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.
While this not a travel blog (yet), I just found that the Bay Area has an airport code that covers all three area airports: QSF!. Add that to the list like NYC (for New York area airports like LGA, EWR and JFK) or LON (for the London area airports). How cool is that?
I’ve been exploring my commute options to work today in an effort to allow the most flexibility (read: laziness) in getting to work. It’s 1.9 miles according to Google, and probably closer to 1.5 as the crow flies.
- Drive – this is by far the quickest. I can make it door to door in about 10 minutes. After 9am, parking on the street is nearly impossible, so it somewhat limits the options unless I want to pay for the garage ($10) which I do sometimes.
- Bus to Adobe Shuttle – my most common option. I take the 21-Hayes to Market Street, from where a shuttle takes us Adobe folk to the office. One way is about 25 minutes, but the shuttle stops running at 10am, which means I’ve got to be out of the house by about 9:30 for this option to work.
- Bus to Bus – I tried this today, I took the 21 to the 47 and then walked from 8th and Byrant to the office. It was about 30 minutes all told. Not a bad option if you’re going in late and the shuttle isn’t available or if you don’t want to drive.
- Walk – there are two walking options. If I walk all the way from home, it’s about 45 minutes so that’s a bit much. On Monday I took the 21 to Market and walked, which put the total at about 25 minutes. It’s nice to do if it’s a nice day out.
- Taxi – I’ve done this maybe twice and also takes about 10 minutes. The hardest part (and about 20 minutes of time) is finding a cab in my neighborhood. It costs about $10 one way, so if I do, I take a bus back home.
I can’t think of any others, but overall I’ve been doing the bus to the shuttle more often than not.
For the first time today, I used a messenger service in San Francisco. And let me tell you, best idea ever. I’d used them in Shanghai before, but never in SF. I needed to get a package from my office in SOMA to a place in downtown, so I called up Godspeed Couriers. They came to my office within 30 minutes, picked up the envelope with the documents and said they’d have it delivered within two hours for $8. Way better than FedEx and a ton more convenient than driving to downtown, trying to find parking and carrying the package myself. Love it.
I had the chance to see the Mingus Big Band, a 14-piece ensemble, play at Yoshi’s in SF Tuesday night. The show was incredible. It was my first time at the new Yoshi’s and it’s quite a bit swankier than the location in Oakland. We had a drink at the bar beforehand waiting for the doors to open to the 10pm show and the entire dining area is, well, swanky.
Hands down, Mingus is my favorite jazz musician. Crazy insane or just insane crazy, his music gets me like no other jazz style musician can. I missed the names of the first few songs, but the second half of the
set was Baby Take a Chance on Me, Ysabel’s Table Dance (which had an
incredible cadenza in the middle by the pianist), Pinkie (from Epithet,
although I couldn’t find that track on the set list from Epithet), and
finished up with Song with Orange.
I was quite impressed with all the songs they attempted. On one of the songs they performed they pulled the music out and told the audience this is the first time they’re trying to play it. Then the band leader turned around and talked off mic to the band for five minutes about the song. He turned around, sat down, counted off and they pretty much sight read the whole piece. Phenomenal. Coincidently the 22nd was Mingus’ birthday, which made the evening that much more special.
I voted at a community center two blocks from my apartment. While walking to the polling place, I saw on nearly every door for two blocks placards that said “Vote Today” stuck to door handles. On each one there was a sticker that said for that house what the nearest polling location was. As I was driving through 16th and Mission on all four corners of the intersection. People were honking at them as they drove through the intersection (myself included) and they cheered wildly each time.
I’m totally impressed by the organization of Obama’s street teams and supporters. There at signs on the streets, posters in windows, people on the street, phone calls being made all from Obama’s camp. But what of Hillary? Nowhere to be found, at least in this city. Perhaps that’s not too surprising knowing San Francisco, but in SF, it’s Obamamania.
Now, to glue myself to the television for the next 8 hours.
With all the news on subprime mortgages and the faltering real estate market, here are some interesting stats on San Francisco in the last few months. While they’re a quite a bit softer than one might have expect in 2006, they still look fairly strong. What’s most interesting to me is the sale price versus the final list price. In the go-go days, 115% wouldn’t be uncommon. Seeing 100.3% for condos makes the market that much more approachable. I was talking to the sales agent at the new Ritz building on Market Street, and they had some eight or nine properties still for sale. She mentioned that they were expecting to have offers some 90% of their listed asking price. You would have never seen that two years ago.
Median Home Sale Price:
November 2006: $750,000
November 2007: $820,000
Increase: up 9.3%
Average Sales Price as a Percentage of Final List Price, November 2007:
Sold Houses: 101.8%
Sold Condos: 100.3%
There are probably more coffee shops in Hayes Valley than there are people. Okay, that’s obviously not true, but it sure feels like it. I hunkered down at a new cafe, La Boulange, this morning located at 500 Hayes and Octavia. Across the street is Stacks. Less then 200 feet is Cafe La Vie. A block up is Modern Tea. Two blocks away is Blue Bottle. Then there’s the other little French place down on Gough. Oh, then the crepes place that makes a good latte up on Gough going north past Hayes. Then there’s of course Citizen Cake half a block past that. That doesn’t even include the places that are on the other side of Gough if you keep going down Hayes (I can visually remember at least one). I count 9 within four blocks of each other. It’s not hard to stay jittery in Hayes Valley.
Along with about 10,000 other people, I went to the inaugural Treasure Island Music Festival this weekend. I only went on Saturday for the (mostly) electronica day. We got there towards the beginning of the M.I.A. set, which ended up being a lot cooler than I thought it’d be. I had her first album, and given how produced it was I wasn’t sure how her live show would be, but it was pretty good.
After M.I.A. was the DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist doing 8 turntables and 4 mixers for their “Hard Sell” album. Pretty cool to see. I haven’t seen Cut Chemist since last I saw Jurassic 5 and I expected something quite a bit more hip-hop-y, but the set was a lot more of old school funk and other stuff that I hardly recognized.
Gotan Project (a group until Saturday I’d never heard of before) was nothing short of astounding. Tango + electronica + breaks. It was phenomenal. They came on stage with a full orchestra, including an accordionist, DJs, strings, horns, etc. I’ve been listening to their two CDs all morning. They had great stage presence as well.
The headliner was Thievery Corporation. I only had The Cosmic Game, and based on that I expected a super down tempo set. Au contraire, they delivered an jamming, rocking, hard hitting show with three or four singers, drums, DJs, and sitar in tow. I still think Gotan stole the show but the Thievery set was a lot more fun to listen to than I’d expected.
The last few days I’ve seen new Muni buses that have “Hybrid Bus” signage on them. I’ve seen them mostly at the Caltrain station, which makes sense as they’re running on the 10-Townsend line currently. At half a million a pop, I wonder how much they save in terms of gas. They also skirt very close to the ground, which is pretty cool since it seems they’d be easy to enter versus the standard Muni buses (which let out the typical hiss as they lower at stops).