Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Visitacion Valley - Comeback Neighborhood of the Year
Yesterday evening, the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) announced their 2010 award recipients listed here There it was, after weeks of advocacy in an extremely competitive nominating process, VVBOOM had orchestrated a winner: Comeback Neighborhood of the Year - Visitacion Valley. Below is the nominating letter VVBOOM wrote, making a strong case for the neighborhood.
Visitacion Valley is the comeback neighborhood of the year in 2010. All one needs to do is visit this southeast San Francisco community that serves as a gateway to the city to see how far we’ve come. In the past twelve months Visitacion Valley has been the recipient of long overdue investment and used it to energize residents and stakeholders, challenging long-standing perceptions city-wide. Visitacion Valley is back; as evidenced by the renaissance underway along the Leland-Bayshore Commercial Corridor - the civic and economic heart of the neighborhood.
The most visible sign of progress in Visitacion Valley is along its business district - Leland Avenue. A recently completed streetscape project (stretching 4 blocks from Bayshore Blvd. to Rutland St.) has resulted in the installation of 63 new street trees, 30 accessible curb ramps, 15 curb corner bulb outs with added green space at intersections, 45 newly installed pedestrian street lights, sidewalk and street repaving, decorative-stamped crosswalks for shoppers and new street furniture. In addition to the aesthetic appeal, the green project design, permeable pavers and LED streetlight fixtures have made the Leland Avenue streetscape a model for best practices in environmental design and storm water management of urban business districts nationwide. Moreover, colorful tile detailing to the street furniture along Leland Avenue was carefully added to match the design concepts on the Visitacion Valley Greenway creating congruence through the heart of the community.
As part of the revival, Leland Avenue now also boasts a dynamic new art installation created by the talented San Francisco artist team – REBAR. The sculpture titled Street Life, is composed of surplus parking meters and includes seven inspirational words related to growth and life written in the diverse languages spoken in this neighborhood. The sculpture is meant to mark a particular moment in time, when the neighborhood undergoes a radical and positive transformation while contributing to a vibrant street culture; a gateway and an invitation for conversation about community, art and the proper use of parking meters.
Across Bayshore Boulevard, a fallen, blighted factory site is being transformed into a lively mixed-use transit-oriented community as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the Schlage Lock Redevelopment Plan last November. The plan calls for the former site to be renewed into a 1250 new housing unit community with new parks, a community center, as well as new neighborhood serving retail including a grocery store. The formal plan approval was a symbolic victory and signaled progress for a neighborhood waiting for a step in the right direction since the factory closed almost fifteen years ago. The ripple effect of Schlage Lock’s closing devastated Leland Avenue, where numerous businesses especially restaurants and delis who depended on foot traffic generated from factory employees saw their customers base disappear. But after 10+ years of a slumping local economy, downtown Visitacion Valley is back.
Speaking of local small business, this past year saw 3 fantastic new businesses open their doors in Visitacion Valley, signaling a revival is underway. The San Francisco Sewing & Quilting Collaborative located at 2189 Bayshore Blvd (@ Blanken) is a multi-unit, multi-purpose storefront spearheaded by altruistic entrepreneur Linda Hannawalt. One unit serves as a classroom dedicated to teaching the art of quilting and clothing alteration while donating the finished products to charitable causes around the city. The other storefront is a dynamic consignment boutique boasting a stunning floor display of jewelry, handbags, pillows, clothing items (scarves, hats, purses) as well as home accessories. Visitacion Valley finally landed a top-notch Taqueria this past July when El Buen Sabor opened its second location at 98 Leland Avenue (at Alpha St.) after expanding into the neighborhood from its wildly successful location on 18th and Valencia St. Furthermore, in April Kuk Sool Won of Visitacion Valley started holding martial arts lessons at their 189 Leland Avenue location. Open to students of all ages, the lessons are taught by Visitacion Valley resident and accomplished KSW Jorge Liberona.
The new martial arts studio is located near the Leland Ave. and Rutland St. intersection which will soon be home to Visitacion Valley’s new branch library. While the gorgeous new building won’t be ready to open until early 2011, this past year neighbors watched the new SFPL branch library break ground and erected. It’s 8,500 square feet footprint and skeleton is getting the attention of passers-by eager to enjoy the community room, outdoor courtyards, children & teen areas, and quite study lounges, not to mention all the new computers and books.
But Visitacion Valley isn’t waiting for the future to celebrate. This past September, the neighborhood had its most successful festival ever – the Leland Avenue Street Fair. Nearly 3,000 people packed the streets of downtown Visitacion Valley to visit booths from home grown artists, crafters, caterers, and service providers. There was a dedicated ‘Kids-Zone’ headed up by the San Francisco Urban Riders and Jumpstart who provided engaging youth activities while Pete Escovedo entertained the crowd from the main stage. The legendary Latin-jazz percussionist and his 6-piece band transformed the festival grounds into a dance party, headlining a great bill of musicians and performers.Less than two months earlier, Robert Mondavi sponsored a sustainable gardening workshop on the breathtaking Visitacion Valley Greenway. The workshop included free sessions on composting, planting, maintenance techniques and demonstrations from a guest chef on how to cook fresh garden vegetables. Serving as the neighborhood’s top amenity, the Visitacion Valley Greenway is a true hidden gem in San Francisco. And as 2010 proved, the same is starting to be said about the Visitacion Valley neighborhood – your comeback neighborhood of the year.