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Monday, September 22, 2014

San Francisco Is Crowdsourcing Ideas for a New Market Street

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Theater hot spot. Redlight district. Line of boarded-up buildings and squats. Aspiring Champs-Elysees or 42nd Street. Tax-dodging tech corridor. Newly rejuvenated arts artery. Intersection point for so many battles over demography, redevelopment, and ultimately, the soul of San Francisco.

It seems the only thing that's consistent about Market Street is that it's consistently being reimagined, fraught with new symbolism, and transformed to fit whatever current vision the city has for itself. In 2005, San Francisco's Redevelopment Agency tried to rehabilitate the area by using eminent domain to convert vacant properties into affordable housing or retail; the plan flopped. In 2009, real estate mogul David P. Addington introduced an abortive ballot measure to put billboards on the properties between Fifth and Seventh streets. And in 2010, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom smugly acknowledged that Market Street "is not the Champs-Elysees," though he pledged to keep working at it.

Now, the Mayor's Office is asking residents for more ideas for the ever-changing corridor. Next year, the city will host its first Market Street Prototyping Festival, featuring installations that depict new visions for Market Street, all along the city's sidewalks. Urban designers have until October 10 to submit their proposals and compete for funding and workspace that might bring their ideas to fruition.
Maybe this is a step in the right direction for San Francisco: a revitalization effort that doesn't involve tax breaks for tech companies, or taxpayer money diverted to private developers, or slavish imitations of other cities. Or maybe it's a crafty way to get ordinary citizens to pick up the slack for city administrators, whose plans for mid-Market have never quite panned out.

Whatever the case, it could be a fabulous opportunity for the winning prototype-maker, with festival sponsors — the San Francisco Planning Department, the Knight Foundation, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — noting in their pitch: "Your idea may become San Francisco's newest icon."

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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