I once worked with a woman with a name longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, a working relationship that became a friendship. Her name was far from her most singular aspect: she also modeled, wrote, acted, worked on cars and motorcycles, shot pictures and threw great parties.
She was also one of the first people I knew to live in a warehouse. At the time the lifestyle hadn’t acquired the “loft” moniker applied to the big wood-cladded concrete caverns pushed as homes in cities cross the country. The space she and her partner rented was the mezzanine over what had been a shop floor. The entrance on Clara Alley off 5th Street was a double-door opening onto a staircase wide enough to drive two Minis side-by-side. They segmented the interior into several living and work spaces, one of which was a dining room with a huge slab for a table suspended from the ceiling by chains. It had two walled- off bedrooms, one occupied by the two of them and one by a guy who had once rented a room from me when I lived in a nine-room boxcar Victorian on Dolores street.
They lived there for some time until the building owner decided to sell. They tried to buy the place, but a deep-pocketed developer had the upper hand, and a decidedly different idea of what to do with the steel and concrete structure.
This is what replaced the warehouse.
As much as I had liked the idea of living in a big unconstructed space, I had to admit nice new condos were probably more comfortable, even if they were soulless and wildly out of place in the very industrial South of Market neighborhood. It took as unique an individual to buy these modern boxes as it did to live in the hollowed skeleton of what had probably been a factory. It took a while to sell them all and they were pretty much a lone outpost of modernism for many years. That was in 2000. Today is a different story.
I worked up the street from the Mews, at a building to which I returned in three separate career iterations. The structure, a nondescript glass cube, held more San Francisco history than most people will ever know. We abandoned it with relish in 2009, about a year after the Howard Street Intercontinental Hotel went up. My co-workers and I felt even a $400 per night crash pad wasn’t going to save this dismal street just a block from Skid Row.
This is what is now going up on the street.
This massive project took out a 400-car parking lot and the former home of LiveNation, the concert promotion company and before that the undisclosed warehouse for Bill Graham Presents. This will be the home of the Mosso SF.
My old building has been stripped to its core and will soon re-open as a gleaming annex to the University of the Pacific school of Dentistry. Across the way the former editorial offices of the San Francisco Chronicle have become a high -tech incubator. The covered alley where newspaper delivery trucks once lined up is now a lunchtime plaza with live music. And the Tempest bar, tucked into a grimy cross alley and long a favorite of the bicycle messenger crowd, has been gutted and features a restaurant that gets rave reviews in the food section of that selfsame Chronicle.
The neighborhood has now become trendy. Was it just because we moved out?