Saturday, March 3, 2012

Businessweek gets our neighborhood wrong

Businessweek writer Brad Stone wrote a long thumbsucker on the state of Twitter that, at the end, is casually unfair to our neighborhood. He acts like we're something broken that needs paving over.

I think the dude spun Google Street View around within half a block of the Twitter building, decided his work in gathering atmospherics was done, turned his browser around, and drove it back home to the suburbs. With the doors locked and the windows up.

It makes me question the level of care in the rest of the article -- especially in the part about Twitter sometimes not having seemed to take an interest in making money. Yeah, right.

Stone is talking about Twitter's move to the old Furniture Mart building on Market between Ninth and Tenth:
"Last year, Twitter finalized a lease for a 75-year-old former wholesale furniture market, a building that squats amid an economically depressed area on San Francisco’s Market Street filled with panhandlers, dollar stores, and litter-strewn empty lots. It’s an unusual location for an Internet phenom..."
The building does "squat" along Market, as he says. In fact its unwelcoming ground floor has always tended to deaden the street life of that block and improvement there will be welcome. On the other hand it's a landmark of sorts and it cheers me up to think of Jessica Mitford working there during the war as a rationing investigator. (Her job there gets mentioned btw in this wonderful Bob Treuhaft oral history that I've just discovered is online. Wow.)

But that "filled with" business?

Look, there are panhandlers who work regular pitches at Civic Center Station. They're especially polite because they have regulars. From there to Van Ness maybe one person might ask you for something, and that on more of a freelance randomish basis. (So, OK, there are also guys around who would probably sell you something illicit if you asked, but the thing about drug dealers is, if they're irrelevant to you, you're irrelevant to them.)

Not counting active construction sites, I can think of one vacant lot within half a block of Market Street. One. It's across Ninth Street from Twitter next to the Quaker Meeting building. It allows people to get a good view of the striking new "67 SueƱos" mural on the wall of the meeting house. So, OK, maybe I'm forgetting some other vacant lot, but, then, tell me where it is. Land on Market Street is far too valuable to be "filled" with vacant lots. So a little further north there's that narrow little vacant lot on Grove Street by City Hall but even that is more of an art space than a waste ground.

There is one dollar store in that neck of mid-Market. One. It's across the street and half a block down from the Twitter building. And then really nothing else like that until you get to our amazingly useful tiny 9 Light sundries shop down here on Howard, which sells everything from underwear to woven plastic storage bags to phone cables, and which is immensely more useful by the square foot than Twitter ever will be.

You could say with more justice that Twitter's neighborhood is "filled with" news correspondents' offices, small restaurants and corner stores, of which there are many, or Starbucks coffeeshops and Walgreen's drugstores, of which there are two each within two blocks. Also it's "filled with" many things there are one of: florists, dentists, pastry shops, city attorney's offices, City Halls, Banks of America...

Coulda mentioned the hawk's nest on the Twitter building too. See likely picture of it here and what I know about it here (second link includes photo of probably different, smaller hawk that sometimes eats pigeons in our yard).

So the new tenant in the Furniture Mart? They might do some nice things for that block, sure, but we are not all sitting here in benighted emptiness waiting for Twitter to give us meaning.

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