An Evening at Third and Oakdale-Palou

Riders wait for Muni at Third Street and Palou Avenue around 7:30 p.m.

Riders wait for Muni at Third Street and Palou Avenue around 7:30 p.m.

En Español

Two incidents of violence involving Asian residents– one in January on the platform and one in Marchhave focused attention at Bayview’s T- Third Street stop between Oakdale and Palou Avenues.

Mission Loc@l went out Tuesday evening to spend some time near the platform between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. – the same time frame in which both attacks took place.

Before the sun sets there’s a regular flux of youngsters – boys mostly – crossing the street by clambering over the Muni platform, but no one seems to be pestering or harassing anyone that isn’t already a friend or acquaintance.

People of all races walk by to ride transit, and they don’t rush or look concerned for their safety, but they don’t necessarily stop and interact, either.

On the east side of the stop is a  bizarre little plaza, devoid of plants but outfitted with a series of bolted iron seats facing the Muni stop, a perfect spot for watching the scene of waiting and arriving Muni riders.

What is most striking about the T-Third stop is that only African Americans seem to linger in the plaza and outside the liquor stores, enjoying the sunny weather, chatting and often hollering to friends across the street.

The block between Oakdale and Palou Avenues is populated by churchgoers and alcoholics, by teenagers and elderly.

It’s a popular gathering place as well as the gateway to the Bayview Opera House, on Third Street between Oakdale and Newcomb Avenues.

In the plaza, while the weather still holds, somewhere between 10 and 15 people of all ages gather in little groups. Others – adults and youngsters – swing by to chat briefly, walking, riding bikes or wheelchairs, an inordinate number of people here are equipped with canes. A toddler in an enormous puffy jacket waddles by, straying from the playground nearby.

The amount of litter out Tuesday isn’t particularly egregious, but a discarded medical device sits mysteriously on one of the benches.

The vast majority of the pedestrians on Third Street Tuesday are just passing through or leaving or waiting for transit, either the T-Third train, which stops at the platform, or the 24 and 54 buses at the curbside.

Residents have mixed feelings about how safe it is, but they also feel that San Franciscans from other parts of the city view Bayview as significantly more dangerous than it really is.

And many riders feel that the T-Third train itself is no more or less dangerous than any other Muni line. Statisitics from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency support this. (See the text box.)

On Tuesday evening, police cars cruise by roughly every 10 minutes, but no officers are walking the beat. Two in a squad car stop to talk with some passerby briefly, but no one is standing on the platform. When Bayview Police Captain Greg Suhr is asked later about foot patrols here, he says  there should have been a police officer standing on the platform during this time and that he’d look into it.

As the sun goes down and a cold wind sets in, the population of socializers thins and shifts over to the liquor store side of the street. All of Third Street picks up a more desolate flavor.

Members of the Valley Christian Fellowship park in the plaza and go inside to evening services. The African American pastor, Eric Gillette, thinks that a lot of the trouble at the Palou stop is from kids who don’t even live in Bayview.

“Last week there was a fight, one was from Fillmore and the other from Sunnydale, and they met in Bayview,” Gillette says.

He blames the violence on a few bad kids, products of a breakdown in family structure that results in a fundamental lack of respect for anyone or anything. He doesn’t think solutions hinge on merely pumping in more money but “really reaching them mentally, they don’t have anything to look forward to.”

An Asian man waiting for Muni says the neighborhood is okay but that there should be more police and more arrests. A white, gay man – who’d been held up at gun point once nearby – says he doesn’t feel unsafe exactly, but he’s cautious, always looking out for possible danger.

The only anxious moment of the evening comes when  two large, seemingly-intoxicated, young African American men suggest that this reporter put her camera away, that “this isn’t the neighborhood you think it is.” It’s fairly unclear whether this is friendly advice, intimidation, or an attempt at flirtation.

Regardless of the warning, photos are taken. Nothing happens. After dark, the plaza empties, even the pigeons disappear.

The pastor’s wife, Gwen Gillette, says she had no fear walking around Third Street or anywhere in Bayview. “I don’t feel unsafe,” she said, insisting that there’s a lot of mileage in being friendly to everyone. “Show them kindness, give them a smile.”

Filed under: Front Page, Transportation

12 Comments

  1. Genevieve

    I bet Pastor Gillette said Sunnydale, not Sunnyvale…….

  2. G M

    Great, great article. Thanks for taking the time to give us the insider perspective. Glad you found the news to be pretty good.

  3. Steve C

    Great article. A little disconcerning its never “our neighborhoods” kids involved. This type of blame gets no one anywhere. We all know the problems in the BayView are not caused by people from other neighborhoods decending there.

  4. orel jones

    Of course things would be on the down low if everyone sees that you have a camera out.

  5. Jake

    Whew! Problem solved! Three hours waiting at the muni stop should pretty much wrap this story up.

    Come on. I ride the T daily from Church to Third and Williams and back again and this does not represent at all my experiences.

  6. Jonathan Bonato

    There have been several drive by shootings and murders at that site or quite close….ie…the innocent high school girl who was shot dead a block away at Quesada & Third, the man stabbed to death in a car last year, a block or two the other direction, the shooting by the barber shop, another shooting ( and death I think ) by the liquor store…its not safe.

  7. Tom

    I worked at the corner on a the new building at Oakdale for over a year recently, and I think Pastor Gillette is on the mark. It doesn’t take many to make an area look bad. A lot of people are down and out there, several homeless center their lives in that block, but most people aren’t looking for any trouble. A handful of restless kids with messed up homes and no hope that they can see are probably the story. Its more about lost families than it is about anything just money will fix.

    • Jake: We’re doing multiple stories on this. Anrica’s assignment was to stay there during the time in which the recent attacks took place. In doing these stories we’re trying to get a conversation going and we would love to have you contribute your experiences – either in a longer comment or in a piece. Best, Lydia Chavez

  8. Andy Gipson

    I wonder..what is the point of this article? Are the victims of the crimes here somehow mistaken? Is there some sort of misconception about the mans murder and the assault on the chinese lady? Are we who live the real world so jaded and cynnical we can’t see just how mis-judged these young men are? The truth is not relative young lady….

  9. Bayview Worker

    “Before the sun sets there’s a regular flux of youngsters – boys mostly – crossing the street by clambering over the Muni platform, but no one seems to be pestering or harassing anyone that isn’t already a friend or acquaintance.”

    Listen, crossing the street by clambering over the Muni platform shouldn’t be normal behaviour. Because it is done as a normal course of action, it suggests to me that there could be other strange things ( and I have seen it ), that they would do, as a normal course of action, if you stuck around long enough. It also shows what a Zoo that area is. They act like animals. And to say they aren’t pestering or harassing anyone that isn’t already a friend or acquaintance, may be fine if they were in a confined room. But this is a public place around other people. Would you want that type of attitude around you, in your everyday life? Waiting for a bus should be peaceful.

    The area is a ghetto toilet, and as you described it, the police don’t give a rats butt, because that would be too difficult. Saying that he would look into it, is a typical answer for the SFPD. If this element was is an area such as St. Francis Circle, it would be cleaned up in moments. The SFPD protect the rich, and don’t have a clue or give a damn about the poor. The only thing that they seem to be good for with the poor, is giving out tickets.

  10. Ellen

    Nice article. I live in the SE part of the city and it would be great if people in other parts of SF began to view the Bayview, Vis Valley, Excelsior and other outlying areas as *part* of the city and not some exotic “problem” to be contained or solved. As the pastor pointed out, real people live here, and while there are problems, it’s predominantly youth with no sense of community or hope causing it. A small minority of folks make life unpleasant for the rest, and it’s time for the community, not the police, to hold them accountable.

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