Marlena’s Bar, a staple of Hayes Street, is closing today and it’s caused some reflection for me on the changing nature of the neighborhood. I moved to Hayes Valley in June 2007, roughly six years ago, and I arrived well after the gentrification had started. The Van Ness / Octavia flyover was long gone. Patricia’s Green had either just opened, or wasn’t open yet. Blue Bottle had its roll up kiosk on Linden, and a lot of the “first wave” of nice restaurants were already here scene, as were the boutique-y furniture stores (my couch is from Zonal). There were three bars: Sugar on the 300 block, Marlena’s on the 400 block, Place Pigale on the 500 block, and that was it.
Friday, driving home from work, I realized it now takes about 10/15 minutes to make it from Van Ness and Hayes to Laguna and Hayes (about six blocks). Traffic these days backed up with people double parked, commercial foot traffic, construction for condos, and more. That stretch used to take roughly 5 minutes. There are now seven bars in the neighborhood: Sugar, Marlena’s (or whatever it’ll become with the new owners), Place Pigale, Two Sisters, Dobb’s Barr, Biergarten, and the yet-unopened Noir; there’s a bread pudding store, triple stack containers that make up a clothing store, a made-to-order ice cream shop, an urban farm, a new jazz center, a whole bunch of new restaurants and clothing stores, and more. On top of that, almost all of the old parking lots that became of the Van Ness / Octavia flyover have been sold to developers and condos are starting to spout over the cement carcassas.
It’s grown up quite a bit in the last few years — in many ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. The streets are still strewn with litter and the amount of violent crime hasn’t abated regularly. The feel of the neighborhood has stayed roughly the same, but it’s changing and changing fast.