The crossroads of SF's busiest thoroughfare and its historically most chaotic gathering places for drug-addicted, sometimes mentally ill, and often in-crisis residents has not taken so quickly or easily to the forces of gentrification. And now, eight years on after the much crowed-over "Twitter tax break," business owners, hotel guests, and residents alike are baffled at how Mid-Market is just as sad and scary as ever, if not moreso.
That's the tale told repeatedly in a big interactive Chronicle package today titled, somewhat grandly, "Street of Dreams."
On the one hand, the infamous tax break that late Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim gave to Twitter in early 2011 — exempting the company, and others, from paying payroll taxes on new hires to the city as an incentive to move into the former San Francisco Mart building at 10th and Market — has been a boon for developers. The Chronicle talks to Oz Erickson, president of the Emerald Fund, which bankrolled the redevelopment of 100 Van Ness into 418 residential units, and subsequently built almost 600 more in surrounding buildings. Erickson says that the Emerald Fund's 1,000 units wouldn't have happened were it not for NEMA opening at 10th and Market, "And NEMA wouldn’t have gone ahead if Twitter hadn’t happened."
The ongoing momentum has led to the major developments currently under construction at 950 Market, 1028 Market, and 1066 Market, all of which promise to transform the blocks between Fifth and Seventh Streets. And we've seen the major renovation of the former Renoir Hotel as the Proper Hotel, and the opening of the Yotel in a rundown former office building at Seventh and Market, across from the Proper.
The increased traffic and tech-world residents from places like NEMA have been a boon for the arts and restaurants, though not in all cases. The grand Bon Marche in the Twitter building, the much-talked-about Perennial across 9th Street, as well as the infamously expensive-to-build-out Dirty Water have all closed despite splashy beginnings. (Only the Cadillac Bar & Grill survives among the Twitter Building's restaurants.) In 2015, ACT invested heavily in the Strand Theater just past Seventh Street, across from UN Plaza, which has reportedly brought 210,000 theatergoers to the already theater-heavy neighborhood where Hamilton just got extended for a full year. And PianoFight executive director Dan Williams tells the Chronicle that all the tech employees in the area have kept his business going, too.
When it comes to complaints about the tech takeover, Williams isn't having it, saying to the Chronicle, "What were they going to do with Mid-Market? What were they going to do with those buildings? Was it better to have boarded up buildings and nobody there?"
But there are plenty of examples of how "cleaning up" Mid-Market for residents and tourists alike has taken too long.
Just a few:
- Spotify decided to move out of the Warfield building, despite tax breaks, after one of its employees was slapped on the face outside on the sidewalk.
- Huckleberry Bicycles, which was very gung-ho about their Mid-Market location at first, is now talking about moving, with the Chronicle piece opening up with co-owner Brian Smith encountering a suicide in the back alley, a screaming woman smashing bottles on the sidewalk out front, and a bicyclist hit by a car all within minutes of each other one morning.
- The huge retail-turned-office complex between Fifth and Sixth Street, dubbed 6x6, sits vacant almost three years after it was completed.
- Residents and business owners tell the Chronicle that drug dealing has only gotten worse in the area, with "Men with wads of cash in hand [who] crowd the corners at Eighth and Market, and Hyde and Golden Gate, openly selling heroin, meth and crack."
- Muklis Marta, who has owned and operated World of Stereo at Jones and Market for 33 years, is closing after getting fed up with the circus outside his business.
- The nonprofit Lighthouse for the Blind (1155 Market) spends $250,000 a year for an off-duty police officer to help its clients and employees get safely to BART.
- Joy Ou, president of developer Group I which owns the Warfield building and is constructing 950 Market, says she's had to make excuses for the homeless and drug dealing when her Taiwanese investors have visited, saying, "a lot of people working on the problem."
Street of Dreams [Chronicle]
Previously: How The 'Twitter Tax Break' Cost The City $30 Million More In 2014 Than 2013 [SFist]