If you were to look up “community” in the dictionary you’d find North Beach under the examples.
I’ve never really taken the time to analyze a neighborhood the way I have with North Beach but what I’ve learned from these past four months is that it’s what every neighborhood should be like. Events that cater not only to the needs of its residents but also the general public that’s not in an in-your-face kind of way. If you hear or come across something online about something cool happening in the area – go. And there’s always something to do, whether it’s in Washington Square Park, City Lights Bookstore or one of the many art galleries the neighborhood offers. There’s always something to do even when it seems like there’s nothing to do. It’s a part of the city that you’d think would be heavily populated by tourists but in reality is not.
I think it’s awesome that the residents put together events for the whole family like the Columbus Day Bazaar. It was open to the public but it felt like everyone knew each other even if they didn’t. I also loved all the little events that happened in Jack Kerouac Alley such as the Fair To Remember. I am continually impressed by the local arts and crafts the city has to offer and having it showcased in such an area really brings the culture together.
Mark your calendars to go to North Beach on the first friday of every month to get your dose of culture around the city through the different works of art being shown in the different galleries around the neighborhood and mingle with the artists and residents.
Even if I wasn’t doing anything in particular, there was a sort of comfort in just walking around. I could walk around the neighborhood in circles and chill in Washington Square Park just taking in everything happening around me or pop in the City Lights Bookstore to kill some time and do some reading inside where you won’t get called out by the employees for doing so.
There wasn’t a trip I made out there without sitting in Saints Peter and Paul Church for a few minutes of peace and quiet. I’m not a fan of silence or particularly religious but there was always a calmness that overcame me whenever I went. And every time I walked into the church there was an elderly man who sat in the last row to the left of the entrance in the dark because they usually kept the lights dim inside. I didn’t think he was with the church but I never mustered up the courage to get his story. So if anyone knows who I’m talking about, please let me know!
Ah yes, and there’s also that sweet smell from Z. Cioccolato that pulls you in and follows you back down Columbus Avenue.
Even though my work for the semester is done and I don’t live in the city, I’ll definitely be back walking up and down Columbus Avenue. I look forward to seeing the new North Beach Library set to open during Spring next year.
Thank you to all the residents, merchants and everyone involved in the community for showing me more of what San Francisco has to offer.
Slowly but surely the new North Beach Library is finally coming together after nearly five years of the project facing criticism and complaints being brought to city hall but the Board of Supervisors silenced the naysayers in 2011.
The 8,500-square-foot, triangular building coming together on the corner of Lombard Street and Columbus Avenue was planned over a decade ago as part of the Branch Library Improvement Program but it wasn’t until two years ago did the project get the green light to start construction after the Board of Supervisors approved the Environmental Impact Report for the North Beach Library and Joe DiMaggio Playground project when it was certified.
“I think what we are very much looking forward to is a bigger, more accessible library,” Michelle Jeffers, the San Francisco public relations officer said. “The new North Beach branch will be 60 percent larger than the existing building and will have a great children’s designated section, plus a program room for library events.”
In an email sent to Deputy City Librarian Luis Herrera, Almer Castillo responded on his behalf. “The project is going extremely well and is 60 percent complete.” It is set to open in April 2014.
The current North Beach branch doesn’t provide ADA accessibility so most of the events occur at the Joe DiMaggio Clubhouse next door. The new two-story design by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects incorporates the accessibility needed. The new branch will also provide a larger and updated collection of books, CDs and DVDs. The expansion modernizes the library in a way that keeps up with technology today. Audio and visual equipment in the program room will be state of the art and the children’s area will have interactive learning features. The library will provide over 18 computers and 10 laptops for public use with access to Wi-Fi.
In October 2009, the Historic Preservation Commission attempted to have the current branch that opened in 1959 designed by Appleton & Wolfard Architects designated as a historical landmark but it was denied the legislation on Nov. 9, 2010.
One person with the Coalition for a Better North Beach Library and Playground and Friends of Appleton-Wolfard Libraries who strongly voiced his opposition toward the project for many years still feels they are doing an injustice to the library and playground.
“Let’s preserve Columbus Avenue as a necklace of green spaces and historic buildings with great public vistas,” Howard Wong said in an email. “The triangle open space, historic mid-century modernist library, Joe DiMaggio Playground and honorable governance are too important for future generations.”
“There have been no problems with the construction. And we haven’t heard from any opposition in quite some time,” Jeffers said. “I believe there is still an appeal pending on the EIR and approval of the project, after San Francisco Public Library prevailed in Superior Court about the validity of the environmental review and board approval.”
The new North Beach Library is part of the $105.9 million bond approved by San Francisco voters in November 2000. The Branch Library Improvement Program is for the reconstruction and rebuilding of 24 libraries in the city to make them more accessible for people with disabilities, seismically safe and provide the public with modern technology. North Beach is the last branch nearing completion.
The new branch will feature public art by local artist Bill Fontana. The San Francisco Arts Commission elected community representatives to choose an artist whose work would be featured as part of the library. Fontana’s art proposal won against two other artists in 2011. He is putting together a sound installation that will wrap around the outside of the library giving visitors something new to experience. It will play a collective mix of sounds from around the North Beach neighborhood and will change everyday.
Funding for the BLIP doesn’t include furnishings and other equipment necessary for the upcoming library. As part of the Neighborhood Library Campaign, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library are accepting donations to provide the public the proper amenities needed at the North Beach branch. For those who want to contribute to the campaign, Friends is holding a reception next month at the Tosca Café along Columbus Avenue on Jan. 13.
A timeline of classic Ferrari’s covered the park during the Italian Heritage Parade. I don’t know anything about cars but those sure were pretty.
The streets were closed and filled with tables and chairs for the 145th annual Italian Heritage Parade. The wine was definitely flowing and nothing but cheers and clapping from the crowd when floats and marching bands made its way around Washington Square Park and Columbus Avenue.
Nestled between Vesuvio Cafe and City Lights Bookstore is a passageway that connects Chinatown and North Beach.
Named after a Beat Generation writer, the alley offers more than just a shortcut between the neighborhoods – It’s full of poetry and murals.
It also serves as a venue for literary and cultural events throughout the year.
The launch of the Bay Area Bike Share program on Aug. 29 brought mixed feelings from the bike rental shops in North Beach.
“We are still analyzing membership data, and hope to release this information shortly,” wrote Laura Ruchinskas, marketing manager of Bay Area Bike Share, in an email.
It’s still too early to tell if the program has had an impact on local bike businesses but shops are aware of its presence.
Dylan’s Tours, a bike rental shop on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Greenwich Street, isn’t concerned about the program just yet.
“I could see it having an impact,” said Andreas Bloom, an employee at Dylan’s Tours. “But right now we aren’t thinking about it.”
“Mostly, the people from hostels in the area come to us because of the deals we have with those places,” Bloom said.
Across the street from the North Beach Library, covered in yellow, is the Columbus Cyclery – Go Bike It. A man with curly hair and an accent insisted on giving his opinions on the BABS.
“It’s a great thing,” said Bruno, the owner of Columbus Cyclery. “Less cars on the road.”
When asked about its impact on business he said, “It’s totally different. Those are more for short distances and flat ground.”
Bruno continued, “They don’t provide protective gear or locks.”
The busiest shop of the three, up the street from Columbus Cyclery, is Bike and Roll on the corner of Lombard Street at Columbus Avenue.
“Definitely. It’s so convenient; people won’t have to look around,” said Daniel de Lorimier, an employee at Bike and Roll. “I haven’t seen a huge impact but they’re taking business from us.”
“We might have to change our approach or numbers in the future,” de Lorimier said.
“There are a lot of benefits,” Abbott Sayre, an annual BABS member, said. “It’s faster than taking the bus and I get some exercise.”
“It serves everyone,” he continued.
If the pilot program succeeds, the San Francisco Bay Area could be looking at a future with more bikes and stations as it did with city bike-sharing programs introduced in cities such as Chicago, Seattle, Miami and New York City.