aside Lower Polk Alleys Community Workshops on Oct 7 and 10


In coordination with Lower Polk Neighbors and the newly established Lower Polk Community Benefit District (CBD), INTERSTICE Architects has begun working with the community on an Improvement Initiative to create and define a new Polk Alleyways District in the heart of the Lower Polk area.  There are six uniquely situated Alleys in the Lower Polk Neighborhood that extend outward from the Polk Street commercial spine.   These two block long intimate alleyways form a finer urban grain to the central core of this rapidly changing neighborhood – extending from Olive at the South to Austin Alley at the North, and bounded on the West by Van Ness Avenue and East by Larkin Street.

15.08-12 LPAlley Context Map- FULL
Lower Polk Alleys in context
15.08-07 IA Lower Polk Alleys - Existing Conditions Drawings 24x36_Page_2
Cedar, Alice B Toklas and Olive Alleys
15.09-08 IA Lower Polk Alleys - Existing Conditions Drawings 24x36_Page_1
Austin, Fern and Hemlock Alleys

We recognize the dramatic need to understand and re-envision these six alleys as open space opportunities, instead of underutilized “back-alleys” often viewed as problems, and are collaborating to identify opportunities for community engagement, physical changes, and future funding opportunities.  In recognition of these public streets cumulatively as a significant open space resource, we propose studying them as a whole and as integral parts of a neighborhood core.  In this way each can be uniquely and individually integrated into a larger, planned amenity for the whole neighborhood, which is desperately in need of improved green spaces and quality shared public space.

Hemlock Alley
Hemlock East (Polk to Larkin)

IA has completed the initial phase of existing resource documentation and introduced the existing conditions studies at the LPN meeting on August 12 enjoying initial feedback from the community.  All who attended this meeting, as well as any persons in the Lower Polk neighborhood, are encouraged to join the upcoming workshops: Workshop #1A Wednesday October 7th at 7pm  and Workshop #1B Saturday October 10th at 11 am at First Congregational Church, 1300 Polk Street (at Bush) to share ideas and aspirations for the alleys.

An RSVP is appreciated so we can plan for food and refreshments, but not required for attendance.

LPA - TYP sections
Cedar – Facing East to Larkin

Please follow us on Twitter @lowerpolk or stay tuned on the LPN mailing list to keep up with announcements and community outreach workshops in the months ahead, as a comprehensive Master Plan evolves treating the Polk Alleys as a treasured asset and destination in this vibrant San Francisco neighborhood.


  1. If you truly propose studying the alleyways “as a whole and as integral parts of a neighborhood core,” then the human beings you refer to as “viewed as problems” must come first in terms of addressing addiction and homelessness. These are the very people who were pushed from the streets and from sitting on the sidewalks in front of businesses. If you push them from the alleys, should they go to the public parks where children might play? And then where? I never thought I would live to see this city gentrify to the point where white, million-dollar condo owners would also need all the alleys looking like Maiden Lane. As we lose more and more diversity, retaining less and less compassion, and as we move to gentrify every square inch of this shining white city by the bay, I pray for the souls of those being swept away like garbage. Homelessness is a problem, and so is drug addiction, but more than anything it is sad. Address them first, have meetings and fundraisers to solve their needs, and perhaps I will stop by to help plant flowers at the entrances to the alleyways.


  2. This is the most disgusting piece of writing I have seen in a long time.

    It looks like a 1984 feminist manifesto for the destruction of the entire gay history of San Francisco, a perfect expression of a trailer-trash population moving upmarket, destroying every picece of culture they want to `sanitize’. Adolf meets Germaine Greer, and agrees to terms.

    San Francisco is trading its history of cultural revolution to financial revolution, and cleaning things up for the feminist control of the men who are driving the tech revolution.

    I’d rather China ran the show. From the perspective of somebody who knows City culture from many years past, and its enormous contribution to American culture, you are reverting to the pseudo-intellectual nonentity as a village that you always were, ignoring the social role you have had in American history simply because you were always the home for the disenchanted progressive American thinkers that have now abandoned you.


    • Hah @ richardhg, Maybe you should take your arm chair criticism and move to China. Let’s see how that goes.

      @brianh- Wanting to create safer spaces for ALL – and that includes the most marginalized is not sanitization – it’s inconscionable to cut all mental health and housing services for those who need it the most.

      If you live on an alley or in the neighborhood, you should come by and actually see what is being attempted and give your feedback. There are routine assaults on homeless women in the alleys. The alleys have been taken over by drug dealers who are not homeless- they just prey on them. And by the weekend out of city crowd that uses them as trash cans and a toilet.

      As a POC who has lived in this city for over a decade, I recognize this as an attempt by the community to reclaim its space and while it is not perfect, it’s a start.


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