How a street in San Francisco survived the pandemic

How a street in San Francisco survived the pandemic

Hundreds of people packed up in just three blocks.

They clutched jars of honey, boxes of fresh peas, and bouquets of flowers. Bags full of ripe peaches, eggplants, and cherries hung on his shoulders.

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Hundreds of people packed up in just three blocks.

They clutched jars of honey, boxes of fresh peas, and bouquets of flowers. Bags full of ripe peaches, eggplants, and cherries hung on his shoulders.

Aside from a few masked faces, the busy Clement Street Farmers Market felt like a relic from prepandemic times on a recent Sunday.

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The market has been uninterrupted with every surge in the coronavirus, and the restaurants and shops on Clement Street, the main artery of the Richmond District in the northwest corner of San Francisco, have been spared the financial ruin seen in other major US cities is last 19 months.

Few, if any, stores on the street are permanently closed, according to Morgan Mes, president of the Clement Street Merchants Association. In contrast to downtown San Francisco, which is largely desolate today, this business district has never been dependent on tourists or office workers.

“We’re in a sweet spot,” said Mes. “We take care of our neighbors and our residents”

The self-contained nature of Clement Street not only provides an explanation of how it survived the pandemic, but also a window on how cities could change over the next few years. The megacity in which people commute for hours to work, play and shop could soon be on the decline.

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Before I go any further, here is some background on Clement Street: It runs 2 1/2 miles east of the northwest corner of the peninsula and is mostly lined with shops.

Clement Street is often referred to as San Francisco’s second Chinatown. Maybe you ate dim sum or soup dumplings there. Here you will also find the popular Green ple Books, the ever-popular Burma Superstar Restaurant and Schubert’s Bakery, which is more than a century old.

Just before the pandemic, in January 2020, I stayed on Clement Street during a trip to San Francisco because accommodations are cheaper in the quieter (and extra foggy) part of the city. I remember loving never having to leave the street to find food, go to the movies, or meet friends in a bar.

I recently learned that there is a name for this convenience: the 15-minute city. The concept that the Mayor of Paris unveiled in her 2020 re-election campaign envisions neighborhoods as complete social ecosystems, with offices, grocery stores, parks and doctor’s offices just a short walk or bike ride away from each resident.

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Mes believes this structure was vital to Clement Street’s success during the pandemic. Even during the lockdown, people in the area continued to shop for groceries and other goods from nearby stores.

“I don’t leave the neighborhood for long,” said Mes, who owns a vintage clothing store on Clement. “Here you have everything.”

When I recently returned to Clement Street, the area was largely untouched by the pandemic.

There was more outdoor seating on the sidewalks, but the restaurants were crowded as usual. Customers filter in and out in boutiques. A neighborhood cafe where I noticed a group of men playing cards that morning still seemed to serve as a marketplace.

Although the idea of ​​the “15 Minute City” predates the coronavirus, it gained momentum during the pandemic as people spent more time in their communities and feared resuming their long journeys.

“The pandemic has made us think about how we move differently, consume differently, live differently,” Carlos Moreno, a Sorbonne professor and driving force behind the idea, told the BBC. “We discover that by working differently, we have more free time so that we can spend more time with our family or friends. We discover and appreciate our neighborhoods much more. “

Moreno believes cities will never be the same again, and that’s a good thing. There will be more emphasis on walking and cycling, he says, and more mixing of residential and commercial space as services move closer to where people live.

Proponents of the 15-minute city think it makes us happier too, as we get to know our neighbors instead of rushing from one thing to the next.

This sense of community was already evident on Clement Street. After visiting the farmer’s market that last Sunday, I met Mes in her shop as she was closing for the evening.

While we were sitting inside, a man parked his bike in front of the shop. He started dusting and cleaning the shop windows, a service that his parents wanted to offer for free.