Sunday, February 27, 2011

Temporary Pedestrian Streets- Rio Edition

I was a very bad blogger during my last few trips to Brazil. So I'll do my best to catch up this week.

It reminds me of Sunday Streets which does something similar here in SF. It's magical to watch a public space spontaneousy emerge for a few hours! It's good for business, community, and everyone's general happiness to open the streets up and watch the civic space transform.
They've just announced their 2011 schedule which includes my favorite route, 24th St and Valencia in the Mission on May 8th!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blogging about The Summit from inside The Summit

With a whole frenzy of new spaces that cater to startups and entrepreneur types popping up all over SF (and NY too!) I wanted to note a few things that make SummitSF pretty special based on a tour and conversation we had with founder Ashwin Navin.

The Summit is "the public living room" of I/O Ventures, an early stage startup fund founded by Ashwin that focuses on mentoring it's members. The space is divided into 2 parts, a publicly accessible café space and a member's only workspace that includes meeting rooms, kitchen table workspace and dedicated team rooms for I/O venture's startups, which include

The open café on the left, and the member's only side on the right,
as seen from the mezzanine above.

Ashwin refers to the space as "The Coffee Shop That Works for Working" and it's true. What is immediately stricking upon walking in is how nice the finishes are in the café. This is definitely a step up from most of the other café spaces in The Mission which immediately sets a tone of the who and why of those who chose to spend time here. Unlike Ritual and some of the other café spaces in the Mission, it is clear that you can spend as much time as you'd like in here as the outlets here are not covered up.

I tweeted that I was here, and a few mnutes later my friend Jen Leonard tweeted back just as she was walking up to me. People are constantly stopping for casual conversation, giving the room a lively energy. And yet, despite the density of the kitchen tables all of the headsdown workers seem perfectly happy amidst the dull roar. The guy next to me does, however, have earplugs, and headphones abound.

While talking to Ashwin, I was struck by the way the challenge of working around regulations was ultimately converted to opportunities for a fluid flexibility at The Summit. As Ashwin put it, "Dealing with regulation has been the hardest part." Here, "everything is on a month to month schedule which allows us to be more flexible. The pastry chef may rotate out after a few months. The problem is, the banks hate this. They want everything to be 15 year leases and more longterm." Ultimately getting around the need for longer term leases and contracts enables the space to constantly refresh and continually evolve for members.

Ashwin's motivations for starting The Summit point to some of the drivers for the trend in Third Spaces in SF and elsewhere. "Being an entrepreneur, it's really lonely." "This place is for us, by us." It has all of the amenities a small business would need: permanent mailbox, 24 hour access, the ability to stay as long as you like, and great coffee!" But the real value is the energy and opportunity that comes with rubbing shoulders with some of San Francisco's young talent. Ashwin compares it to what he learns from a circle of peers he plays Texas Hold'em with. "An hour of poker with like-minded people could save me half a million in mistakes in the long run." You never know what will come from the serendipitous conversation that erupts when talent with with common individual goals have a place to gather.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Station to Station: The Pirate Cat Radio Hybrid

I'm sorry to admit I've been meaning to blog about one of my neighborhood's tucked away institutions, Pirate Cat Radio. And no sooner do I do so when I find out it might be in trouble, according to Mission Local. I was there in Monday, however, and it seemed as though the broadcast was still rolling. We shall see.

Pirate Cat is a hybrid of one part radio station studio, one part coffee shop with a glass wall dividing the 2. Surprisingly, the co-habitate nicely as you listen to the live broadcast while contemplating your order. With so many coffeeshops creating atmosphere via the tunes that the barista plays over the PA system, it seems only natural to scale that up to become a broadcast that extends far beyond the space itself (via the airwaves and Internet.) The broadcast is even projected out onto the sidewalk adding a lot of energy to a very somber, residential part of the Mission.

The Pirate Cat Studios as seen from the café.

The Café

My favorite part of the MissionLocal post is the clever way in which Pirate Cat's founder managed to circumvent the regulations that obstructed his broadcast:
"Roberts is known for his creativity in keeping the station on the air. In 2002, it came to his attention that a little-known provision in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations permitted unlicensed broadcasting in times of war. President Bush had announced a “war on terror” on September 20, 2001. In April 2003, Pirate Cat began broadcasting openly in San Francisco — a pirate station that insisted that it was legal, and as American as apple pie."

First we lose KUSF and now maybe Pirate Cat. Underground radio isn't hurting anyone, and it's becoming more and more necessary to provide variety to the airwaves all the time.

On another note, right next door to PCR, I have always found this soccer equipment and uniform shop built into a residential garage as a charming adaptation of one more private space programming for another more public-facing one.