Sunday, July 12, 2009

San Francisco Day{lighting}s

My explorations of San Francisco started in 1988, years before the tech. boom and a year before the Loma Prieta quake, which we are closing in on the twentieth anniversary of. Using SOMA as a base, I'd explore various neighborhoods like North Beach, Upper Haight, and Potrero Hill.

One of the things I learned about were the freeways in San Francisco. The 101 and the 80 connected to go through town, but there were these spurs that funneled traffic into it. These sinewy arteries reached into neighborhoods, but were a mere fraction of what was planned in 1948. There also seemed to be these underutilized freeways, such as the Embarcadero, which, at the time, I thought these massive superstructures were cool. They reminded me of gritty 70s movies like The French Connection.

The Embarcadero Freeway {see 480 on the map to the left}, particularly in the off-hours, offered quick access to North Beach, emptying off at Broadway. I look back and I now realize that what the freeway did was encourage me to drive more, with time-saving being a wash, as I was often looking for parking.

In 1989, I was in San Francisco in May and August. I was contemplating another trip in October, right around the World Series-the ill-fated "Bay Bridge Series" between Oakland As and the SF Giants. The Loma Prieta Quake hit during game 3. In the wake of the quake, then mayor Art Agnos decided not to rebuild the damaged Embarcadero, a double-decker structure like the ill-fated Nimitz.

I remember having mixed feelings about the closure, but it wasn't until 1992 when a friend {Dennis} of mine walked from Embarcadero BART to Fort Mason that I fully appreciated the "daylighting" of the Embarcadero. Below are before and after pictures of the Ferry Building, which was obscured by the freeway. In the early 2000s, I went to quite a few events and symposia at Swissnex near North Beach and relearned the joy of walking the city. A few years ago, I recall going out of my way to walk along The Embarcadero en route from Embarcadero BART to {gasp} the Marina.

I think the Embarcadero could be a "great street" to use an Allan Jacobs-ism, but has a ways to go before it gets there.

San Francisco Ferry Building- Before the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake

San Francisco Ferry Building, 2007

The video below chronicles the daylighting history of the freeway and also discusses the demise of a large section of the Central Skyway, which was turned into the Octavia extension. I've blogged about walkable cities, particularly as it pertains to Toronto. I think there are lessons that can be learned from San Francisco's experiences, which can be applied to making Toronto more walkable and less dependent on the automobile. LinnyQat has mentioned that mayor David Miller made it a point to revitalize the waterfront. I love walking along the waterfront, but I hate crossing under the Gardiner by foot.

Update {18 July 2009}::
I just saw this post that announced the crumbling Gardiner Expressway in Toronto will likely be demolished east of Jarvis & the Front Street extension {FSE} has been cancelled {Front Street west of Bathurst}. One architect advocates turning the elevated Gardiner into a park, like the 22-block New York Highline. The Gardiner has been mired in controversy for decades. This short article tries to detail this. This pdf of a PowerPoint reviews how several cities have dealt with or are dealing with removing elevated highways.

As an aside, the song below always reminds me of trips to San Francisco back in the late 80s, with the windows down and few cares in the world.

Twitterversion:: 20yrsAgo,BayArea LomaPrieta quake began demise of Embarcadero Frwy. Now a walkable destination,can cities learn fr. this? @Prof_K

jodie wears a hat although it hasn't rained for six days
she says a girl needs a gun these days hey on account of all the rattlesnakes
she looks like eve marie saint in on the waterfront
she reads simone de beauvoir in her american circumstance
she's less than sure if her heart has come to stay in san josé
and her neverborn child still haunts her as she speeds down the freeway
as she tries her luck with the traffic police out of boredom more than spite
she never finds no trouble, she tries too hard she's obvious despite herself
she looks like eve marie saint in on the waterfront
she says all she needs is therapy
yeah all you need is, love is all you need
jodie never sleeps 'cause there are always needles in the hay
she says that a girl needs a gun these days hey on account of all the rattlesnakes
she looks like eve marie saint in on the waterfront
as she reads simone de beauvoir in her american circumstance
her heart, heart's like crazy paving
upside down and back to front
she says ooh, it's so hard to love
when love was your great disappointment

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