Photographer Janet Delaney moved into SoMa as a student at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1978. At the time, the place she found at 62 Langton was some of the cheapest rent you could find in the city, and construction was just about to begin on what would be the Moscone Center and ultimately what's now called the Yerba Buena neighborhood. Delaney now has a coffee table book of the large-format color photos she took at that time, documenting what she saw might be a disappearing neighborhood fabric (she was right about that) as redevelopment (dubbed Urban Renewal in the 1960s) was reshaping SoMa as a whole.
The neighborhood was once largely a working class area dominated by dockworkers and merchant seamen, and in the first half of the 20th Century became well known for its saloons and houses of prostitution, in addition to being densely residential. Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Center became part of a controversial, 78-acre redevelopment project. The Urban Renewal movement that came to try to solve what was an increasingly blighted part of town in the 1960s failed to take into account the lives of 4,000 people who were dislocated when their homes were systematically demolished. Protests followed, and it wasn't until Mayor Moscone got things moving again in 1976, with more sensitivity to the citizenry and affordable housing, that the development projects started getting underway again. Construction had barely begun by the time Delaney started documenting the area in 1978.
Delaney's book can be purchased now from London bookseller MackBooks.
Also, for good measure, we've thrown in a photo of a traffic jam on Mission Street near 5th Street in 1946.
[New Yorker via Laughing Squid]