How One San Francisco Street Survived the Pandemic

The City and County of San Francisco, California Hundreds of people crammed within a three-block radius.

They carried jars of honey, boxes of fresh peas, and bouquets of flowers in their hands. Ripe peaches, eggplants, and cherries were crammed into backpacks strapped to the wearer’s shoulders.

On a recent Sunday, the Clement Street Farmers Market felt like a time capsule from a bygone era, save for a few disguised faces.

Since the first outbreak of the coronavirus 19 months ago, Clement Street, the main thoroughfare of San Francisco’s Richmond District, has been spared the financial catastrophe that has engulfed many other major cities.

Clement Street Merchants Association President Morgan Mapes claims that only a few of the street’s shops have been permanently shut down. Unlike the now-largely-desolate downtown San Francisco, this commercial strip never depended on tourists or office workers for business.

“We’re in a good place,” Mapes told me. To serve our neighbours and residents, “We’re here to help.”

To understand how Clement Street was able to survive the pandemic, it is necessary to understand how cities will alter in the following few years. The metropolis, where people spend hours commuting to and from work, recreation, and retail therapy, may be on its way out.

Let me give you a brief history of Clement Street before I continue: There are numerous shops along the two and a half-mile stretch from the peninsula’s northwest extremity.

Many people consider Clement Street to be San Francisco’s second Chinatown; you may have eaten dim sum or soup dumplings there. Green Apple Books and Burma Superstar Restaurant are also located here, as is Schubert’s Bakery, which has been in business for more than a century.

I visited San Francisco in January 2020, just before the epidemic, and stayed on Clement Street because it was less expensive (and more foggy) than other parts of the city. When I was a kid, it was so convenient to be able to get food, go to the movies, or just hang out with friends on the street.

The 15-minute city, as I’ve recently discovered, is a term for this kind of convenience. In her 2020 re-election campaign, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo emphasised the concept of neighbourhoods as social ecosystems, with offices, grocery stores, parks, and physicians’ offices all within a short walk or bike ride of any person.

As far as Mapes is concerned, this building was critical to the survival of Clement Street throughout the pandemic. While the region was under a lockdown, residents were still able to shop for food and other necessities.

Mapes, the owner of a vintage clothes boutique on Clement, admitted, “I don’t really leave the neighbourhood for much. “It’s all here for you.”

Upon my recent return to Clement Street, the area appeared to have been largely unaffected by the pandemic.The walkways had more seating, but the restaurants were still packed. Boutique shops saw a steady stream of customers coming and going. For whatever reason, I had seen a bunch of older gentlemen playing cards at a local cafe in the mornings.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak and people’s growing apprehension about returning to their long commutes, the “15-minute city” concept has gained currency.

In an interview with the BBC, Carlos Moreno, a Sorbonne professor and a driving force behind the idea, said, “The pandemic has caused us to think about how to move differently, to consume differently, to live differently.” Working in a new way has given us more time to spend with our families and friends. We’ve become more aware of and appreciative of our surroundings.

Cities will never return to their pre-industrial state, and that’s a good thing, according to Moreno. Walking and bicycling will be prioritised, and there will be a greater mix of residential and commercial spaces as services are brought closer to people’s homes, according to him.

If we get to know our neighbours instead of hurrying from one thing to another, the advocates of the 15-minute city say we’ll be happier.

Clement Street already had a strong sense of community. I bumped into Mapes at her shop as she was closing up for the night after my recent trip to the farmers’ market.

A man left his bicycle in front of the business while we were inside. He got to work cleaning the storefront’s windows, which he offered to do for free.

To what destination we’re going

Elizabeth Watson-Semmons, a reader who resides in Menlo Park, is the source of today’s travel advice. Located in San Benito County, Watson-Semmons recommends San Juan Bautista:

How about a few of your favourite spots in the Golden State? [email protected] is the email address to send your ideas to. In future newsletters, we’ll be revealing more.

Those are the recommendations we’re making.

The vibrant colours of Los Angeles served as the inspiration for this image.

Let us know what you have to say.

Which Dodgers-Giants games from the past stand out in your mind? Write to CAt[email protected] and tell us why the teams are important to you.

Finally, I’ll leave you with some encouraging news.

For the 11th time, CicLAvia, Los Angeles’s most popular car-free event, was held on Sunday.

On Oct. 10, 2010, the first CicLAvia was held, when thousands of people biked, walked, or skated from downtown Los Angeles to MacArthur Park and then to Chinatown.

Since the event was postponed for much of last year due to the pandemic, this year’s anniversary serves as a 10-year commemoration as well.

Thank you for joining me to kick off your week. I’ll be back in a day or two. — Soumya

Here’s a hint for today’s Mini Crossword: A little bit, casually (5 letters).

California Today received contributions from Briana Scalia and Mariel Wamsley. They are both freelance writers. The team’s email address is [email protected].

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