CVIA Endorses Interim Plan for 730 Stanyan Street

Representing its 600+ members in the Greater Haight-Ashbury, Cole Valley Improvement Association (CVIA) has endorsed an interim use proposal issued to the Mayor's Office of Housing in cooperation with the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association (HAIA) and the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association (BVNA). Below is the text of the proposal. If you are a CVIA paid member and would like to become active with CVIA in fighting for an interim use plan for 730 Stanyan that benefits all of the Haight-Ashbury residents, please send us an email.

Overview

Building affordable housing at 730 Stanyan is a boon to the Haight-Ashbury and to the City at large. However, a proposed three-to-five year planning period raises the question: what is the best use of this space during the interim period?

Below is a proposal to use this site in the interim pre-construction phase as a community gathering space for residents and visitors. We seek to provide an organized but flexible home for food, art, cultural events, commercial vendors, community amenities and other various attractions.

To make such a space a reality, we need a comprehensive approach. The development of the site should be orchestrated by a single entity empowered to take bold, timely and decisive action to develop a major civic attraction. We propose a framework by which the City leases the property to a non-profit management organization, which would then sub-lease to various vendors and groups based on the goals of the project. This experienced non-profit firm would work with architects, designers and the City to ensure that a plan is implemented to make the site into the best possible resource for the neighborhood, its residents and visitors, with the least amount of lead time possible. The goals of this project are ambitious: a total transformation of this area into a place of great civic pride. As a model, the semi-permanent design of the PROXY SF space in Hayes Valley (which also sits on land earmarked for eventual housing) and Bryant Park in New York City serve as viable examples.

A Transformative Change for a Troubled Corner

730 Stanyan sits adjacent to the natural entrance to Golden Gate Park, the neighborhood’s largest grocery store and a historic hotel. The site has the potential to be a major civic gathering space; however, a cursory review of news stories about this intersection would reveal years of incidents involving drug dealing, shootings, stabbings, robberies, assaults and other violent crimes.

Thankfully, the City is already underway with a revitalization project along the Stanyan edge of GG Park to make improvements and “activate the area with positive park-related activities.” Turning 730 Stanyan into a community gathering space will compliment this effort, integrate the space with the park and transform the area from a blight into a desirable community asset. This will dramatically increase foot traffic and activate the area by creating a space where residents and visitors want to gather, rather than walk through speedily or avoid altogether.

Although the neighborhood has many parks, there is no meaningful opportunity for people to congregate in a public, urban setting. Residents are desperate for a safe and fun space that this area could provide. 730 Stanyan would be a place for meaningful engagement with civic life – a rotating, curated and stimulating mix of food, art and culture.

Amenities

As soon as it was announced that the City would purchase the McDonald’s site and eventually build housing, the neighborhood was abuzz with ideas for interim uses. Below is sample of some of the proposed ideas, all of which could be incorporated into this space:

Community Garden

Outdoor Theater

Children’s story time area and library

Ice Rink in Winter

Food Stands

Drink Stands (juices, coffee etc.)

Biergarten

Rotating Art Installations

Games (board games, ping pong, etc.)

Craft Fairs

Flower and Plant market

Enjoying-a-sunny-day-in-a-chair space

 

Future of Haight and Stanyan

The City should not forget that the ultimate goal of acquiring 730 Stanyan is to provide affordable housing to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Any plan for interim use must improve the area dramatically so that the eventual residents of 730 Stanyan live in an area that is safe and thriving. No matter who ultimately lives at this location, the City must ensure that the crime and violence that have plagued the Haight/Stanyan intersection are eliminated and replaced with a thriving urban environment.

Inclusive – A Space for Everyone

The goal of this space is to create an environment that serves a civic good for all residents of the neighborhood, as well as visitors. One strength of our neighborhood is its social and economic diversity. There are families with children, seniors, single people, etc., as well as a distinct homeless population. This space should offer something for everyone—from story-time activities and games for children to a biergarten for adults.

This should be a bustling space that is both safe and fun—for everyone.

Civic Spaces to Emulate

Seven years ago, the land that PROXY SF occupies in Hayes Valley was blighted and a hotbed for drugs and crime. Today, it is one of the most vibrant areas in the City. PROXY SF did not dictate a particular use for the site; instead, they created an instant and impermanent infrastructure that made it easy for innovative business and cultural ideas to take root on the site. PROXY SF is now a safe, thriving site, expertly managed and curated. It offers rotating cultural displays and activities, an outdoor theater, a range of food/beverage stalls and a biergarten. None of the structures at PROXY SF are permanent, but crucially, they are designed to be there long enough to attract businesses that need to build a reputation and a customer base. This semi-permanent structure is the key to the success of the site. Simply having a few rotating food carts and booths is not enough to “activate” the area. Businesses and organizations that are fully committed to making this an engaging civic space are needed.

New York City’s Bryant Park serves as another interesting model as it utilizes a fair amount of paved space in addition to its large lawn area. For the concrete ground space, that park has ample movable chairs, a small story time space and library for children, ping pong tables, board games, an outdoor theater and other amenities. While 730 Stanyan is not a park, Bryant Park’s utilization of outdoor paved space inspires worthwhile recreational uses.

Safety

While we believe this space should be inclusive, we also strongly believe that residents and visitors should feel safe when coming to 730 Stanyan. For such a vision to work, safety will be of paramount importance. Drug dealing, substance abuse, dangerous dogs, exposed knives, sexual harassment and other safety concerns are real issues in our neighborhood and are not compatible with our vision of this new community space. A concrete plan for dealing with these issues should be a part of the design and must include vigilant security, maintenance and retail workers to provide a deep sense of safety and community.

Employing the Homeless

By creating a community space such as this, the City would bring many jobs to the neighborhood. We believe the firm designing this space should make an effort to have the subcontractors employ the homeless youth in the neighborhood. Programs like “Taking It to the Streets,” which employs homeless youth to perform street cleaning and graffiti abatement in exchange for housing and services, shows that many of the homeless youth in the neighborhood want to make meaningful strides to get off the streets.

In an effort to address some of the homeless needs in the neighborhood, a portion of the jobs associated with this project could be reserved for the neighborhood’s homeless youth. This would also provide a unique opportunity to teach additional job skills. Further, from a financial perspective, this would save the City money since the homeless youth would receive wages from the vendors, as opposed to assistance that solely comes from the City’s budget.

Expense

By leasing the property to a non-profit management entity, this site could be a source of revenue for the City, as opposed to an expense, through various payroll taxes, sales taxes, etc. Additionally, this would bring many new jobs to the neighborhood. By saving money and generating revenue, this could afford the City more financial resources to streamline the construction process of the ultimate affordable housing project—potentially making the affordable housing available sooner.

Community Outreach

Community meetings are an important tool for government officials to communicate their intentions to the neighborhood and solicit feedback; however, the City should be careful not use the opinions gathered at such forums as the only basis for deciding true community support for a given interim use (even this one). In addition to holding community meetings, the City should supplement its outreach process by establishing an online survey where everyone with a verifiable address in the neighborhood can easily express an opinion regarding potential interim uses. Just because someone is not skilled at public speaking or community organizing (or is too busy working or taking care of children to attend multiple multi-hour planning meetings) doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a say in this process. Without supplementing the community meetings, the interim use selection process will quickly become susceptible to vocal minorities dictating policy for the quiet majority.

Conclusion

The best use of 730 Stanyan is an engaging community space that serves everyone. The City has the opportunity to transform this area from long blighted magnet for crime into a bustling space that brings people joy and provides a safe space for the community to interact with each other. This interim use will set the stage for successful affordable housing that benefits everyone by maintaining diversity and improving the quality of life at Haight and Stanyan streets.