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“The Doom Loop “- Walking Through Downtown San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco, we are told, is in a “doom loop”. You probably have heard. Everyday, the San Francisco Chronicle, publishes the latest report on employers leaving downtown, retailers closing their doors, wasted public money on poorly managed programs (2 million dollar toilets!), the latest staggering statistics on homelessness, and so on. And if you didn’t hear it there, the national press loves these stories, … Continue reading “The Doom Loop “- Walking Through Downtown San Francisco

The Tiny Shops of The Tendernob

This is an update to a post from last year

We live on the backside Nob Hill. When you stand up at the top , near Grace Cathedral, and look south, your eye follows the canyon of the street down towards Market and the Tenderloin. Between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, is the Tendernob. The Tendernob is one of the densest neighborhoods in the country outside of Manhattan. In fact, it feels to me like a slice of Manhattan right here, lined with 6-story apartment buildings end to end.

Its a neighborhood populated with a mish mash of working professionals, art students, seniors, and, as always, assorted characters. There is an eclectic mix of buildings in the neighborhood. More interesting perhaps,  a fascinating collection of   tiny mom and pop shops . Many of the apartment buildings have tiny spaces, sometimes almost closets really, on the ground floor available for lease. In the parlance of the industry, these shops are known as micro-retail, tiny business incubators. The shops reflect the neighborhood; hair salons, tiny clothing stores, and assorted tchotchke emporiums, selling everything from paperclips to paper dragons.  What’s been interesting over the past couple of years is to watch them . Some are stable and thriving, other spaces have hosted new tenants every 6 months. And in one sad case, a fire has brought the demise of another, in that case, the very spot where I get my haircut. Here’s a look around:

Leftover Spaces

As mentioned above, many of these spaces are at the base of apartment buildings. Often , a result of the sharply sloping streets, small leftover spaces are created, and  turned into leasable space. Here are a few just down the street. 

Each of these spaces is no more than 10 feet wide, and maybe 25 feet deep. This particular group includes a small graphic designer and a accupunturist. Here’s a close-up of the accupuncturist, this space can’t be more than 8 feet wide, the waiting room a single chair:

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The Taylor and Jones Shimmee

During the past year, I have described travels down a single street, and the changes one encounters along the way. We traveled from the bottom of Market Street to the top, and journeyed up Polk Street from one end to the other. I took that up again last week, getting out for a trek along Taylor and Jones Streets. It started amidst the insanity of Mid-Market , shimee-ed up and over Nob and Russian Hills, and then spat us out in a different kind of mayhem; Fisherman’s Wharf. Here’s the  route:

Author’s Note: As some have followed these tours previously, I should caution that the first part of the trip, at least from Market to O’Farrell, should not be taken at night. Also, this walk, about 2.5 miles all told, traverses several hills, including a couple of pretty steep blocks. I’m just sayin’ .

Part 1- Stepping Tenderly

We begin our trip at the confluence of Taylor Street, Market, and 6th Streets, one of the more colorful intersections in our fair city, to say the least. There is much to take in here, a goodly portion of it legally questionable, at a minimum. One of the best places to take this all in is the newly opened ShowDogs on the corner; you can sit in the prow of the building with a fine Porter or Stout and contemplate the madness in front of you. 5 star street theater. Think of it as a bracer for the hike ahead. Taylor Street begins at Market, and in these parts is standard issue Tenderloin, chock-a-block with low-rent fleabag hotels  next to some terrific new affordable housing; and community serving non-profits next to dive bars (also community serving). The sidewalks are usually full with locals walking, talking, and yes, sometime staggering and sleeping.

Bar Names are dispensed with down here, just an address. No chaser.

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Those Damn Residents, If They Would Only Listen

A new condo building went up in the neighborhood recently. Here it is:

I like this building’s reinterpretation of a two apartment wide block of flats with bays. I think its interest lies in its tweaking of the massing, angled center section with bays rising to the top, rather than contained within, the main box of  the building, as well as the use of materials- steel and concrete in particular. It’s received a fair amount of adulation in the press, which surprised me a bit, since despite my comments above, the building really doesn’t break any significant new ground. What it does do impeccably, is reflect the current fashion of the day, namely checkerboard window and textural patterns , oriented vertically if at all possible, something poor XIP Cleaners next door doesn’t have going for it.

This building is a crisply detailed modern building, and as such, one of its key features is the floor to ceiling glass. This glass does 2 things, it lets a large amount of light (and heat) into these south-facing rooms, but it also lets the passerby glimpse in, perhaps, at the hoped for exquisitely furnished modern digs. And herein lies the classic problem for the modernist, controlling the interior. For in the condo, building, once its  sold and you turn over the keys to a buyer, they likely have their own ideas. So architects hurry to get the interior photos shot before someone moves in. So how has this turned out here:

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