Eight years ago, the Central Freeway fell, and the sky didn’t. The neighborhood long obscured by the structure came up for a year-long breath of air during its reconstruction.
Author Carol Lloyd described the transformation in a 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article:
The buildings are familiar, but they look brighter, prettier, somehow. There are big swooshes of empty land, open views down Valencia all the way to Market Street, and a lovely glimpse of the new Victorian/postmodern Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center, perched on the corner of Market and Waller streets. Sunlight is falling on asphalt that has been steeping in urine and shadows for decades. The air doesn’t smell anymore, nor does it vibrate with trucks rattling overhead.
“It was awesome,” said resident Alison Miller. “There was sunlight, and people started to really know their neighbors. You’d look at Valencia Street and think, how could they think of covering up this potentially vibrant neighborhood in the middle of the city?”
For fifty years, the motor-dominated streets around the Central Freeway have felt dangerous and forbidding to walk on, leaving a rift in the Market-Valencia commercial corridor. Even naming the ambiguous cross-section of districts has been a challenge for San Franciscans, who have called it “North Mission,” “SoMa West,” “The Valencia Bottoms,” and even ”Deco Ghetto,” though nothing has really stuck.