Hans Hansson | March 28, 2014
I asked a well-known architect friend of mine what he thought of San Francisco's architecture. His answer surprised me. He responded, "I don't."
He went on to say that San Francisco lost its architecture in the 1906 earthquake. He explained, "I knew of the grand downtown of our city and its wonderful displays of building architecture. In looking at old photos of the city before 1906, I never fully understood the beauty of the homes that we lost that day on April 18th."
San Francisco was the center of the west coast in 1906. It also was the home to some of the wealthiest families in the world. Many of those wealthy families built their homes in the South of Market district of our city, SoMa, as it's known. Homes on all corners of Folsom, Bryant and Harrison Streets were lined with magnificent works of art in their buildings. They were so grand, that no house today in our Pacific Heights district could come close to comparison. It was where the city's money and power lived.
Since the earthquake, South of Market turned into our industrial district, home to coffee roasters, manufacturers, and all sorts of service-related businesses. By the 1940's the area was transformed again into the area that supported our auto body and auto repair businesses, along with printing companies.
Then in 1996, Mayor Frank Jordan supported two very important ideas, which again transformed the district. The first was the installation of the first fiber optic line, which ran down Howard Street. The second idea was adding technology firms to a new zoning called "service light industrial" in order to avoid slowing the growth of this new industry due to previous office building restrictions.
Since then, through the boom and bust of the Dot.com era and now today experiencing the second wave of the technology boom, the South of Market is shining like it never has, even prior to the 1906 earthquake. Within a few years the skyline of our city will be changed forever with new highrises touching the sky at levels never built in the city before. At today's prices of $1,000 to $1,500 dollars per square foot to buy a condo, South of Market will also become the area of the city where the rich and famous will once again live. San Francisco's South of Market has truly come full circle.
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