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Best of 2011: A Pop-Up Development in Hayes Valley

When I lived near the corner of Market and Castro in San Francisco in the ’70s, I’d enter my second-floor apartment up a staircase between a Swedish market, where I learned the word “lutefisk,” and a pop antique shop called “Hot Flash of America.” One night I come home to a squad of SWATs splayed on the roof training their semi-automatics on a deranged Daddyo in the apartment across the courtyard; he’d taken wife and kids hostage. My girlfriend and I watched it play out live through the window and simultaneously on the TV news.

A shop below dwellings is near non-existent in Santa Fe, where I live now; but at the corner of Octavia and Hayes in San Francisco – pretty much home to  junkies and bathhouse denizens in 1975 – a Pop-up  cluster by Future Cities Lab marks how even in a tony neighborhood where one can buy a pricey French dinner jacket, or drink Chinese tea properly served, shipping containers makes an adaptive commercial development. The destinations of this Pop-up are (were) coffee bar, ice cream stand, and a Museum of Crafts and Design toy store. A lath structure makes a quasi-organic-shaped playground; the whole deal sits next to Hayes Green where dog walkers throw frisbees and parade basset hounds. The word: People are outside anyway, on a beautiful afternoon, and so the Pop-up amalgamates boutiquers and Ninja-wear strutters alike. Plenty of kids perambulate in strollers or on bikes. This is Pop-up as temporary yet solid urbanism, with density and barristas contributing to the caffeine-fueled, or perhaps still acid-tinged, sense that cities are indeed home to chance encounters. Not least with good new design.  The container/commercial placeholds  two lots staked out for five-story rezzie with commercial at the street – quite common in established cities but rare in suburban sprawl.  The land, once parking, is smoothed into a kind of running-track cinder surface, good for games from soccer to boules – in contrast to the greensward city park.

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