Sunday, September 19, 2010

Engaging the Sidewalk

I love discovering new moments in my own neighborhood, SF's Mission Districts, after having lived in it for over 4 years. This one came today on Florida and 21st. The Latino-American culture of the neighborhood has an elevated appreciation for spending time out on the sidewalk and front stoop, one that you won't find in many other neighborhoods. And it means many Missionites take care of whatever small amount real estate exists between their home and the sidewalk. In this case, the vestibule of this home has a vinyl-clad 2-person seat tucked into it right next to the door. Many of these entrance vestibules in SF homes are closed off with metal gates that make for bad neighbors and an unengaging street presence. In The Mission, the street presence is completely different. On a warm Saturday afternoon you will find a couple of guys sipping beers while sitting in lawn chairs in a garage that they have converted to a living room. An early evening stroll down 24th St. will reveal several shopkeepers hosing down their portion of the pavement. The value that the sidewalk and stoop hold for Missionites translates to an extra care that is given to the public portion of ones property and the public right-of-way adjacent. The act of cleaning becomes a small token of appreciation to fellow neighbors as the streetlife collectively improves. I doubt the general public is truly welcome to sit on the bench here on Florida Street, but just by being there, it suggests that there are eyes on a street that's enjoyed by it's neighbors.