Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lunching in Public: The 1 Kearny St. terrace

San Francisco managed to look like Paris yesterday.

From the the 1 Kearny terrace, eleventh floor, Market Street has more trees in leaf than you'd ever think. Joel took this picture. It's looking west from the parapet. Humboldt Bank Building on the left, Phelan Building on the right.

Joel and I picked up a lunch at the Emporio Rulli kiosk in Union Square. Artichoke salad, toasted ham and cheese sandwich, Pellegrino. Pricey but tasty.

We showed up at the 1 Kearny building with low expectations, having heard of a recent elevator problem. To our pleasant surprise the space was not only open but popular and amply used.

We only had to know that the space was there. Then we only had to feel a sufficient sense of belonging to greet and sign in with a (perfectly pleasant) security guard. After that everything was fine.

They're doing some remodeling work at one entrance; the security desk is at 23 Geary. At the current entrance we didn't see any notices about the public space until we were already inside of the elevator, having signed in with the guard and received directions from him. John King's column reports there's supposed to be a sign "at knee level" somewhere on the ground floor but if so it was hard to find.

On the other hand, in local papers and online, if not at the actual site, there seems to be a bandwagon effect going on -- a murmur about access to privately owned public spaces as a right that's pleasant to claim aside from it being a civic duty and all. Has to do, apparently, with John King's steady efforts in the Chronicle, and, more recently, several other writeups elsewhere.

These are the people we met up on the terrace and how they said they heard about the place:

- The two lovers who I mentioned earlier had heard of the terrace on Pinchit. Turns out to have its own page over there.

- Coworkers Greg and Mike were on lunch break from a digital publishing office. Mike had been there before with a different friend  -- "It was like, hey, I know a roof, let's go." Today, Mike brought Greg along. File under "word of mouth."

- Seven people from ImpactCarbon, including executive director Evan Haigler, were having an office lunch. They were talking about carbon credits, which is what they do: anti-poverty projects that achieve pollution reduction through means such as distributing efficient home cookstoves and water filters. Evan said they saw an item about the terrace in the SF Weekly. Probably this item, which says, "The suits have had it to themselves for too long." The SF Weekly also mentions the "Versailles" effect of the hedges on the terrace and the nearby Mansard roof, which is just about right.

- Joanna, the tourist from New York, said she'd seen the terrace mentioned in a magazine about things tourists might not ordinarily see. She'd decided "to see the sights, from higher up." For a while she was taking pictures. For a while she was relaxing on a bench, looking at the sky.

Nice sky from up there, or anyhow it was nice yesterday.

Some urban armoring to it all. Notably, there are bathrooms on the terrace but to borrow the key you have to leave a valid ID on deposit with the security guard on the ground floor.

Also, again, there's this threshold social-confidence requirement to visit the terrace at all. You have to believe it's a reasonable thing to go into a downtown office building where you have no official business. You have to feel able to ask something from a security guard in the building. Not everybody quite feels up to that.

When we were up there, everyone with us came across as middle-middle-class or above. 

Eh, it was a beautiful day. It's a beautiful place. Just hope everyone gets to enjoy it as much as we found we very easily could.

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