March 29, 2007
A Building, Coffee and Movement That We Love In Hayes Valley
The New York Times provides a peek inside, and some back ground on, Loring Sagan’s office (Sagan Piechota Architecture and Build Inc.), loft (for those late nights), and coffee bar (Blue Bottle Coffee) in Hayes Valley.
When Loring Sagan bought a decrepit building on Linden Street here in 2002, the surrounding area in the Hayes Valley neighborhood was desolate. But having inherited an affinity for social activism from his mother...he set out to do his part to improve the situation.
Indeed, Mr. Sagan and Mr. Winslow [a local architect] have serious ambitions for their part of town. In 2006 the two were awarded a challenge grant of $100,000 by the City of San Francisco for a master plan to make Linden Street more friendly to pedestrians. (The amount will be matched by contributions from Mr. Sagan and his businesses.) Another project under way is Parcel P, a 250-unit affordable-housing development that will begin construction a few blocks away next spring...
As a reader notes: “I always liked the building and wondered who lived there.” Us too, only we love the building (especially those bifold doors).
First Published: March 29, 2007 10:22 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Posted by: blahhh at March 29, 2007 4:26 PM
Great place. But I do hate how the NYT often gets simple facts wrong. Hayes Valley was desolate in 2002? Gimme a break. 1988, perhaps...but by the early/mid 90's the desolation was giving way to funky vitality and it's just gone up and up and up from there. As a 2002 entrant, Loring Sagan is not a pioneer but a latecomer. Still...what he's doing is absolutely wonderful - no argument there.
Posted by: curmudgeon at March 30, 2007 9:16 AM
It must have meant the immediate area of Linden Street. It doesn't say all of Hayes Valley was desolate, which would be all kinds of wrong. They do kind of word it to make it seem like he saved the whole neighborhood though.
Posted by: liz at March 30, 2007 9:57 AM
Somehow having people actively engaged seems to have enlivened the alley. I know that Dark Garden likes the activity, they are no longer alone for retail. Now there is Tazzi, as well. The community around Blue Bottle Coffee is a great place to hang. I think the article is more about the positive impact that pro-active engagement can make in any realm, whether the alley or other projects the folks upstairs are undertaking. They seem to be doing a good job of what they do.
Posted by: pam hart at April 3, 2007 2:39 AM
This only looks like a good idea if you don't live here.
Now that the concrete curbs are pored, it's become clear that this pedestrian plaza was designed without any thought put into the existing driveways/garages that exit onto Linden, or the industrial users further up the street. I've spent the last two days watching my neighbors struggle through 12-point turns to access their homes -- it's only going to be worse when we have to navigate around pedestrians who don't realize they're loitering in the street because we've managed to " blur the distinction between the pedestrian and automobile realms and to create a unified space.". That is poor urban planning -- period.
It's not an "outdoor living room". It's an alley -- a public street. An alley that people drive through, put their garbage bins in, and park trucks to deliver things to the light-industrial users. It's also one of the last blocks with free all-day parking in Hayes Valley, and you've managed to take away three more parking spaces (plus the one that blue bottle took, when you cut the curb to pretend they were just a driveway).
The primary (and possibly singular) goal of the project was obviously this:
When completed, Linden living alley will serve as a comfortable “great good place” for the habitual customers of Blue Bottle cafe.
And it's going to do a very good job of that, at the expense of virtually every other user of this alley.
It should come as no surprise (considering the financial relationship between Blue Bottle and the architects involved in this project) that the neighbors' concerns were ignored in favor of providing greater benefit to Blue Bottle and their habitual customers. Blue Bottle is a tiny cart in a block-long mixed use street. It's also a relative newcomer here (2005), and has never made much of an effort to make nice with the residential neighbors nearby.
[It's worth noting that they went through the motions of soliciting input from the community when they were trying to get the permits in 2008, until the neighbors voiced the very concerns and objections that are now becoming realities. They made no effort to change the plans to alleviate our concerns -- just paid us lip service and thanked us for our feedback (which they ignored). All communication stopped when we refused to sign a document that would make us perpetually responsible for additional maintenance costs and liability.]
This entire project is really just an expansion of Blue Bottle, who will soon get the benefit of a rent-free plaza, owned by the city and used almost exclusively by their customers (if this weren't about Blue Bottle, it would be at the other end of the street, where it would logically connect with Patricia's Green and the impending pop-up spaces in the city-owned lots).
I predict tables and no more through traffic, within two years -- the complete elimination of this as a public roadway. That's great if you're running a cafe (permitted as a kiosk/cart), and want a place for your customers to sit... but it's not so good if you happen to have a 20 car garage that opens into someone's living room.
I can only hope that the residents of Ames and Sumner alleys have better luck than we did (or have alleys that are more suited to pedestrian-only use). Initially, we were excited by this project. It would clean up the alley, and probably make our home a more desirable place to live. Instead, it's only confirmed our fears about having to share an alley with professional property developers that own a cafe next door.
[Editor's Note: Land Grab On Linden?]
Posted by: T at August 29, 2010 12:35 PM