My final thoughts on SoMa

Before this semester, South of Market to me was where the Giants played. Well kind of.

I mean the neighborhood on the Google map I looked up when I was assigned the neighborhood made it look really small, but I just took it to mean anything south of Market Street and before Folsom was my neighborhood. For most of the semester that is what I covered.

I wish I could have been able to cover the Folsom Street Fair, because although the neighborhood was strange, that fair would have been a whole different type of weird.

I guess looking back I feel like I had some fun being able to visit some cool places. On more than one occasion, whether with friends of family, I was always the one who pointed out where the great restaurants were. Where the cool spots where the wind didn’t try to take you out, or where the people ran you over in their haste.

I also met some interesting people. I know that more than once the guy that plays the drums recognized me. I just wish he could have let me write my profile on him.

I got to know a busy part of town, a part that is littered with poverty but also has upstart young businessmen and women. I saw a part of town where police are plentiful, but also scarce in its safe little pockets.

Everyday I found something that could make me smile, or frown. The guy playing the drums can play some amazing fills, but the guys hanging around the Civic Center Bart station had signs asking for any help.

SoMa reminds me of how the homelessness problem in this country is so out of control. It reminds me that there are people out there who’s cars are worth more than my house, it reminds me that I’m only an hour away from a really good concert in a historical venue. It reminds me, of course, that I can see a Giants game and a movie in the same night.

I had fun in the neighborhood, but I think that it would be great to do some sort of volunteer work for some of the less fortunate sections of the neighborhood.

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Is Central Subway really building for our greater good?

The future location of the Yerba Buena/Moscone Subway station in SoMa is currently occupied by a 76 Gas Station and Bay Motor Works, both of which will be displaced soon.

In order to build a new 1.7-mile light-rail line, two businesses will be relocated so that The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority can launch the Central Subway project, a plan to build a new 1.7-mile light-rail line.

The new line will run from Chinatown through the South of Market district, eventually ending at the Fourth and Brannan station, and cost $1.578 billion.

The proposed station in SoMa, which will cost an estimated $117 million will be built on the corner of Fourth and Folsom streets and will be called Yerba Buena/Moscone Station.

A 76 gas station, owned by ConocoPhillips and the Bay Motor Works smog center currently sit on the property set aside for the station.

“I’ll lose a lot of business,” said Clifford Twong who owns Bay Motor Works. “As of right now I have no new location.”

The owners of the 76 Gas Station refused to comment on the relocation.

Construction on the Chinatown station has already started, with Mayor Ed Lee’s backing of the project. The building at 933-949 Stockton St. has been covered in a decorative wrap until it is to be demolished later this year.

With Lee’s backing of the project, Central Subway plans to open its T Third Line in 2019 with a projected ridership of 43,700 people along the entire line.

Utility relocation for the SoMa station began in January 2010 and ended in May 2011 while the tunnel contract started in January 2012 and will last until the first quarter 2015.

“The construction for the 1.7-mile deep tunnels in SoMa is set to start in the first quarter of 2013 and will last approximately four years,” according to Construction Manager Mark Benson.

When the Tunnel Boring Machines, which are specifically built for each tunneling job, arrive in San Francisco, construction can begin on tunnels in SoMa.

During construction the public will suffer inconveniences, such as delay to bus routes, but Central Subway has set up helpful programs to aid commuters.

“The Central Subway Project has an extensive public Outreach/communications Plan that is used to inform the public, such as community, residential buildings, tenants, businesses, of all construction activities and the overall project,” said External Affairs Manager for the Central Subway Project Brajah Norris.

Also part of the plan is to utilize social media as a way to give commuters and general public updates of how the Central Subway Project is going. Central Subway has set up YouTube, Twitter and Facebook accounts used to communicate to the public, as well as providing local public outreach through community based organizations to their respective regions, for example the Chinatown Community Development Center.

Some of these tasks include; multiple public notices, regular community briefings to community based organizations, home owners associations and business associations, he said.

For pedestrians, contractors are required to build and maintain walkways in all areas of construction.  Large electronic street signs posted in intersections advising drivers of detours will guide the vehicular traffic. Central Subway has hired traffic control officers and flaggers to guide passengers and post information on the website and blog as well.

For bus riders Central Subway have an outreach program for the reroutes of the 30 Stockton, 45 Union and 8 & 8X lines which begin two to three months prior to rerouting. This plan includes posting signage, blogging and tweeting reroute maps and stops. SFMTA will also start hiring Ambassadors to guide people during the week when the new route begins.

Under the Uniform Act, a federal law that establishes minimum standards for federally funded programs and projects that require the acquisition of real estate, these standards can displace persons from their homes, businesses, or farms. The Uniform Act’s protections and assistance apply to the acquisition, rehabilitation, or demolition of real property for federally funded projects.

“The three businesses being relocated in the SoMa area will be fairly compensated according to their market value under the guidelines of the federal relocation Act” said Norris.

According to Benson, Central Subway doesn’t expect their construction to continually effect the city’s commuters, including Bart passengers.

Below is an interactive map with a route of the future subway line.

*All figures given are estimates

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Parks to visit in SoMa

SoMa is a very fast paced neighborhood. Whether it be home to the young hipster crowd, or the full-fledged business man, it seems like everyone around here is always moving so fast. So I thought a map of some parks you can visit might work. Sometimes you need to get away from the ridiculously fast pace San Francisco lifestyle and slow it down. So if you feel like sitting in the shade or playing some catch with a few buddies, these places will help you relax a bit.

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Don’t be restricted by the six-pack

I know that there are few things in life as inflexible as the six-pack. Being stuck with six of the same beer isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would be so much better if you could have more variety.

That’s what City Beer Store offers.

City Beer Store is run by the husband and wife duo of Craig and Beth Wathen who wanted to open a place in SoMa where people could come and taste some of their favorite brews. They also wondered why six-packs had to be all of the same beer.

Now today when you walk into the City Beer Store you can choose from a beer list that tops 300 beers. While your choosing you can sample some of the brews that they have in the store to help make a selection. Their beers vary from domestic to imported brewed beer.

Craig and Beth’s dream at creating a downtown spot to sip some beer at has been a hit, they’ve even been recognized as one of the 10 best place to have a beer in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Wathen’s are dedicated because of their love of beer. Their greeting on their website says it all.

“Our hope is for beer to be treated with the same respect as a fine wine or fine bourbon. Through continued education and tasting of many brews we will create a beer force to be reckoned with!”

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StEat food for the masses

The SoMa StrEat Food Park, set to open up in Mid-May

When you’re looking for some good food after a night out, wouldn’t it be nice to eat something other than a greasy burger and french fries?

In Mid-May SoMa will be getting its very own StrEat Food Park, an outdoor venue where a variety of food trucks can serve a wide variety of cuisine to the neighborhoods hungry travelers.

Carlos Muela who owns two restaurants in San Francisco, Picaro on 16th and Valencia and Esperpento on 22nd and Valencia, is the engineer behind the StrEat food park, got the idea when he visited Portland, Ore. and saw how the locals gravitated to the street food.

“It has been hell trying to get all our permit,” Muela says. “[San Francisco] makes it so difficult for food trucks to acquire permits, it takes upwards of a year and half, sometimes even two years.”

With that level of difficulty, the food truck scene suffers from lack of exposure. According to Muela, most food trucks unable to get permits have to work outside of their own homes, which is not ideal.

That is where the StrEat Food Park comes in. Muela’s idea is for food trucks to rotate between the 10 spaces allotted for them in the park so as to keep a constant shift to feature different types of cuisines at different times. Since most trucks operate on social media such as Twitter to let their customers know where they are, customers can always come and visit their favorites.

One of the future dining areas located in the SoMa StrEat Park

Carlos himself says that the social media aspect of the park will be crucial, but that he needs to “step up” his social media game.

The park is still coming together, but Muela sees everything going smoothly so far.

Muela recalls a day during construction where the crew had the jackhammer out and was making a lot of noise and a resident came to talk to them about the park.“I expected him to mad, but he was actually really grateful,” Muela said. “He said that it was a great place for him to take his 9-year-old daughter, we’ve had a surprisingly strong neighborhood backing, which is amazing.”

The park plans to be a place where the entire family can be together. Muela plans to host movies and sports games, as well as holiday events once he can attain the proper permits.

Between all the exciting events and the diverse cuisine that they’ll be serving in the near future, The StrEat Food Park could soon become a SoMa staple when it comes to food and entertainment.

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Arkipelago:North America’s only Filipino-American Bookstore

The shelves are stocked full of Filipino literature at Arkipelago Bookstore

In a time when small bookstores, and even the larger chain stores, have fallen by the wayside, Marie Romero’s Arkipelago Bookstore is still intact.

Arkipelago is a small bookstore in SoMa that is extraordinary not just for the fact that it is a surviving bookstore in the age of the Internet, but that it is a store developed strictly to house Filipino literature.

San Francisco and Daly City have always been known to have large Filipino populations, so where else would you open up North America’s only Filipino bookstore?

“I started [Arkipelago] because I was looking for materials for my children to read,” says Romero. “I went to libraries but most of the Filipino writing was scholarly, not for children.”

Colorful shelves hold literature for all ages

Romero, who was born in the Philippines, knew that her store could provide a service to other Filipino-American families looking for ways to teach their children about their roots.

Arkipelago has a wide selection of readings, from fiction and non-fiction, to poetry and children’s books as well as historical text from a wide variety of Filipino authors, which was the goal behind Arkipelago: Filipino books.

“I always knew I wanted a specialty Filipino-American bookstore, but bookstores aren’t as popular of a business anymore,” Romero says. “But the store is more of a hobby, or a passion than a job.”

Arkipelago is located at 1010 Mission St, and will be for some time according to Romero, who plans to keep running it for a while.

“Some of my first customers were students, but now those students are parents, or grandparents now, bringing the next generation in to learn about their history,” says Romero.

In any case Romero plans on seeing the next generation of Filipino-Americans as well.

“I’m too young to retire and I’m to old to start all over, so ill be here.”

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Get your chai on the go

The Downtown San Francisco food scene isn’t restricted to the everyday sit and eat restaurants we see littering most towns. Unlike most towns, San Francisco has a lot of food that you can get on the go.

Street food carts are very popular around the Mission and SoMa districts, with many different foods, from desert carts to ethnic foods, to places to get coffee of tea during some of San Francisco’s cold blustery days.

The food cart is a relatively old practice, as long as restaurants have been around, people have been looking for quicker and easier ways to take their food with them. Which means food establishments has been looking for ways to satisfy customers.

Pawaan Kothari, who started The Chai Cart, said that her cart was something she started as a weekend hobby.

Kothari, who is of Indian decent, said she would ride around the Mission on a bicycle, selling her Chai.

“I was surprised to see how many people really appreciated the real authentic chai,” Kothari said. “I started to realize that there is a need that isn’t being met by any other chai on the market. Chai carts in India are a commonplace.”

Dennis Walker, who works at the cart, agrees saying that people seem to very enthusiastic about the taste of the authentic chai that Kothari makes herself.

“We’re surrounded by tons of businesses on Market and near the Financial District so we offer services where we deliver a large container of chai to your office, which helps some of the people that come down from their jobs like three times a day to have our chai,” Walker said.

The process of setting up a cart in San Francisco takes a few moths because a cart like The Chai Cart can’t be too nearby other businesses with similar products, like a Starbucks or a Peet’s. In fact the flexibility with the location of the cart is so strict that if the cart was to be moved a few hundred feet it would be in violation of their lease.

Kothari, a former market analyst for a tech company, decided that by selling her more authentic Chai, she could provide a better quality tea. Now her Chai Cart tea is more than just a business, it is a brand. Kothari sells her tea locally at grocery stores, most notably Whole Foods Markets all around the Bay Area.

“My aspiration is to redefine the American chai experience. Going to INSEAD with some of some of the most amazing people in the world has in some way helped in elevating a small idea into something big,” said Kothari.

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