Local Hidden Gem: Alameda Point (aka the old Naval Air Station)

in the twentieth century, the western end of Alameda Island — right across the bay from San Francisco, just west of Oakland — was variously used as an airport, a yacht harbor, a seaplane port (Pan Am? China Clipper, anyone?), and, most significantly, a naval air station. after the air station shut down in the late nineties, a halting and problematic privatization and revitalization effort for the land now known as Alameda Point (which involves a Superfund environmental cleanup) has left many of the buildings in a boarded-up holding pattern. some of the old living units, however, have been turned into low-income housing, and some of the warehouses and hangars have commercial tenants. the old runways have seen use in TV shows (Mythbusters, when they need a lot of space, for instance), and at least one movie (they made a whole freeway for Matrix Reloaded).

i first visited Alameda Point in 2005 and decided last night to make a return trip to see what’s changed. there’s definitely been a slow but steady increase in the commercialization of the land, and it’s clear the public has become much more aware of the place in the years since. there were people walking their dogs and jogging, there’s a skate park now, and i counted quite a number of parents teaching their children how to drive on the open roads.

some pictures follow. the full set is on flickr but i didn’t take as many pictures this time as in 2005 because a) i was feeling a bit lazy and perhaps more importantly, b) there was an increased security patrol presence (i don’t remember any last time i was there, when it was still officially Navy land; it now belongs to Alameda city, as i understand it). while the guy was nice, you apparently cannot even walk up to the buildings anymore — not like you can even get inside since they’re very securely boarded up. :\ there are some parts that were even completely fenced off this time around.

i should also note that the first Sunday of every month, there is an antiques fair held on one of the old runways(!). i’ll definitely have to check it out!


City Hall West (whatever that is), the old Naval Air Station HQ. The plaque marks the western end of the First Transcontinental Railroad (1869!).


In case you forgot it was a Naval Air Station.


Typical buildings — if i’m reading my map/guide correctly it’s part of the Bachelors Enlisted Men Quarters.


Wildflowers (our state flower, the golden poppy, I think?) are reclaiming the land.


View over the old runways to downtown San Francisco across the Bay, with the Bay Bridge on the right.


The skate park with the Port of Oakland (and its big AT-AT-esque container cranes) in the background. Note the porta-potty! Handy if you need to go.


Through a window into one of the large buildings. It’s been raining recently so clearly the roof isn’t in the greatest shape.


One of the large buildings


The old control tower for the airport, now offices.


The yacht harbor was turned into the Seaplane Lagoon. Some reserve military ships are on the left; on the right are the old seaplane hangars, now with commercial tenants including a gym.


On the left is the old Air Terminal which was the home to Pan Am’s China Clipper service in the ’30s; on the right is their old hangar with a 60-year commemorative mural. The man in front is one of the volunteers that staffs the air museum that’s housed in the Air Terminal.

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