Saturday afternoon offered a great opportunity to explore San Francisco beyond the convention hotel and downtown corridor. I met a friend and promptly pronounced that I wanted to walk San Francisco, to see and explore the sights of the great American city. After some brisk walking, we came across one of the coolest neighborhoods of our urban tour: Hayes Valley. Many people will recall that an earthquake, dubbed “Loma Prieta”, impacted this area San Francisco in 1989. The elevated Central Freeway section of U. S. 101 was damaged and eventually demolished.
It is interesting to observe how neighborhoods rebuild after catastrophic events. Hayes Valley is an area that made careful and deliberate decisions with regard to rebuilding the community. While much of the area is trendy with boutiques, bars and restaurants, there are other parts of the region that have been redeveloped in a different way altogether.
The picture included with this blog post shows a portion of the “Proxy Project”, built as a temporary placeholder on vacant lots owned by the city, on Octavia Street, which represents the innovative reuse of existing materials. A successful example of a collection of food trucks and converted shipping containers with a common seating area yields a great neighborhood hangout.
Most of us are familiar with the transformation of shipping containers into interesting structures. In Hayes Valley a strategic corner has become the location for an ice cream shop, coffee bar, bike shop and German beer garden.
The lower costs of these objects are perfect for new restaurant and retail concepts. San Francisco Bay is a major port, so shipping containers are readily available, and reasonably priced, making them more affordable than the traditional construction methods for commercial buildings. The containers are outfitted with electricity and plumbing– and sliding doors lock the spaces up tight at night.
The earthquake and resulting devastation might have resulted in this neighborhood’s demise, or its rebirth. It is pretty clear what happened: a rebirth, utilizing new ways of thinking about urban life. Since my visit, I’ve researched this concept in depth. I wonder if this might work in the Queen City. It certainly works well in the city on the Bay!
* Lyle Foster is an instructor of sociology and has shared his recent experiences at the American Sociological Association meetings in San Francisco, California in August.