I love you, but I don’t understand you.

It’s no secret that San Francisco is my favorite city.  I’ve lived in a few cities; Philly, Manhattan.  San Francisco has been at the top of my list since I first visited in 1983.

Back in the day, the Embarcadero was hidden by a freeway as shown in the picture below.

I-480_from_Hyatt_Regency_ca_1988

This park, Justin Herman Plaza, was overshadowed by the freeway.  The view down Market Street to the Ferry Building was obscured by the multilevel structure.  The Embarcadero area was dark and gritty. The wharves were run down and threatening to walk through with the exception of the garish Fisherman’s Wharf area.

During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the freeway was damaged and subsequently removed along with several other useful bits of controversial traffic infrastructure such as the Octavia skyway.

The Embarcadero is much different now.  The waterfront is accessible to pedestrians; it is clean, light, and open.  From the street in front of my office at Folsom & 2nd, I can see down to the water.  The view of the Ferry Building is unobstructed from any point along Market.  The Embarcadero is beautiful now.

Except for this.
CIMG1915

This monstrosity overpowers the intersection of Folsom and Embarcadero.  Anyone coming across the Bay Bridge is forced to look at it.

What were they thinking?  It’s like some anonymous planner was like, well, it’s empty down there without the skyway, so let’s put up something to take up space.  Then they got out the Municipal McSculpture catalog and skipped to the ‘Huge and Utterly Without Soul’ section.  Choosing at random, they ordered up the meaningless bow and arrow and plunked it smack down on the newly-beautified Embarcadero.

Say what you will about the skyway; at least it was useful.  Every time I see this ugly sculpture I want to set it on fire.

On November 11th, 1987, U2 played an impromptu lunchtime free concert in Justin Herman Plaza, announcing the concert over local radio stations that morning.  During the concert, Bono spraypainted the fountain shown in the top photograph; as I recall, he was ticketed for the infraction.  I was perched on the top of a glass and steel gazebo that no longer exists with fifty or so other people.  It was an awesome day and an excellent show.

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