Blog » young urbanists
- March 1, 2010BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
After learning about new plans for San Francisco's public realm—widened sidewalks and bike lanes on Cesar Chavez Street and throughout the Mission District, a complete makeover of Fisherman’s Wharf—it was time to tackle a public space issue ourselves: Market Street.
SPUR teamed up with Next American City and the AIA to host an interactive charrette. Building on the Better Market Street Project, we brainstormed the transformation of Market into our city's grand boulevard and anchor.
[Image: Nelson Nygaard]
Jeff Tumlin of Nelson Nygaard kicked things off with an outline of what makes a great street: it invites participation, teems with people and offers transparency. It challenges our assumptions, inspires and surprises, plays with light and shadow and makes us feel sexy.
Brimming with sexy ideas, focus groups scattered to various corners of the urban center. Kim Havens of Wilson Meany Sullivan led the Commerce (Planning and Development) discussion and Karin Flood Eklund of MJM Management led Commerce (Shopping). Tim Papandreou of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and Neal Patel (pictured) of the SF Bike Coalition facilitated the transit and bike conversations, and Jill Manton of the Public Arts Commission and Kit Hodge of the Great Streets Project took on public art and public space.
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
An interesting theme emerged: to achieve our goals, groups needed to work together. Sure, there were some specific requests, such as dedicated bus lanes and stop consolidation (transit) and regular exhibitions (public art). But the majority of ideas required a partnership. Commerce and public space needed help from public art programming to draw in crowds. Public art needed help from public space and transit for fresh new locations for work. Obviously successful transit and bike systems required cooperation. And the list went on.
So can we make Market Street an avenue of constant activity, our own Champs-Elysées? According to this charrette, if we work together, then yes.
- January 29, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
Streetfood is not new. In fact, since the existence of streets and the commoditization of food, streetfood has been an integral aspect of daily life for cultures around the world. That being said, it is undeniable that there has been a growing trend in San Francisco and other American cities towards selling a creative array of food – from Korean tacos to crème brulée – prepared on the street.
Streetfood in China and the Netherlands [Images: Colleen McHugh]
Tuesday’s Young Urbanist event at SPUR--generously supported by the Koret Foundation--was a perfect example of this growing excitement surrounding streetfood. With a crowd that spread out the door of the second-floor assembly hall, this was one the most heavily attended SPUR forums in the new Urban Center (perhaps due to the delicious free tacos provided by the Kung Fu Taco truck). Panelists Larry Bain of Let’s Be Frank, Imelda Reyes of the Department of Public Health, Operations Director of La Cocina Caleb Zigas, and Supervisor of the Small Business Assistance Center Martha Yañez joined moderator Raquel Donoso of the Latino Community Foundation in a discussion on the increasing popularity of streetfood culture in San Francisco.
The downturn economy, the panelists acknowledged, has played a role in the growing number of streetfood vendors in the city. However, they were careful to move beyond this simple explanation, noting a growing desire to connect to the food we eat and the role of social media. Another compelling explanation was merely alluded to in a response from the audience – a movement of social culture to city streets.
In light of last week’s lunchtime forum on the legacy of Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets, it is exciting to consider the popularity of streetfood as part of a wider Great Streets movement. As one audience member lamented at Tuesday night’s forum, the recent trend in streetfood has been largely “‘bourgey’ food accessible to rich foodies”. However, Caleb Zigas was quick to contend that there is “a place on the same block for $3 and $8 food that is really awesome”. And if the streetfood trend is bringing more people and more life to the streets of America (and away from cars on the freeways), that is a good thing. However, as was often mentioned on Tuesday, it is important for San Francisco to remove unnecessary barriers and allow people who want to serve simple, cheap, good food to do just that.
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
To see more photos from Tuesday’s Young Urbanist event, visit SPUR’s Flickr page.
- November 24, 2009BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
The Young Urbanist [Literature] in the City forum at SPUR on November 10th presented a lively discussion on this topic and other aspects of the history and culture of San Francisco’s literary community. Stephen Elliott of the San Francisco Writer's Grotto and editor of The Rumpus, writer and City Lights editor Elaine Katzenberger, and Filipino American poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes joined the forum moderator, poet Matthew Zapruder, in an exploration of the relationship between literature and the city.
The forum began with readings from each of the three panelists. Barbara Jane Reyes shared poetry of a walking tour through San Francisco’s cultural landscape, Elaine Katzenberger spoke from a speech given by City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti during his acceptance in 2000 as San Francisco’s first Poet Laureate, and Stephen Elliott read from his critically acclaimed new book The Adderall Diaries. What followed was a debate over the extent to which San Francisco remains a center of bohemian culture that nurtures artistic expression. The panelists spoke to rising rents and gentrifying neighborhoods. But when asked why writers continue to live in this city when it may make little financial sense, the speakers referenced family, a strong writing community, history, and a counter-culture unique to San Francisco. Stephen Elliott expressed, “There is something nourishing about this place.”
Ultimately, the evening’s panelists agreed that a certain culture of resistance – to the norm, to consumerism, to war – permeates this city’s literary community. Moderator Matthew Zapruder reasoned that San Francisco might be the most “American” city in the country in that it embodies this ideal of personal freedom.