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 Brownfields: Post-Industrial Alameda Tour


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Tour Stop 4
Bethlehem Steel Shipways
1100-1250 Marina Village Parkway


Historical Property Use

A small 14 acre shipyard that began operation in 1900 at the foot of Webster Street was later purchased by Union Iron Works, a Bethlehem Steel subsidiary in 1916. The yard remained active through WWI employing up to 8,000 workers. Between WWI and WWII the shipyard was largely dormant.

The four massive shipways, large concrete slabs sloping from above the head houses to the south down into the Oakland Harbor at the north, were built in 1942-43. The shipways are flanked by six level craneways with the head houses located under the south end. During WWII the shipways were used to construct ten-23,000 ton troop ships and repair hundreds of other ships. In 1948 the last boats built at the site were launched and the yard was again abandoned.

Environmental Concerns

The shipways have been modified by cutting many small openings in their sides and pumping dredged material into the space. Disposal of dredge material, particularly dredge material which contains chemical residues is difficult to permit. Use of near shore disposal sites such as the space between the shipway foundations is often sought as a cheap solution to upland or ocean disposal. It is likely that the dredged material contained high levels of metals as a results of ship painting and sand-blasting at the site.

One underground storage tank associated with WWII operations was also removed from the site in the 1990's. "Case closure" has been obtained from Alameda County Health department.

Current Property Use

Originally proposed for demolition and redevelopment as condominiums in 1971, the historically significant buildings were preserved by Measure A, a local initiative that restricted the construction of high density housing. Unable to recoup the cost of demolishing the shipways under other development schemes the head houses were "sensitively" remodeled into office space and a marina in the 1980's. The remodeling included cutting many openings in the buildings for windows and doors.

What to Look For

All salvageable steel has been removed from the site as evidenced by ends of bolts embedded into concrete that once used to hold the craneways in place between each shipway. Air Raid Shelter signs have also been preserved on a number of the shipways.

Along the water, deteriorating steel piles can be seen beneath craneways. These piles were driven to provide a stable foundation for the shipways.

Site Statistics

DEVELOPER: Vintage Properties

ACREAGE: 15 acres


CLEANUP STATUS: Tank removal.



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August 24, 1999