Since the city outlawed signage and tore up the thoroughfare for BART construction in 1970, mid-Market has remained an odd no-man's land in the heart of an affluent, world-class urban center.
Tourists strolling down the picturesque boulevard of upper Market, shopping bags in tow, expect San Francisco’s Champs Elyseés to continue down to the Castro. Passing 5th Street, they quickly learn there is little if anything to see. For San Francisco's Great White Way long ago turned into its most visible central den of inequity, lined with the city's most embarrassing social and criminal problems: drugs, homelessness and prostitution.
The problem has eluded city government and planning, property owners and realtors and the neighborhood population as a whole. Market Street is the central artery of the city, and yet it's been left forgotten, pockmarked and blighted for nearly four decades. "It really is sort of like the picture of Dorian Gray," says local activist Tom Radulovich, "hidden in progressive San Francisco's attic."
How did we get here, and how bad is it really? Where does the blame lie? And what will it take to turn Market Street into the bustling thoroughfare it once was?
No one has tried to connect all the dots yet: from BART construction in the '70s to a rise in homelessness in the '90s to today's real estate boom and bust, plus issues of laissez-faire San Francisco politics and the city's harsh urban planning response to the homeless. With my unique perspective as a real estate journalist and a former resident of the Tenderloin, I think I have the perfect mix of experience to finally bring this unique and complicated story to light.