I thought I'd close out my run here as guest editor with something of a guest editorial. With all the coverage lately of Mid-Market, and the newly recycled obsession with how we're going to fix it, I'm afraid we've overlooked one of the root causes of the place's problems. Yes, minor crime, not to mention the social service ghetto, really takes a toll on the neighborhood. But sometimes the red tape and San Francisco's obsession with planning perfection can be even more detrimental. Mid-Market has suffered for decades because no one can agree what to do with it. Why would property owners want to fix up and rent their spaces if the city's about to decree a redevelopment zone and they could just sit, wait and cash in instead? For all the excitement around the CityPlace mall project, those same developers, CFRI/Urban, also control three parcels across the street -- that sit empty and in disrepair. I hate to think what might happen to those buildings on the east side of Market between 5th and 6th if CityPlace isn't approved. Because the answer is: probably nothing.
In short, no, murals and sculptures and "locative" map projections alone aren't going to clean up the area and make it livable -- nay, enjoyable! -- for the local residents, let alone tourists, office workers and theater-goers. (Remember, I even called these things "stop-gap measures that appeal to the city's upper cultured class"!) But between new traffic rules that create a more pleasant environment for restaurant-eating, window-shopping pedestrians, plans for additional event programming here, plus all that new housing in the pipeline, and even new places to sit down, it seems that finally a critical mass of people have taken an interest in improving Mid-Market without a Master Plan.
If Mayor Newsom wants his legacy to be a newly cleaned-up Mid-Market, he's got a long way to go. But for once, for this case, I am reserving some of my snark. Because I think something is happening there. Little things. Praise little things in San Francisco.