San Francisco's Market Street Circa 1957
Proposition D which would have established a special Mid-Market sign district in San Francisco failed at the polls in 2009 with 45.91% of those who voted voting Yes and 54.09% voting No. The voter turnout was under 16 percent.
With a view down Market Street circa 1957 and San Francisco’s Mid-Market District coming alive in 2013, at least one reader can’t help but wonder if it’s time to revisit the signs.
The City’s Prop D Pro And Con Via Video (And A Private Party Con) [SocketSite]
Single-Finger Sign Language From 8% Of All Registered Voters [SocketSite]
More Mid-Market Development And Definition [SocketSite]
The Tweet Reincarnation Of 1355 Market Street [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Sam

    Oh, definitely yes.

  2. Posted by BobN

    Here’s a thought. BIG SIGNS ok, but only to advertise the establishments to which they are attached.
    Not so much interest, eh?

  3. Posted by lyqwyd

    Yeah, that was my thought as well, no advertising billboards, only signs for businesses operating in the building the sign is on.

  4. Posted by nsfw999

    Exactly BobN. Do we think Pawn shops and 99 stores are going to buy big signage?
    Midmarket is a disgrace to this city. I don’t know how any mayor or city council member walks out of their office and feels proud of the neighborhood they work in.
    Look at what Bloomberg did with Broadway in midtown/times square. The pedestrian walks are pretty nice. Almost nice enough for locals to actually visit the area.
    Of course mid market has nowhere near the retail that broadway does.

  5. Posted by Mark

    I lived in NYC and avoided Times Square like the plague. Sure, it was cleaned up and 42nd St. is now THE hot location for major firms to set up shop, but the Disney-fied glitz and chain store glut are a major turn off to locals. Yes, it brings in tourist dollars and the theaters love the business, but it’s not a draw for locals other than those who take in an occasional show.
    I think our plan is to make Mid-Market not just a draw for locals, tourists and folks here on business, but a liveable neighborhood. To even begin to achieve this goal and draw up a working plan the city’s complacency on panhandling, drugs, prostitution and other riff raff has to end.
    This area has so much potential to become a vibrant center for culture, arts, theater, entertainment, dining, working and living.

  6. Posted by futurist

    Big lighted signs are not going to get rid of the squalor and druggies.

  7. Posted by OMN

    Why? This will do nothing to improve the neighborhood and only make it tacky? I personally think the current approach to Mid-Market (incentives for businesses > high rise residential being built > commercial organically following residential) is the right approach and is working.

  8. Posted by conifer

    This is yet another example of the consequences of mindless liberal interference. The reason mid-Market is such a mess is that the Tenderloin north and the immediate district south have been preserved as housing for “prostitutes and drug dealers” as Chris Daly once said.
    If these districts were released from constraints of gentrification, they would be transformed, because of their central location, in a decade. It has happened in NY, Philadelphia, London, Paris and many other cities.
    There should a moratorium on new developments of low income housing, soup kitchens, homeless shelters. There is no reason that the poor and ill must be concentrated in a virtual ghetto.
    Then we a more welcoming policy to developers and condo conversions.
    Dream on…

  9. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Here’s a thought – instead of trying to recreate a nostalgic feel of commercial signs, why not just treat the whole thing as a light art project? The cost would be about the same because most businesses would need city sponsorship to erect big signs anyways. In other words treat it as a public/private sponsored public art zone with the exception that if a business sponsors a piece they could use it to promote their brand.
    This would bring in a lot more creativity to the process and result in a more unique interesting place.
    And please no jumbotron video signs to promote commercial interests. Those just look tacky. But use a jumbotron to display video art could be OK.
    I have no idea of how to properly jury such a project though.

  10. Posted by anon

    There should a moratorium on new developments of low income housing, soup kitchens, homeless shelters.
    We don’t need to do that. Just allow market-rate to be built in the two areas and it would quickly crowd out the other stuff there. The problem is that we’ve restricted regular housing/hotel/commercial use from being built in the area, not that we’ve encouraged too much of the other stuff.

  11. Posted by NotAgain

    I am constantly astonished by what SFGov comes up with to fix the city. Parklets, parkmobiles, banning all cars from Market, a wider bike path with benches and landscaping, mobile cell phone recharging station kiosks, and now this?! As mentioned above, none of these “solutions” will fix the urban ills that are concentrated at Mid Market.
    All the vintage signs and pretty kiosks are only band aids on the real causes of the problems of Mid Market.

  12. Posted by Mark

    A mix of heights is the answer, not block after block of highrises.

  13. Posted by Dubocian

    The first couple of posters got it right. The “special sign district” that was proposed with Prop D wasn’t about the sorts of signs in the photo. It was to allow huge advertising billboards, not for the businesses along Market St, but leased-out advertising space. Owners of Market St. buildings would have made a killing, as billboards are very profitable, but the rest of us would have suffered.
    I’d fully support allowing just about any sign in mid-market provided it was signage for the business in residence there. Well, perhaps with some restrictions on formula retail (chain store) signage, I don’t think we’re looking for huge lit up branding billboards for Walgreens, Chase Bank and B of A. But within reason, just along the stretch of Market St. downtown, a relaxing of the rules could be a good thing.

  14. Posted by futurist

    Light art project? Seriously?
    Yea, and while we’re at it, lets just pretend this is just one big craft project and knit-bomb the entire area.
    That should do it. I’m sure the homeless and drug users can take up knitting.
    And NO jumbo-trons either.

  15. Posted by Joshua

    conifer got it exactly right:
    There should a moratorium on new developments of low income housing, soup kitchens, homeless shelters. There is no reason that the poor and ill must be concentrated in a virtual ghetto.

  16. Posted by futurist

    I would agree, in principle, Joshua.
    But the question (s) remains:
    Where do these developments go? What neighborhoods?
    If they are not concentrated on one area, then how do these citizens have easy access to the services provided?
    Moving to them to another area is not the solution.

  17. Posted by James

    “Mid-Market” as a district doesn’t exist. It’s just another street in the Tenderloin. Clean up the Tenderloin, and this stretch of Market will improve with it.

  18. Posted by Joshua

    @ futurist, I hear Noe Valley is nice. Otherwise, at least three solutions come to mind:
    a) Stop accepting, attracting, and retaining this population.
    b) Find a less central part of the city to provide services.
    c) Learn from successes in NY, Philly, London, Paris and others.

  19. Posted by futurist

    Sorry Joshua but your responses are not well thought out.
    And yes, Noe Valley is nice. So is The Castro, The Haight, Hayes Valley, Pacific Heights, The Marina and lots of other neighborhoods. You know as well as I do that those neighborhoods and many others would NOT support relocating these services to their places. Let’s get real.
    And that also does NOT mean we move these services and homeless people to the “less desirable” neighborhoods of SF.
    And really: what is a “less central part of the city” to provide these services? What are you implying?
    And just how do we stop “accepting, attracting and retaining” this population?
    Maybe put up at gates at our bridges and 101 entering SF saying “rich people only. Homeless and drug addicts not allowed”?
    I don’t have an answer, but you need to re-think some of yours.

  20. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    a.) Joshua, I’m waiting for your ballot initiative to restrain the untreated mentally-ill or drug addicted and homeless population.
    b.) the people who live in the “less central” parts of the city are even less welcoming to providers of these services than the current businesses and residents of the ‘loin.
    c.) New York City, Philadelphia, London, England and Paris, France don’t have to deal with the constraints implicitly imposed by the infamous The Lanterman–Petris–Short Act.
    I happen to know the most (that is, compared to the other cities) about how New York City dealt with its mentally-ill homeless problem, and increasing the number of people institutionalized was a big part of the steps that the Mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani took in addressing the problem. Cities in California wouldn’t be able to get away with that.

  21. Posted by Joshua

    Eh, no actually the Castro and the Haight are not so nice. Hence, even in this great bastion of progressivism, we now have Sit-Lie, and Public Nudity bans. But that’s about the extent of SF’s political will.
    My ballot initiative? Tax the Academy of Art “University” at a 95% rate, and use that money to lease a fleet of Google buses to continuously transport the recidivists and mentally ill to places with at least enough spine to actually help them. Oh and throw-in plenty of 30′ wide sidewalks, larger MUNI bus zones (which the drivers won’t use), subways to nowhere, and whatever other cockamamie projects are required to pass the initiative. Oh, and repeal Prop 13.

  22. Posted by diemos

    Why can’t we provide supportive housing for the homeless drug addicts in modesto, where you can provide many more with services for the same cost.
    It’s not like the homeless drug addicts need to be near their jobs.

  23. Posted by futurist

    @ Joshua:
    Thanks for verifying that we now longer have to take your comments seriously.
    Your little rant was basically just that. A personal rant full of complaints.
    Have a nice day.

  24. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    diemos, we need to somehow get your question presented to Bevan Dufty or Ed Lee so that they have to answer it on the record. I’m serious. If I were asked to guess, I’d guess there’s a state law requiring each county to have it’s own homeless programs, just to prevent counties from implementing beggar-thy-neighbour policies. I’d love to know for sure.
    futurist wrote:

    And just how do we stop “accepting, attracting and retaining” this population?

    Maybe put up at gates at our bridges and 101 entering SF saying “rich people only. Homeless and drug addicts not allowed”?

    The untreated schizophrenics don’t care enough about rules and regulations and physical impediments to even laugh at them. They’d work their way around the gates.
    Did you all see that article about the clean-up of the homeless encampment in SoMa over the summer?:

    …nearby residents and shopkeepers knew exactly what was under that I-280 on-ramp — a sprawling mini-city of tents, suitcases and makeshift Conestoga wagon-style trailers, and a 50-strong homeless population that had been there for years. It was the biggest street camp in San Francisco.

    …The camp has been regularly visited for years by city police, CHP officers…street counselors and officials of the California Department of Transportation — which owns the on-ramp — and partially cleared out every month.

    But lately it had grown to include a community garden, a bucketful of dead rats and a fire pit for melting rubber off salvaged or stolen wiring to sell for recycling. The various agencies determined it was time to move in.

    Because campers tore out thousands of dollars of cyclone fencing under the on-ramp to set up tents, Caltrans’ plan is now to install a more durable barrier to try to keep them out. That fence will probably cost about $200,000, said Caltrans spokesman Steve Williams — but even then, the agency knows campers will be back.

    “I’m sleeping here tonight as soon as these guys leave,” said Tasha Ward, 21. “They’ve got too many restrictions inside, and I want to do my meth and mind my own business.”

    Emphasis added.
    I don’t have any easy answers, either, but any realistic “answer” is going to have to include some way around the Lanterman–Petris–Short Act to get these people, some of whom are in the prime of their lives, who can’t do anything except engage in self-destructive behaviors off of the street and into some type of treatment, even if doing so is against “their will”.
    I put “their will” in quotes because, contrary to those who post comments that begin with “…you know you’re no longer living in a free country when the government tells you what you can and cannot put in your body”, I realize that someone who is acting under the influence of an addictive psychoactive drug isn’t exercising free will. An addict isn’t free to chose.

  25. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    A few buzzing neon signs are not going to do anything for “Little Oakland”, a.k.a. the decidedly downmarket mid-Market.
    Better idea: turn Japantown into a light-sign district and make sure it’s done as tastefully as in Ginza, Tokyo. That’s how you do signs.

  26. Posted by BobN

    I’d be more open to light-art projects if the City’s last major one, the ribbon of light along the Embarcadero weren’t so badly maintained. Does any of it light up anymore?

  27. BobN – I haven’t seen that thing light up for many years. When it was first installed I looked up and down the Embarcardero trying to figure out where the access points were for maintenance and could only find a few electrical vaults. No wonder it is broken: there’s no easy way to repair the most likely parts to fail.
    Any sort of permanent outdoor public art should be designed for low cost long term maintenance. The stone and bronze sculpture that has been used for a long time was easy to maintain. Now that public art includes moving parts and electrical elements, there are a lot more things that can go wrong. It is a problem that requires engineering expertise, an aspect that some project sponsors might not emphasize.
    The Clock of the Long Now takes this notion to the extreme.

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