Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates

San Francisco, California

Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates (BVHPCA) began in 1994 as a stalwart group of grassroots volunteers, who were long-term members of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco. Their mission came out of community organizing, with education, advocacy and direct services driving their work.

Bayview-Hunters Point has been a neighborhood under siege for 200 years from industrial and chemical pollution. It hosts one of the first Superfund sites in the country; the 866-acre Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, home to a shipyard from 1945 to 1974, the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) from 1948 to 1960, and finally declared a Superfund site in 1989. Reports of the cleanup work indicate that some of the progress was faked, allowing housing construction to begin too soon.

An aerial view of Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard.

In addition, this community has a sewage plant, a recycling and garbage processing plant and is hemmed in by freeways in every direction, limiting access and exposing the neighborhoods to constant vehicle emissions.

Faced with these and other challenges, in 2019, the BVHPCA regrouped, reorganized and renewed their commitment to environmental justice advocacy, launching several new programs:

  • A new Southeast Community Council – training for environmental justice advocacy and organizing
  • A new Community Toxic Index, documenting neighborhood sites under environmental agency oversight
  • A new text hotline to report Muni issues
  • An online library of documents regarding the Navy’s toxic waste dump at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
  • Planning for a community-owned co-op grocery store.
Bayview industrial park

Then in 2020, as it did in so many parts of the country, the pandemic brought all of Bayview-Hunters Point vulnerabilities into full view. Because of the relationships they have in the community and the dire need they saw as the city shut down and Bayview Hunters Point became isolated, BVHPCA was enlisted to do neighborhood outreach to the unhoused population. As Michele Pierce, the Executive Director, said, “Did I know that food security was a problem ahead of time? Yes. But did I understand how deep it was, or the fact that there were so many structural barriers to getting fresh food? I had no idea.”

And so at a call from Gloria Berry SF Democratic County Central Committee, Michelle and Gwendolyn Westbrook of Mother Brown’s Dining Room pulled together to help the people of southeast San Francisco with cooked meals, grocery distribution—feeding 1,400 people per day  during one week in March—and COVID-19 tests. In this community of disenfranchised people, a new approach built on trust and input from community organizers and advocates helped reach those who are often unreachable. “‘It’s a very fraught, very interesting relationship,’ Pierce said [in an interview]. To overcome that, ‘you need community in the lead,’ she added. ‘You need to have them driving the process and you need to stop and listen to them.’”

Supervisor Shamann Walton, D10, worked with UCSF and the San Francisco Department of Public Health to bring the “United in Health D10” testing program to the Bayview neighborhood. Testing was held at Havard Early Education School. (Courtesy Susan Merrell/UCSF)

In May 2021, the Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates was one of the organizations awarded by the city of San Francisco as part of a “$3.75 million investment will support training, technical assistance, and neighborhood revitalization in San Francisco’s historically Black communities.” 

Enviro-heroes Michelle Pierce, Tony Kelly and Marie Harrison

Written by Michele Gielis

Links

Mayor London Breed Announces Awards for Black and African American Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs as part of the Dream Keeper Initiative, Office of the Mayor | News Release, May 5, 2021

Who’s leading Covid-19 outreach among the homeless? The homeless themselves., Mission Local, by Hayden Manseau, November 12, 2020

Panelists discuss Hunters Point history, radioactivity, and future for Bayview engagement, Mission Local, by Annika Hom, October 14, 2020

Meet the Women Fighting COVID-19 and Feeding Folks in Bayview-Hunters Point, The FRISC, August 28, 2020

Pandemic exacerbates food insecurity for San Franciscans in need, San Francisco Examiner, by Carly Graf, August 2, 2020

Community-Led Effort Brings Free COVID-19 Testing to SF’s Bayview, Visitacion Valley, KQED, by Nina Sparling, June 2, 2020

Power concedes nothing without a demand: Community demands reinstatement of Hunters Point Shipyard RAB, San Francisco Bay View, by Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD, October 12, 2019

Community exposure research in Bayview Hunters Point , San Francisco Bay View, by Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD, January 8, 2019

San Francisco residents were sure nearby industry was harming their health. They were right., Grist, by Greta Jochem, June 20, 2018

Racial Justice in the Nuclear Age: Community-based Knowledge Infrastructures for Environmentally Just Futures

Neighborhood Group Sues City over Bayview Hunters Point Biodiesel Plant, SF Weekly, by Joe Eskenazi, March 9, 2009

Contact
Tony Kelly

Website/social media
https://bvhpadvocates.org/

Climate impacts
Wildfires
Water contamination
Air pollution

Strategy
Halting bad development
Fighting industrial contamination
Renewable energy
Community farm/gardens
Nature-based solutions

501c3 tax deductible
Yes

Accepting donations
Yes – donate here.

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