Expedition 35: East Cut, San Francisco

The East Cut neighborhood was formed in 2017 from the Yerba Buena, South Beach and Rincon Hill neighborhoods. Realtors talk it up as an exciting, vibrant (realtor-speak) area with great walkability. Some decry it as a soulless, realtor-invented place. I found it to be an interesting mix of new and old. Note: the 19th Street BART station has a blue theme.

When I moved to San Francisco in 1978 people vilified high rise construction as Manhattanization. Tall buildings blocked the gorgeous views. Back then, it was office buildings being built. The city has grown since then and most highrise construction is now residential. People have to live somewhere and vertical housing makes a lot of sense. 

There’s a lot to explore here but I decided to focus on the POPOS, privately owned public open spaces. There are 40 of them in this small neighborhood; it seemed that about half pre-existed the East Cut and half are new, which is great. 

Oh, first I had to detour to Rincon Annex which is across the street from the East Cut border. Last time I visited, it was mostly closed for renovation. This 1940 post office was designed in the Streamline Moderne style. It’s basically a museum now with California history murals and numerous telephone booths. 

I went through a pretty park between Spear and Main featuring some tall, skinny redwood trees. This path between the Embarcadero and Spear Street is called Lady Bug Road for some reason. Lot of the parks are next to apartment buildings and have pet relief areas like this one, tastefully decorated with large rocks. 

There wasn’t much public art in these spaces. One area had this silvery Anish Kapoor in front. By far the best piece was these trompe l’oeil rocks and mirrors by Alicja Kwade called Absorption. At first, it seemed like a fun spot for a selfie with rocks painted green and silver. I took one and then walked to the end of the open space to check it out. On my way back, I suddenly saw the effect! The rocks are placed so that the reflection of one completes the real one you can see behind the mirror. So cool! 

The Crossing occupies the space where the temporary transbay terminal was, before the Salesforce Tower transit center opened. It was a pretty lively spot at lunch time with various eateries, workout areas and pickleball courts. I think they’ve done a nice job with it. The Mira/SF building across the street seems to be aimed at modern dancers? 

One of the old guard open spaces is the Hills Brothers Plaza, where “The Taster” still drinks his bottomless cup of coffee. Many of the newer areas have very wide sidewalks with seating, probably more outdoor seating than any other neighborhood.

I was glad the see the Edwin Klockars blacksmith shop still stands. Seems to be turning into an art gallery. This other old building, I’d never seen before! The Brizard and Young sheet metal works has a metal facade made to look like brick. 

Some open spaces (old and new) are inside. I liked this spacious one at 2nd and Howard. It has three gigantic Frank Stella paintings. 101 Second Street has been around a while and still has trees growing inside. My route went past the PGE substation on Fremont Street. When I felt down back in the 80’s doing temp work in the FiDi, I’d think, well, at least I don’t work in that windowless building!

I managed to visit 17 spaces in about three hours. Much more to explore! 

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