6th Street has been optimistically called the “Gateway to the City”: I can’t see why, really. Sure, it’s an freeway exit and sure, it runs from SOMA to Market in a straight line, but you could say the same of other streets that are a lot less disgusting. As a long time resident, I try A) never to park on 6th; B) not to breathe through my nose if I do; C) to walk with a large group of large people when on foot on 6th; and D) when driving on 6th, to go very slowly as I can be sure– day and night– that several shoeless, toothless, pantless, or otherwise disorganized individuals will reel into traffic irrespective of green and red lights, crosswalks, or other normally understood pedestrian behavior codes.
Still, as bad as it is today, it’s better than it was. The Chronicle points out this little bit of irony:
In some ways the best thing that ever happened to Sixth was the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The run-down hotels along the street were hit hard, forcing many residents out on the street and creating a focus for redevelopment funds to rebuild low-cost housing.
“The earthquake created the initial need for redevelopment,” said Mike Grisso, a community development project manager with the Redevelopment Agency. “But we realized the need for more than just housing.”
The agency worked with nonprofit Urban Solutions to attract business. Urban Solutions Executive Director Jenny McNulty says they finalized a plan in 2002 to provide extensive financial grants for businesses that were willing to move to Sixth.
And businesses have come to 6th; they’ve also gone: “12 of 32 businesses have closed or relocated since the 2003 push.” The key, of course, is that you can have a lovely storefront, but if paying customers have to step over piles of the aforementioned shoeless/pantless and their emissions, business will suffer.
One major move in the right direction for 6th is the annexing of the Hugo Hotel. Though I will miss its curious eye for decor, this crumbling behemoth, long abandoned and only getting more decrepit with age, does not contribute anything of value to the neighborhood. The owners have never been willing to part with the building for a reasonable price, so it has rotted steadily away until recently: SF Schtuff reports the city has begun the process of eminent domain, by which the Hugo can be seized and rethought entirely. The most likely outcome of this move will be demolition of the moldering hotel in favor of low income housing. Some groups would like to keep the hotel as is, calling it a work of art, which certainly, it is. But on a corner so desperate for a work of forward momentum, and in a city so in need of housing, on a street so in need of a serious make over, this is one occasion when someone should make a painting of the Hugo as it is, to preserve its artisitic legacy. Then let the wrecking balls fly.
photo credit: Defenestration.com