fish.) The pier’s gone now.

Sounds like a lot of piers have been closed over the last few years, including San Mateo Pier, the longest fishing pier in California.

From there I could see a very interesting building that looked like a lot of cubes piled up on top of each other.

It’s behind the Pacific Gas & Electric Station A, a huge and beautiful red brick building.

Pier 70

Here’s some links to the history of Potrero Point:

* Station A

A block or two north, little alleys wind around the decaying buildings of Pier 70.

* The Noonan Building
* Map of Pier 70 structures – a great map with notes for each building.
* Irish Hill This hill full of houses and apartments for the iron and steel mill workers and their families was leveled and the rubble used to fill in the Bay. I saw a tiny bit of the hill left – you can tell it’s not just a pile of dirt because it looks like a roadcut through serpentinite.

Underneath these industrial buildings is a tide-washed labyrinth of slag pits, cisterns, waste dumps, and wooden pilings. I can’t even imagine the giant amounts of toxic junk still leaching into the Bay.

Building 104, an office building from 1896:

Pier 70

Building 21, from 1900.

Pier 70

Building 11, The Noonan Building, 1941. People obviously live there.

Pier 70

During wartime this shipyard churned out countless ships. Thousands of people worked there in round-the-clock shifts. As the shipyards closed the area became neglected and used for storage for old cars, MUNI trains and buses. It sounds like then there were decades of concern from people in the Dogpatch, Potrero, and Hunters Point communities, plans for redevelopment, toxic cleanup, reclamation, preservation of the historic buildings, and industrial customers who still might use the land for power plants, and ship building or repair. The largest floating dry dock facility in the world was sold to the City in the 1980s for one dollar — probably because the massively polluted land (and ongoing pollution of the Bay) was clearly a liability and someone was going to have to *clean it up* before it got seriously used again.

As I mulled over What Is To Be Done here’s what I thought up. While it’s not being used for much else and it’s polluting and dangerous, full of crumbling buildings and broken glass and probably more asbestos than anyone can imagine, make it a public Dangerous Park. Just let anyone do whatever the hell they want in there and graffiti it up and have punk rock shows and photograph the roofs of falling-down warehouses. But let them know the dangers to their health and safety — just as you’d put up signs to say that a seaside cliff is dangerous because of erosion and high waves. The conditions of entering the Dangerous Park should be agreement that you’re not going to sue the city for whatever injuries result.

Some of the Historic Buildings would be graffitied and fucked up, but maybe some would be improved, cleaned up, cared for by artists and colonized in interesting ways.

I realize this isn’t going to happen and instead it will end up being a squalid industrial center for a while longer until some asshole buys it and Develops it, because the only way that people are “allowed” to be in or live on a toxic waste dump is if some bunch of developers makes an obscene profit off it while covering up any risks with massive lies. But people using crappy in land in some less centralized and profitable way, with accurate information about the problems of that use, is, weirdly, never okay.

Kayaking to the laundry room

We had a grand expedition yesterday for lunch. Moomin and I put in the laundry, then kayaked off around the point from our tiny harbor to a dock accessible only from a huge ladder. It leads to a locked gate on Middle Bair Island, which used to be “reclaimed salt ponds” and is now a wildlife reserve. It was low tide. We picked up trash from the kayaks with our nets, and swooped in to tie up to the barnacled, soggy lower rungs of the ladder. From the top we could see nesting Canada geese and the sparkly ponds on the islands, and across the slough to Highway 101.

Spring Break

We ate our snacks, carefully got back in the kayaks, avoiding disasters of mud & barnacle & escaped boats, paddled another half mile up the slough, then came back to the laundry room docks & put things in the dryer. Then, a quick trip around the point, the current at our backs.

Spring Break

It’s amazing to be able to move around so easily. For the first time I understand what people mean when they say exercise is calming and improves one’s mood. I feel glowing and powerful. My leg still hurts, but kayaking harder doesn’t make it worse, so I don’t worry about pushing myself too hard (unlike walking or swimming.) Though reading in bed with Moomin is good, I’m glad to be able to do something new — this is better than enduring a long drive and grueling wheelchair trips through crowded museums or the zoo (hills!!! ugh) things I can barely stand to do even though I want him to have fun experiences. So, boating! It doesn’t hurt!

Last night I went out again for 20 minutes or so and measured the current in the creek with the upcoming tide. It was 3 miles an hour – and I’ve felt it stronger.

The low tide trip with Moomin must have been nearing slack water because there was almost no current – no wind – almost effortless to paddle.

Moomin’s spring break is turning out great, with lots of reading and boating. Here’s the rhythm we’re getting into: I wake up at 7, work, he gets his own breakfast when he wakes up later, then we eat a quick lunch or pack “provisions” into the boats and take off for an hour or two. Then I work more. We’ve had some extra reading time together in the afternoons, and then he has hip hop classes till 5:30. I end up working late at night a bit, but as long as I get some good time with him that’s been okay.

Spring Break