San Francisco has embarked on a project to transform its industrial southeast waterfront into a bike-friendly destination called the Blue Greenway. When completed, the Blue Greenway will be a 13-mile network of parks, bike lanes and trails along the southeastern edge of the city.
Among its many benefits, the project creates green space and waterfront access in the low-income Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. The Blue Greenway is part of a larger transformation of Bayview Hunters Point. This older, neglected neighborhood is still full of vacant lots and a large, abandoned naval base, but it is becoming a landscape of hip townhomes and new coffee shops. Its transformation includes the complicated cleanup of many toxic waste sites — most notoriously, a military radiation lab on the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.
The Blue Greenway project cleans up toxic land along its route with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program, which supports the cleanup and reuse of contaminated sites. Brownfield redevelopment projects like the Blue Greenway are intended to bring environmental and economic benefits to run-down urban areas. And yet, as I have found in my own research, they can also contribute to gentrification and economic displacement.