Bayview-Hunters Point is well documented as one of San Francisco’s oldest and authentically diverse communities. Its history includes contact between early Spanish explorers and native Ohlone dwellers along the shores of Islais Creek, one of seven major watersheds in the Southeast part of San Francisco. Today, Islais Landing and the adjacent Bayview Gateway Park are being developed as an uplifting entrance and welcome to the varied Bayview neighborhoods.
Following California statehood in 1850, the land we now know as the Bayview- Hunters Point district was subdivided into rural ranch-lands and gardens, with these parcels then sold to a diverse group European settlers and ‘49ers. Between 1860 and 1910, the area evolved into San Francisco’s most consistently and ethnically varied community, with British merchants and landowner-farmers, Scandinavian and German boat builders at India Basin; Italian and German home-builders and ranchers in central Bayview. A number of Chinese shrimp camps were present along the India Basin shoreline near Hunters Point in the 1870’s, with Italian, Maltese, and Portuguese truck farmers in the Bayview from 1890’s and French tannery workers and Mexican and southwestern vaqueros at Butchertown since 1900.
Nearby Hunters Point established the areas industrial history, beginning with the construction of the San Francisco Dry Dock at Hunters Point in 1866. Today’s 3rd Street alignment was then known as ‘Railroad Avenue’, following its earlier use as a plank road stagecoach and railroad line. Renamed in 1910, the corridor we know today as the commercial and retail axis within central Bayview was intersected by a series of alphabetically named streets (A-Amador, B-Bancroft, E, Evans, T-Thomas, P,- Paul, etc., with the area between Kirkham and Williams Avenue lined with small shops, merchant warehouses and storefronts. In 1940, the U.S. Navy purchased the old Hunters Point Dry Dock (the Shipyard) for use during WWII. During this period, the population of the district increased significantly as thousands of African Americans moved to Hunters Point from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, and worked in the naval shipyard. A solid, growing, middle-class community was established throughout the neighborhoods within Bayview, with many single family homes built between 1940-1970.
Closure of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in 1974 precipitated significant job loss in the area, with the commercial and retail opportunities impacted further due to the decommissioning of the Naval base in 1991.
Additional challenges related to neglect, the impact of urban drug-use and isolation created a series of stressors over the past couple of decades. Yet investments, both public and private, continue along the Third Street corridor, with substantial examples of both since 2008, following the construction of the Third Street Light Rail, or T-Train. The area also boasts unusually warm weather, retains a vibrant and authentically diverse culture, is the City’s neighborhood with largest percentage of homeowners, and has thousands of small businesses in adjacent industrial areas of South Basin, Oakinba and India Basin. The transportation system enables trips that are minutes to downtown; 1/2 mile from Hwy.101 and 280 North/ South; 1.5 miles from Dogpatch and UCSF-Mission Bay; 15min. from SFO.
In addition to its local retail and restaurant offering, a distinguishing feature of the corridor is its rich network of institutional services, including churches, libraries and social spaces (such as Mendel Plaza), which serve as draw additional visitors to the area. Combined, residents and the industrial employees form the customer base for the neighborhood serving retail of the corridor.
Although myriad intersecting issues persist which could potentially thwart development and future progress, the resident stakeholders, property and business owners remain as dedicated, generous and positive participants in the planning and implementation for the future of the area.
Newer residents and business owners to the area are also engaged in the planning process. While encouraged by new, peripheral developments including a redeveloped shipyard, additional housing and nearby parks, these Bayview-based participants and related, associated agencies now recognize a sense of urgency with respect to delivering on a revitalized commercial corridor along Third Street. Major developments surrounding the Bayview and not located on Third Street business corridor, while not specifically serving the neighborhood itself, could draw customers from the historical ‘connecting thread’ that is Third Street. This commercial corridor, witnessing new private investment and interest, could also result in changes to the social, cultural, and physical character of the neighborhood. Retaining Bayview’s historic authenticity, diversity and genuine character, while returning a vibrant Third Street business and retail alignment to the neighbors and families who reside in the adjacent neighborhoods, is a call to action and a rare opportunity.
This site includes connections to more in-depth review of historical documentation, with additional links to outside resources.
First settled thousands of years ago by the indigenous Muwekma Ohlone on the banks of the Islais watershed, the Bayview-Hunters Point district is well documented as one of San Francisco’s oldest and authentically diverse communities.
Throughout the Spanish period (1776-1820), Hunters Point remained largely uninhabited except for the Mission cattle that were pastured in the area called Potrero Viejo, or “Old Pasture.”
In 1821-22, the province of New Spain threw off Spanish colonial rule and became the independent nation of Mexico. Dispossessed indigenous peoples who had lived at the missions departed for the hinterlands or
obtained work on the ranches. In 1839, a large ranch tract, called Rancho Rincon de las Salinas y Potrero Viejo, included most of southeastern San Francisco, including the Islais Creek watershed and all of Hunters Point
John Hunter purchased approximately 160 acres of Rancho Rincon de las Salinas y Potrero Viejo from the Bernal family in 1849 or 1850. In 1850, Hunter began trying to sell lots in an entirely new city called “South San Francisco” on the peninsula that now bears his name. Physically isolated from the rest of the city by both Mission Bay and the
Islais Creek estuary, the only way to get to
Hunters Point aside from sailing was via the San Bruno Road, completed
In 1862, the South San Francisco Homestead and Railroad Association (SSFH&RA) incorporated to market Hunters Point land to people who wished to build a house on a generous lot with room for a garden or livestock.
The Long Bridge, a stagecoach plank road across Mission Bay, from Steamboat Point to Potrero Point, was completed in in 1867. The new causeway followed the present-day alignment of Third Street (formerly Kentucky Street and Railroad Avenue). Potrero & Bay View Company initiated horse car service between downtown San Francisco and the Bay View Park Racetrack - ca.1865 (present day intersection of 3rd Street/Armstrong Ave.) ca. 1865).
Hearing of the year-round fresh water supplies at Hunters Point, English immigrant John Hamlin Burnell founded the Albion Ale and Porter Brewery in 1870. (881 Innes Avenue).
Chinese shrimp fisherman began to appear in the early 1870s. Although not initially prized by non-Chinese, the San Francisco bay shrimps they sought were
a delicacy in China.
The shrimp camps that housed the Chinese fisherman and their equipment were composed of rickety piers and rough wood shacks built of board and batten and covered with shingled roofs. They were sometimes perched on stilts along the shore. An architect in the July 23, 1893 San Francisco Chronicle
Miserable things these villages are. Nothing but unpainted shanties, blackened by the weather and the sun. A three plank wharf sticks out seaward from the shore and inland from the planking is a platform with a long shelf or table, upon which the bearers that pack the fish from the junks to the shore dump the shrimps…
Figure _Burning of Chinese Shrimp camp, 1939
Source: KVP Consulting_India Basin Historic Survey_ BHS publication 2006
In 1866, German-born engineer A. W. von Schmidt, financed by San Francisco banker William C. Ralston, noted that Hunters Point was an ideal location for a “graving” or stationary dry dock because of the impermeable character of the
serpentine bed rock and the peninsula’s deep water access. Completed in 1867,
the $250,000 dry dock, the largest in the West, was 400 feet long and 100 feet wide.
The nearby boat yards of India Basin began to appear around the same time as the shrimp camps and they became the mainstay of the area’s economic and social landscape until the eve of the Second World War.
Established by experienced English, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian boat builders in one of the few parts of the San Francisco’s Bay shoreline with deep water access that had not already been
claimed by major industries, India Basin’s boatyards concentrated on the production of bay scow schooners, 1860 –1930, small shallow-draft sailing craft that were used to haul goods like hay and agricultural produce from the sloughs of the hinterlands of San Francisco Bay to the city.