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We need to act now

How to create successful sidewalks

The potential of San Francisco’s Central Market Street includes:

• Unique space for creative workers in a transit-rich and highway accessible neighborhood
• A permanent place for new arts to take hold
• A safe “24 hour downtown,” convenient to all of The City and the entire Bay Area

The additional people that these presences will bring to the street --- throughout the entire day --- will tip the balance of street activity to safety.

There is one looming problem to creating an enduring, unique district

--- Find out what it is here!

The benefits of what is there now

Central Market Street is a commercial street serving the transit needs of the center of The City. It runs past SOMA and Tenderloin, but is distinct and separate.

“Market Street itself is arguably the most transit-intensive street on the West Coast,” points out the Central Market Community Benefit District. “Central Market is connected to the rest of the region by two BART stations and to the rest of the city by the MUNI Metro system, both at Civic Center and Powell stations, also at least 20 bus lines.”

The commercial buildings range from pre-earthquake to mid-century modern, from two story to high rise. The remains of the pre-TV days survive in the form of three theaters operating successfully for live entertainment and two partially demolished ones --- one of which is vacant while one serves as a porno place.

• Central Market Street includes the Theater district. It provides access to SOMA, the cutting-edge bar, arts and restaurant district. It touches the region's best shopping district.

The problems of what is there now

• It also touches on The Tenderloin and Sixth St neighborhoods, which are zoned not to change, are not going away. This will always be a detriment as compared with other neighborhoods in The City. When the economy takes a dip, other neighborhoods always lower their rents to lure tenants and owners away from Central Market.

• The creation of a sanctuary for "gentlemen of leisure" (troubled homeless men) north of Central Market and on Sixth St has made the street unattractive for shoppers and workers --- and scary for tourists.


More about residents and artists is HERE

• Preventing drivers from using Market Street from Eleventh to Fifth Streets to access parking garages has further tightened the screws against Central Market businesses and owners.

More about cars is HERE

Who needs it?

The idea behind this report is that a 24 hour district is necessary to create an attractive street scene. Even with the tech habit of making work spaces self contained worlds, workers and visitors must use Market Street at least twice a day.


Conversely, Market Street transit iand roadway can bring shoppers, visitors and entertainment seekers throughout the day to populate the street - if there exists a reason to be there.

Now the good part

• San Francisco is a fantastic lure for the imaginative.


• Nightlife activities and restaurants in and around The City are in need of accessible venues in a suitable location.

The benefits of 24 hour downtowns

24 hour districts define the nature of a city, bringing customers from the entire region. And in San Francisco's convention and tourist City, they are vital.


• Previously, South of Market provided a unique District which co-existed with small manufacturing, service and wholesale uses. Now this area is stressed by the invasion of residential uses. We are finding that apartment dwellers don't want a “24 hour neighborhood.” They don't want crowds outside theaters, bars, restaurants. They don't want sounds on a "24 hour" schedule.


Nightlife attractions need a district free of residents and close to transportation and to highway access.


How it would work

Only the properties with frontage on Market Street would be involved with Central Market Arts Spaces. Residents will remain in South of Market, protected from 24 hour activity, yet enjoying Market St proximity when they wish.


Tenderloin residents will not be affected by zoning or use changes. They will not be driven out due to San Francisco’s “many anti-displacement laws,” says Randy Shaw of Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a large preserver of Tenderloin’s low cost housing.


Performing Arts are essential

The patrons of performing arts --- theater-goers --- make up the group which is necessary for a 24 hour Downtown.


Theater-goers come from a large area because highways merging at a single location are needed to create a critical mass.


Here's how it works:

In a successful 24 hour downtown, the most important attraction is a variety of special restaurants. While it was previously believed that residents of adjoining residential buildings were the key to restaurant success, we now know that office workers, shoppers, theatergoers and Nightlifers are actually more important. And it is necessary, in a successful 24 hour downtown, for each use throughout the day to have at least TWO groups of users to succeed.


For a restaurant, dinner is the most vital key to success. Restaurants can't thrive in single-use areas.


Theater-goers attract the most essential customers for restaurants by providing the missing link between Office workers, Shoppers and Nightlifers.


The Solution:
Central Market as a mixed use lure

Office districts have been criticized because they close down at 6 p m. As a reaction, the goal became creating a "24 hour" neighborhood by putting luxury housing into the mix.

We are now coming to see: that doesn't work.

There's no way to build enough apartments to support the restaurants, arts, theaters, and bars that make up a "24 hour" neighborhood.

Apartment buildings decrease the job benefits of downtown. As a SPUR study points out, "a 300,000-square-foot building might support more than 1,200 office jobs but only 500 residents." The 50 or so service jobs of a residential building of that size are not significant.

Apartment dwellers don't support restaurants, arts, theaters, bars to the extent that Nightlife people do.

It is the Central Market regional transportation system that makes possible the ideal "24 hour" neighborhood.

• San Francisco needs increased office space to make use of its central location and transportation facilities and to provide jobs and real estate with highest taxable potential. New office construction and renovation are necessary to support continuing employment growth for the entire region. A concentration of office buildings makes possible --- and depends on --- a regional transportation system such as exists at Central Market.

•  The City needs a Nightlife District where it can incubate a flourishing arts and entertainment scene.

The goal is to balance street life in Central Market so that workers, residents, shoppers, Nightlifers, tourists and "gentlepeople of leisure" exist in proportions comfortable to all.

An analysis of the numbers of people on Market Street appears HERE.

Making Art Spaces work - Imagining how

The artists will have their expensive and exasperating real estate problem eased. They will be located in a welcoming environment with a crucial mass large enough to protect their needs.

The tech workers will have a unique district, a true "24 hour city center," with a varied stock of working spaces, located along the one street served by the best transit in Northern California. The potential is a San Francisco-only place where restaurants, shops and services are close-by.

The "people of leisure" to the north and south of Central Market Street are protected from losing their homes and services by existing zoning, by The City payments to SRO landlords, and by the charitable organizations which have build and continue to build "luxury look" buildings around the Hilton and south of Market.

Arts Spaces for a “24 hour downtown” provide the lure that will bring a balance to Market Street sidewalks consisting of workers, residents, shoppers, Nightlifers, tourists and "people of leisure" in a unique district serving the entire Bay Area.

The problem about removing cars from Central Market Street is that shoppers, theatergoers and Nightlifers don't have transit solutions at the hours they want to come to the central city. They need to drive long distances and they want close proximity to the door of their destination.

Market Street is the final and essential link.


The ironic thing about successful sidewalks is that they need cars to succeed.


Next:  Inside and out of the Central Market Arts District


A discussion of the new construction and renovation

of buldings in and around the district


The author is in debt to the insights and experiences of Joe Landini of SAFEhouse for the Arts, Mary Alice Fry of Footloose Presents, David Addington of Fair Market Properties, George Williams of the Mid-Market PAC. (Although I suspect they disagree with many conclusions in the report - and all of the dashes and comas.)

Your comments, updates, proposals are welcome Here


Sources include:
Framing the future of downtown San Francisco
by Egon Terplan and Lisa Bell of SPUR


About the author of The Plan
Anthony King is a city planner and designer experienced in San Francisco, New York, Boston.

In New York City, he created the plans for the Lincoln Center Neighborhood and for Murray Hill South.

These were old, declining neighborhoods bisected by a wide street which was a center of petty crime and ominous activity. Retail and restaurants had declined. The large theaters and music venues on Lincoln Center Plaza faced customer complaints about the area, with unfavorable effects on ticket sales. New residential projects in Murray Hill South were suffering. Desired shops and restaurants were failing.

In both neighborhoods, by special zoning to add diverse entertainment, safe sidewalks and an all-day influx of visitors tipped the balance of street activity to safety.