Sunday, June 24, 2012

SoMa in transition, REI et al.'s parking lot

Just a South of Market moment in time: old shed, near-new condo, new reserved-parking tags.
It's a beautiful Pride day here. Can hear wind, chimes, neighbors' fountain, and in the distance, cheers, loudspeakers and dance beats. Big crowds on some corners. But in the interiors of some blocks, astonishing peace and quiet.

6 comments:

  1. South of Market used to be one of my favorite neighborhoods, but much of what made it so wonderful has been utterly destroyed. I used to take long walks around China Basin and through the warehouse district near the SP Depot, and would occasionally have breakfast or lunch at one of the many diners that once dotted the area. (Does anyone remember Blanche's on the Mission Creek pier? I thought not.) Streets that once had character and color are now lined with ugly, overbearing condos, boilerplate corporate enterprises and "California Cuisine"--the district has been gentrified and homogenized into oblivion. It breaks my heart that all of my documentation of the area in the '70s and '80s has been lost. I still have my memories, but they are bittersweet indeed.

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  2. Thanks for writing. Sorry, never got to Blanche's. Farthest back I go is Carmen's on the pilings by the Fourth Street bridge -- the one that's a ruin now. Even with Carmen's, for me it was mostly to use the phone during the week they evicted the village that used to be on both sides of that bridge: RVs parked in the wide part of the road to the south, and an informal tent/shanty circle in the vacant lot where the branch library is now. All of that long gone now of course, except the hulk of Carmen's. In fact, would be glad to know why the Carmen's building hasn't been either torn down or fixed up. Any idea?

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    1. Carmen's was formerly Blanche's. Don't know who's the current property owner.

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  3. Thanks. Did not know that.

    How was the food at Blanche's/Carmen's? I don't think I ever bought more than coffee in there. Just really remember that the pay phone was near the diner counter, and the bench where you sat to use the phone was beautifully aged solid wood built right into the structure of the place like something on a boat. Does that ring true?

    As to ownership, I found this from SF Redevelopment about Carmen's as of two years ago (warning: link is a PDF download): http://www.sfredevelopment.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=1015 Purpose of the document is to recommend a lease renewal for the successor Carmen's restaurant along the Embarcadero at Pier 38/40, but along the way it gets into some history about the former site. Says (as of 2010) that the old Carmen's site by the bridge is officially "Wharf 62" and belongs to the Port of SF. Also says Carmen's was there "for nearly 20 years" ending in 2002. But I'm sure the wood in that building was way older than 20 years.

    So I wonder, how long was it Blanche's before it was Carmen's?

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    1. I discovered Blanche's in 1971, when I lived on Missouri St. near Mariposa. Blanche was a petite, white-haired woman, perhaps in her late '50s or early '60s, very open and friendly, and her diner was filled with various flowering plants. The food she served was a cut above regular diner fare, too. What I remember most were her sandwiches and coffee, and eggs Benedict for breakfast.

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  4. Thanks for this, always wondered. Great to know what it was like before. Funny, actually that spot is still a good one for a coffee shop now. Surprised the Port hasn't yupped it up instead of letting it sit.

    If yr still reading here, any sense of who Blanche's regulars used to be -- what kind of work they did, what brought them to the bridge area?

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