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By any measure, San Francisco ranks among the world’s most beautiful cities. Yet for years, in a sector that tourists never see, 50 barracks-style buildings constructed in 1943 housed 264 families in poverty and fear. Now, a new project is helping the community at Hunters View write a brighter future.
In contrast to the open city of magnificent views, says architect Dan Solomon of Mithun | Solomon, “half a block into the project one was completely unaware of a world outside. Dead-end streets wound around the contours of the hill; buildings didn’t follow the streets and open space was what was left over—shapeless, residual, un-owned, and terrifying. Kids who lived in the project were literally in mortal danger if they ventured two blocks away to another isolated project and another fiercely defended gang turf.”
The emerging Hunters View community is secure, immeasurably improves parks and public spaces, and is immediately recognizable as San Francisco.
“Views of an adjacent building’s dumpsters became site lines to the cityscape to the north and the new Bay Bridge to the east. Streets became boulevards. The plan essentially replicated neighborhoods on Russian and Telegraph Hills in the older sections of San Francisco,” says John Stewart, the lead developer.
Hunters View displaces no public housing residents—not even during construction, which is about a third underway. The new 16-block neighborhood nearly triples the density of the site and includes affordable and market-rate homes along with replacement public housing, community buildings, childcare services, and even future shops.
The development brings order to a city sector laid out in squiggly postwar cul-de-sacs. Newly redesigned streets lead directly to shops, transit, and other services. New green spaces are created, too, including a hilltop park with panoramic views—a vernacular type of space native to San Francisco. A playground and field in Promontory Park allow families to own million-dollar views of the Bay. Each block has a semi-private interior courtyard where small children play with even more security.
All added up, the newly rebuilt Hunters View, which is part of the federal government’s Choice Neighborhoods program, restores civilized living in a package that is distinctly San Francisco.
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