Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cole Valley

My mom recently asked me, "Lulu, if you could move anywhere in the city from your current apartment, where would you go?"

Good question. Although I love my current neighborhood, there are several other San Francisco neighborhoods in which I would consider living - ones that have compelled me to linger in their sidewalk cafes and boutiques a little longer than I normally would.

Kelly Quinn, assistant professor of American Studies at Miami University, would call this feeling a "celebration of slowness." After reading Jane Jacobs' book about urban planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, over spring break and then discussing it with Kelly in class, I learned that the special "atmosphere" I love in many San Francisco neighborhoods can be traced back to their particular geographic features.

"There is a short word for this assumption of support: trust. The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts. It grows out of people stopping by at the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery and nodding hello to the two boys drinking soda pop on the stoop, eyeing the girls while waiting to be called for dinner, admonishing the children, hearing about a job from the hardware man and borrowing a dollar from the druggist, admiring the new babies and sympathizing over the way a coat faded." (Jacobs)

The small San Francisco neighborhood called Cole Valley just south of Haight St. and east of the Inner Sunset district is one I return to often. To me, it is an ideal neighborhood. In a city chock-full of variety stores -- strange shops to inspire or satisfy every particular need -- Cole Valley offers a selection of shops to support all of its residents' basic needs:

There is a bakery, a coffee shop, a grocery store or two...

Fresh Produce, originally uploaded by luluisforlovers.
Fresh fruit for the walk home.

...a couple of bars (including one wine bar), a cheese shop, a burger joint, a small gym, a laundromat and dry cleaners, a post office, a liquor store, a pharmacy, a video store...

A lone survivor, originally uploaded by luluisforlovers.
Many video stores fall by the wayside with big competitors like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster moving in nearby, but Video Nook has withstood the test of time thanks to local patronage.
...a beauty parlor, a garden center, a handful of good restaurants...

Lunch at Zazie, originally uploaded by luluisforlovers.
Zazie is a perennial favorite for brunch with both neighborhood locals and visitors to Cole Valley. 

... an auto repair garage, a hardware store, and a pet store (which is entirely necessary in this area).

Barking Lot, originally uploaded by luluisforlovers.
This guy gets a lot of attention," said Esther, an employee at Cole Hardware. She calls the parking meters along Cole Street a "barking lot" because of the large number of dogs usually tied up there (don't worry, they get plenty of attention).

In the center of Cole Valley, where the N Judah rolls through on a regular basis, musician Patient Zero plays for people while they wait for their bus. He watches the people as they exit the Muni, altering his performance to respond to what he sees. Kelly discussed how public transportation offers an opportunity for citizens to connect with others: "the bus as theater".

Protest Songs, originally uploaded by luluisforlovers.
Patient Zero sings about things like Walmart and voting from different perspectives. Check out his snarky tunes at

Kelly also emphasized the importance of trees, noting that they help control microclimates and guard against hot temperatures.

Full bloom, originally uploaded by luluisforlovers.
They also look nice! These bright purple trees (don't know the variety) line a Cole Valley side street. You can learn how to plant trees in your San Francisco neighborhood here.

"Customs vary: in some neighborhoods people compare notes on their dogs; in others they compare notes on their landlords." (Jacobs)

I would say Cole Valley does the former.

1 comment:

lissle said...

wooowwww great post. fantastic photos and link love