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Central Freeway

Neighbors Celebrate the New “McCoppin Hub,” Dog and Skate Park

5:54 PM PDT on October 27, 2014

The McCoppin Hub, along Valencia near Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick
The McCoppin Hub. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Neighbors near McCoppin Street recently celebrated the completion of the McCoppin Hub, a plaza created from a street stub that sits against the Central Freeway ramp towards Market Street. The plaza, a nearby dog run, and skate park have been in the works for years as a package of newly depaved public spaces planned after the freeway's partial reconstruction.

"We couldn't be happier," said Lynn Valente, a neighborhood activist, at the plaza last month. "This was a true grassroots effort. The neighbors worked on this for ten years with the city to have some amenities in our neighborhood, for pedestrians and traffic and bicycles... It would kind of mitigate the effect of the Central Freeway ramp which goes over the neighborhood."

"I couldn't be prouder, because it was a lot of people really sticking to it and making sure we got these amenities," she added.

Waiting for the spaces has certainly required patience among neighbors. When we wrote about the neighborhood in July 2011, the projects were already considered a long overdue follow-up to the freeway's completion in 2005. At that time, construction on the McCoppin Hub was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

Other improvements in what's officially called the SoMa West Improvement Projects included traffic-calming revamps of side streets like Elgin Park and Stevenson Street, as well as greenery, bike lanes, and raised crosswalks along McCoppin Street.

The McCoppin Hub celebration at Sunday Streets this month. Photo: McCoppin Hub/Facebook
Photo: McCoppin Hub/Facebook
The McCoppin "stub," before the plaza construction. Photo: Aaron Bialick

"The best part of it is that it actually looks like the drawings," said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. "District 6 has the fewest parks, so we really have to be creative about how we create more open space. [The McCoppin Hub] was just a dead-end street where nothing was happening -- and in fact, if anything was happening, it wasn't good for the neighborhood. We were able to re-envision it as a public gathering space, where there's going to be concerts, and LitQuakes, and food trucks. We're excited about it. It's beautiful."

Before the Central Freeway was damaged in the 1989 earthquake, torn down, and rebuilt, it flew over Market and ended near City Hall. McCoppin ran underneath the structure, but the construction of the new, shortened ramp created a dead-end street stub used primarily for car parking and secondarily for drug dealing.

Of course, the Central Freeway didn't have to re-built through the north Mission, but could have been replaced with a street-level boulevard. When the structure was demolished, between 2003 and 2005, the sky didn't fall. But Caltrans insisted that the former double-decker freeway (one deck of which was closed for eight years due to earthquake damage) be reconstructed -- saving at most two minutes for rush-hour drivers compared to a boulevard, according to a study by the SF County Transportation Authority.

McCoppin Street running under the old Central Freeway, seen here in 2003 with one earthquake-damaged deck removed. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The new dog run and skate park sitting underneath the freeway, along Duboce Avenue, allow people to enjoy space that had been Caltrans-owned parking lots. The dog run was originally supposed to be larger, but was downsized to retain more of the often-empty parking lot -- ironically because Caltrans helped fund the park with parking revenue, according to the Department of Public Works.

Despite that downsizing, and some reports of nuisances caused by skaters at the park, Kim had only praise for the depaved parking lots.

"With very little grass in this neighborhood, the dog park is a tiny oasis for neighbors to congregate and get to know each other," she said. "The SoMa West Skate Park is a well-designed micro lot under the freeway. It's actually spacious, and the flow accommodates a younger crowd of kids. Both parks are quite activated!"

The dog run replaced what used to be a parking lot. Photo: Aaron Bialick
The dog run, on what used to be a parking lot. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Much of the space under the freeway remains an often-empty, but still staffed, parking lot. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Much of the space under the freeway is still a security-guarded, often-empty parking lot. Photo: Aaron Bialick
The site of the skate park before it was built, looking from Duboce. Photo: Aaron Bialick
The skate park, after. Image: KRON 4
The skate park, after. Image: KRON 4

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