Last Thursday was the final night of the 2011 season for the Mission Community Market on Bartlett and 22nd Street. Now that the organic produce and the kettle corn have been packed away and the tents are gone, so are the people.
If given the chance, the market’s executive director, Jeremy Shaw, wants to change that. His vision for this part of town is a community plaza. What that entails, exactly, remains to be determined.
Apart from the weekly market, which is scheduled to be back in April 2012, this part of Bartlett — wedged between Valencia Street to the west, Mission to the east and 22nd to the south — is mostly used as a back alley for businesses like Giant Value. Foot traffic on Bartlett is low; cars rush through without much consideration for pedestrians, and the street is often covered in trash.
“It was in dire need of input,” said Shaw. “It’s dangerous at night.”
For Shaw, the market, which opened in 2010, is the beginning of an opportunity.
While Bartlett lacks businesses, its one-way traffic flow and the absence of driveways help make a pedestrian-friendly public marketplace possible.
Shaw hopes to reimagine what a public space can be, through physical improvements, services like youth activities and swing dancing, and a mural gallery. The reality will depend on community input.
But getting input means holding public meetings, and it takes money to hold public meetings that are recognized by the city. The Mission Community Market needs $60,000 to initiate the public design process. So far, it has raised 25 percent of that goal through online donations.
Several elements from other streets could also suit Bartlett. Shaw would like to see the block become an artistic hub, like Clarion Alley. More trees and improved safety for pedestrians — like on Linden Street in Hayes Valley or Lexington here in the Mission — are also desired outcomes.
Since the market began, several murals have been added along Bartlett on the corner of 22nd Street, including one completed last month. Shaw envisions them extending along the whole block.
Next came some street alterations, an effort shared with other organizations. As part of the city’s Pavement to Parks program, the local development organization Rebar constructed a parklet on 22nd and Bartlett, called Walklet. Completed in April 2010, Walklet is a modular system, made from steel frames and wood, for extending the sidewalk into the parking lane. It’s constructed like a kit of parts — or a set of LEGO blocks — consisting of benches, planters and high tables.
Rebar describes Walklet as “user-generated urbanism.” The group credits the project to Pavement to Parks and funds from private contributors.
An informal public meeting was held in December 2010 to start a conversation about what people want to see on Bartlett. The community expressed a desire for things like trees, planter strips, more music, more murals, safer streets and wider sidewalks. Some people even suggested changing the street’s layout.
Shaw also wants pedestrian-scale lighting, and more of it. Currently there is little lighting, which raises safety concerns for the neighbors.
Among them is Liz Kremen, a volunteer for the market. Kremen lives half a block away from this part of Bartlett, and she still avoids walking through at night.
Ultimately, Shaw hopes the block becomes a destination for block parties and community festivals when the market isn’t operating.
Shaw and others involved in the market think big, but this new Bartlett is still early in the planning process. No timeline or even any formal plans exist yet.
The meeting last December was like Step 0, Shaw said — it was just to put feelers out. More than one meeting will be needed to make progress on the street, although public input continues to trickle in through informal conversations at the market.
Some of the logistics for redeveloping the street have yet to be figured out — what to do about the cars, for instance.
Currently, this section of Bartlett is also home to the Mission-Bartlett parking garage. What happens to the cars if Bartlett becomes a public plaza? The market itself takes up half the block, leaving parking spots on 21st Street and the entrance to the garage accessible to the public.
Public response to the market has been overwhelmingly positive, Shaw said, but it all comes down to funding. Most of the market’s funds currently go toward things like marketing, new murals and infrastructure.
The market’s extensive network of community sponsors — composed of local businesses and volunteers — pitch in to help support it. On its website, 23 businesses are listed as financial contributors. The highest rank for a contributor is “Mission Hero,” which is earned through a donation of $5,000 or more. No business is currently ranked as a Mission Hero.
Another potential lifeline is the City and County of San Francisco’s Community Challenge Grant program. The city’s website states that the program provides matching grants to local residents, businesses, nonprofits and other community groups to make physical improvements to their neighborhoods.
The grant awards up to $15,000 for small projects, and up to $100,000 for larger ventures. The market will be applying for a large project grant. Applications for the next fiscal year’s grants don’t open up until February 15, 2012, two months before the market’s next season begins.
Until then, the Mission Community Market is keeping up its community fundraising efforts and taking small steps toward the larger goal — including dealing with trash on Bartlett near 22nd Street. There are two trash facilities at this intersection, and one dumpster is placed right on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians.
That’s the sort of thing that attracts more problems, Shaw said.
The market brokered an arrangement with nearby businesses to consolidate the trash into one facility behind the fence farther north from 22nd Street, freeing up the sidewalk, and to add a mural painted by youths — all in one project.
“We see it as an opportunity,” Shaw said. “Just to get two people to work together and paint the mural panels, we can turn something positive out of it.”