Because we play (with) ketchup

We lay down ketchup over greasy french fries and hot dogs.

We (Oakland) also play catch-up to San Francisco, a city twice as dense as us. (SF density: 17,459 per sq mi. Oak density: 7,966 per sq mi.)

They have sports teams; so do we, for now. They have the Infinity; we have The Grand.  They have the Ferry Building farmers’ market; we have the Jack London Square farmers’ market. Our politics are as corrupt and union/business/developer/mafia-influenced as theirs.

So why not copy off our neighbor? Besides, we’ll beat them to the punch on a high value target acquisition: SF Target by 2012. We also got ourselves a mayor-puppet before they will.

Two items I expect we will emulate shortly, below.

Comment: This looks good, can Audi do this on Grand-Lakeshore or Temescal-Telegraph too? I applaud the below action by luxe car company Audi mainly because at the end of the day it is time for them (and us, along with other car companies) to give back to the public realm what they (and we) took away from it. Streets are for people!

Comment: It’s about time! Midmarket needs to lose its crime and downtrodden elements (people who panhandle me daily asking for beer/ cigarette money–screw off!), and add business/ home/condo owners who are invested in its success.

I have a truly long comment for this (you can too), which is posted below. In any case, our “Midmarket” areas for improvement would include: Broadway Auto Row, 16th Street Terminus, East 14th Street.  (Did I miss any spots?)

If SF really wants midmarket to become the new Shibuya or SoHo and not remain druggie central, you first probably need to sweep aside these folks, or at least the most violent/drug dealing ones.  And even after doing that, it will take some time to become the “new Times Square.”
Second, I’d put in place scramble type pedestrian intersections — like Oakland Chinatown recently (2008) put in, or similar to FiDi or especially Shibuya’s large crosswalks.
This is what I mean:
I suggest prioritizing pedestrians first, bikes second, public transit third, and actively deprioritize cars Vancouver/Japan style with congestion pricing/SF admission fees. Of course work with local businesses to minimize disruption.
Why would a tourist in SF go to midmarket now besides cheapish hotel rooms, cheap suitcases, dollar store goods, or emergency DJ equipment? UN plaza with its fountain has minor potential, but what else is there? City halls the world over are typically boring places. Make the field next to City Hall a soccer field (with high fence) or roller coaster and you give people more reason to BE there! (And hence eat, shop, etc.)  The fake wind turbines should be removed.
In rural Japan where I worked for a while there was a “community center” where one could rent out rooms for free or cheaply — to teach free english classes, for instance. I don’t know of any space in SF which is like that.
What midmarket needs is diverse, mixed use space and dense gentry. This you can find easily in many parts of Tokyo and New York.  Midmarket is high density in “undesireables” which is why few people want to go there.  There are some tourists but not enough gainfully employed residents.
Clean up Midmarket Times Square style.  Add more pedestrian scale amenities and “reasons to be here.”  I believe the main downside to midmarket now is utter lack of focus or sense of place. How did Civic Center/Tenderloin become the homeless/ drug dealer dumping ground it is today?
Add a bowling alley and mid-range karaoke booth here, a Showdog there, build organically over time. You can’t create a great destination in a mayoral term, you know this. But you can start to. There are lots of empty holes-in-ground along Market, Grove and surrounds.  SF like other US cities is re-gentrifying. It will take time.  Start small with kiosk re-use; scrambled main intersections; reduced car lanes/”LOS”; increased sidewalks on major “arteries” perpendicular to Market; reduction of trashy people… incentives to just about any good business startup.  Perhaps ask landlords to reduce their rent to business startups who locate to the area. Start in a small, FOCUSED, core area of MidMarket. You can’t fix the whole shebang in a weekend.
Fidi, Soma and Civic center are working spaces.  The difference between the three: Civic is the least fun and is not bounded by any “ethnic” neighborhood or area with otherwise high home ownership. SF Chinatown is resilient again, or seems to be. Little Italy less so but still somewhat. Hayes Valley is doing okay, especially with the Octavia road diet treatment!
Soma gets juice from the nightclub scene, ballpark and VC-funded startups. All of these involve young(er) people. MidMarket’s attractions involve the older crowd (opera and musical houses) and the downtrodden (liquor stores), with far less youthful activity (art school). Maybe add some light industrial zoning to midmarket and people will start creating things here, which one can look at.  Not to clown on old people, we need them too as they have money and appreciate the finer things.  But you definitely need more youth.
Adding “light industrial” in specific local industries could be like watching artisans blow glass, which I did in Venice.  What is the home ownership rate in midmarket? Low I bet!? That would be another reason it’s a steaming shitpile – no one is invested!!! Change that. Certainly not Carl’s Junior. The exceptions are risk-taking upstarts like Showdog, or old hand Blick. Encourage more of this.
Midmarket also needs more TREES. Fund FUF to plant/maintain more, and add bioswales to the street! Trees improve people’s mental well-being. Maybe stick a garden in and guard it. That could help. Seems lame to me, but a rose garden might do it.  This adds value to businesses like Blick (art students go draw roses) or Showdog (patrons enjoy food in the garden, or at least view it).
Tenderloin-CivicCenter-NorthSoma is “cheap rent” but there are many trade-offs to that, mostly involving violent crime. Can the city get the drug gangs involved to sign a truce or something? Or pay off one to keep the others out.
  1. add scrambled intersections with great art or at least very big white painted crossing marks, j-style or beatles style
  2. reduce crime
  3. more art, more productive industry
  4. more trees and benches! cosmopolitan indeed.
  5. encourage more local mom-and-pop shops and youthful new-condo/homebuyer residents.
Thank you for listening!
Best wishes,
Downtown Oakland resident/ businessowner

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