Most days, I ride BART from Berkeley to the station at 16th and Mission streets in San Francisco. 16th and Mission is a tough corner in a tough neighborhood. When I was an editorial writer for the San Francisco Examiner in the early ’90s, I wrote a piece about an Irish immigrant who was beaten to death with a baseball bat at an ATM near the corner. That kind of mayhem is rare, I think, but a lower-level kind of chaos, characterized by drug dealing, purse snatching, prostitution, a large population of beggars hanging out, transient hotels, and hairy-looking bars and greasy spoons, is more typical. I’ve been accosted a couple of times in the past six months by women working the street. I spotted one trying to intercept my path one Friday night. She was in high heels, and I sped up to get past her. “Don’t walk so fast!” she shouted. “I’m not going to hurt you!”
For all that, the walk from BART to KQED is still pretty interesting and rarely induces uneasiness for the purposeful walker. In the daylight hours, the biggest hazard is red-light runners and stop-sign jumpes on the major thoroughfares I need to cross–16th, South Van Ness, Folsom, Harrison and Bryant. The walk is about two-thirds of a mile, and I use a route that avoids a vicious block of transient hotels and some very hard-looking dealer types. I wind up on 17th Street. To the west, it rises picturesquely to the Castro and Mount Sutro. Eastward–my direction going to work–it winds up in a knot of streets on the edge of the Mission before crossing a ridge and disappearing into the neighborhood at the northern foot of Potrero Hill. This part of town used to be warehouses and light industry, and today it’s a mix of real and pretend artist lofts, galleries, small theaters, and a few vestiges of the old workshops. Harrison Street, one of the main routes west and south out of downtown, seems to have become what passes for a prominent cycling thoroughfare. I see a few hipster-homesteaders (isn’t it tragic to go by appearances?) riding by every time I’m on the street.
Here are the pictures, to be added to later:
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