Some might argue with me that Hallidie Plaza (that hole in the ground outside the Powell Station) isn’t part of the Loin. I say that it very much is and that if you go to the right, where the escalators are, it’s the gateway to Union Square. You go to the left where the stairs are (and me walking up the stairs not making eye contact with the Street Sheeters), it’s the gateway to the Loin. In fact, it’s the perfect manifestation as to how San Francisco regards these two districts. Properly Done vs. Good Enough. No one really has been able to deal with the fact that this plaza is a complete disaster. If you haven’t read it, this article by John King from nearly four years ago is an excellent breakdown of what exactly is wrong with the Hallidie Hole and how it can be fixed:
When Hallidie Plaza opened in 1973, named in honor of cable car inventor Andrew Hallidie, the idea was to create a sunken plaza that could be a gathering place, a multilevel celebration of urbanity shielded from traffic and throngs.
Oops! We’ve learned since then that urbanity includes traffic and throngs. The commotion is part of the scene. By telescoping the plaza downward, its users were pulled out of sight and out of the action.
King went on to say that the other part of the plaza, which just seems like an afterthought anyways, should be done away with. I couldn’t agree more. And in fact, moving the visitor’s center up to the top is probably the best thing that could be done as any visitor that comes to visit me has no idea that it’s there, given that it’s on the leftward, Loiny side of the plaza.
Of course I can’t really see this happening with our current political mess. We’d end up with Chris Daly pushing for affordable housing to line the exit of Powell (which would look something like the prison cell scene in 12 Monkeys.) Then we’d end up with Newsom erecting a statue of himself over the entrance, standing with his legs apart so that we’d have to stare at his junk every time we would use the station. Whomever voted for Daly should have to live in his pet projects. Whomever voted for Newsom should have to spend time in a locked room with him.
But, my god, here’s one “small” idea that could actually work: a resevoir. Basically, as King was saying, give up on that extension bit. This has so many pluses to it, that I assume it won’t work in San Francisco due to it being firmly grounded in sensibility. First, it doesn’t have to be gorgeous or have artwork saluting some indigenous peoples. Second, it creates almighty surface area for development. Third, there’s the reservoir which it turns out will save the city money. I had no idea that the sound of rushing water I heard in Powell was actually the sound 44 million gallons of water a year being wasted! All this water is pumped out of the station to stop it from flooding when it could be used to fill up the various street cleaning trucks and other city vehicles that need water as well as washing away Newsom’s hubris on a daily, or as-needed basis.
While I’m pissed that this idea hasn’t come about before in a city that claims to be so green, I’m happy that at least now it’s being thought about and, aside from public officials not getting in to a hair pulling fight, it could actually happen.