San Francisco – Ball Park to South Park —- This walk focused on transitions between SOMA neighborhoods that endured incredible change over the last few decades, from a stark industrial stretch to the current mix of lofts and high-end retail amid the original warehouses and tradeshops. Discussion focused on the evolution of the streetscape in the area, and how the economic disparity has both supported and stymied development and how this effects the pedestrian experience and general liveablity in the area. Participants engaged in a broad range of discussion from the varied genres of commercial entities flourishing in the neighborhood to the impact the landmark Ball Park has had on the immediate area’s economics.
Walk leader: Nancy McClure
Date: Saturday, May 1, 2010
Time: 10 am – 11:30 am
History of South Beach / Mission Bay:
The region was a murky swamp flanking a wide shallow bay full of clams and oysters. 1870-90s saw the area used as garbage dumping grounds for butchers and tanneries. The area received much of the landfill from leveled Rincon Hill after the 1906 earthquake, and was dominated by train tracks and warehouses serving the shipping & canning industries. Landfill and subsequent railyard developments lay the ground for the landmark Ball Park Arena in 1994.
Residential traffic via horse-drawn trolley in 1800s replaced by a level street grid for trollys and trains for easy transport of shipping freight. By 1870s, train tracks ran right to the docks. In 1933 a transcontinental rail stop Southern Pacific Depot was built at 3rd/Townsend.
History of South Park
from FoundSF.org & Wikipedia
SF’s first ‘planned development’ in 1853 – 4 sections in English ‘crescent style’ layout of grand mansions around an orchard center with windmill.
‘Second Street Cut’ in 1868 impacted views to Bay, resulting in decreased residential property values. Wealthy moved to NobHill for exclusivity and hilltop views.
Large land tracks for grand residences transitioned well to build warehouses and tenement housing and working class moved into area to support port jobs. By 1920s, was a culturally diverse neighborhood, creating well-established communities of immigrant culture which continue today.
During WWII the Embarcadero was a military post hub, increasing racial diversity with renters, who were eventually displaced in 1980’s by rising rents as the area’s industrial loft spaces were increasingly in demand for arts and ‘dot-com’ functions, earning the current name ‘multimedia gulch’.
1990-2000 Census reports SOMA/SouthBeach neighborhoods had largest population growth (employment) numbers, and shared greatest new residential unit growth (primarily rental units) with North Beach.
The conversion of the 13 acre industrial brownfield site in 1994 into a landmark Ballpark and supporting infrastructure has reportedly brought the area over $1 billion in private investment, creating more than 30,000 new jobs and housing for more than 11,000 residents.
The greater neighborhood is served by several transportation routes and public transit lines:
HWY 80 – East Bay connection with neighborhood off-ramps
HWY 280 – Penninsula route with direct feed to King Street
MUNI – Bus lines – 8, 10, 14, 76, 80, 81, 82, 91, 108
Light Rail lines – N, T
CalTrain – Penninsula commuter rail line terminal
BART – Stations within a 1 mile radius
The 4 Key Aspects
What makes a neighborhood liveable?
A district must serve more than one primary function. A variety of uses, from residential to commercial to the various functions that support both, is essential for a sustainable, vibrant neighborhood. The mix insures the presence of people on different schedules and with different purposes to keep ‘eyes on the street’.
Smaller blocks offer more opportunities for turning corners and meandering to ‘discover’ shops and services. The mixing of paths and fluidity of use ties together city neighborhoods, increasing incubation and experimentation and reducing isolated areas.
NYC standard city block: 265 x 900
SF downtown block: 10 blks/mile = 500 x 500
SOMA/SouthPark city block: 1000 x 500
Walk Score: 97 out of 100 – A Walkers’ Paradise
Mixed Aged Buildings:
If a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there area automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction. Neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and thrift stores go into older buildings. Achieving a mix of functions, a mix of user groups and street-scale vendors requires this mix of affordable old amid the lucrative new.
Housing Data (sources: Craigslist.org & Zillow.com)
Studio apartment: $900/mo
2BR apartment: $2-3,000/mo
1BR Condominium unit: $600,000
3BR Condominium unit: $2.5 – 5 Million
Higher-density districts combining both residences and industry functions provide the necessary mix of stationary vendors, transitory users, and invested participants to increase both vitality and safety on the streets.
About Jane’s Walk
Evaluating neighborhoods through Jane Jacob’s perspective
Jane’s Walk honors the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.
Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighborhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. Since its inception in 2007, Jane’s Walk has happened in cities across North America, and is growing internationally.
Resources and Recommended Reading:
By Jane Jacobs:
Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961
The Economy of Cities, 1969
Dark Days Ahead, 2004
A collaboration between Shaping San Francisco and San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, and many individual contributors. Archive by Decade, Neighborhood & Theme
Craigslist.org & zillow.com
Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions
by Edward Soja, 2000
The core of the book is a section of 6 chapters, each focusing on a key issue of post modern debate about megacities. Each starts with a list of 20 of the most important books about the issue and summarizes the main points of debate.
by Campoli & MacLean, 2007
An essay on the density challenge facing the United States, an illustrated manual on planning and designing for “good” density, and a catalog of more than 250 diverse neighborhoods across the country, noting density in housing units per acre for each site.