Today I met with Jasmine Kaw of the city of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works and formerly of the Chinatown Community Development Center. Her story was incredible. While doing her masters thesis at Berkeley in landscape architecture, she became interested in the Chinatown alleys through a professor and decided to do her thesis on documenting and proposing changes in the alleys. After the study was completed and problems highlighted, the study received public attention and she, with the CCDC, drew up the alley masterplan in the early 90s. After 3 years if community meetings, government meetings, and other necessaries, the collective forces began to push for transformation. The city was to build a large park for the ultra dense neighbirhood, but the site selected was deemed unfit and sold to a developer. The resulting fund was still to be put toward open space and upkeep so over 2 million dollars were put toward the implementation of the alleyway masterplan. They are wrapping up construction on the 12th alley and the city has now adopted the masterplan as guidelines for development in Chinatown. Since Jasmine began to work for the city, she’s been put in charge of a number of alley projects slowly gaining momentum around the city.
For lunch, I went to the notoriously buzzing Belden Lane where I spoke to restaurant workers about the setup and takedown of furniture and very interesting operable canopies every morning a d late every night. It was a fantastic environment like something off a European street.
My first alley study will take place from August 4- 10 in the alleys of San Francisco. I will be focusing on the work done in the Chinatown neighbirhood through the Chinatown Alley Masterplan. I will also be studying the various public and commercial activities taking place in downtown alleys like Beldem Lane, Maiden Lane, and South Park.
During my stay, I will be meeting with Jasmine Kaw, author of the Chinatown Alley Masterplan, Norman Wong of the Chinatown community Association Center, David Winslow, another architect interested in alleys, and various community members working and spending time in the alleys.
Above is a map outlining alleys of interest that I will study. I would again like to thank AIA Seattle and Perkins+Will for their generous sponsorship of this first city analysis.
If you have recommendations on things to see here, please comment. Look for a lot more activity on here beginning in August as the travels begin.