Two: Place Stories

Each street, park, downtown, and neighborhood has a story that can be told from multiple perspectives. It has a history, a present day, and a future. With the rapid change taking place in many parts of our region, beginning to share these stories provides an opportunity to learn from each other and imagine the possibilities of the common spaces in our neighborhoods, our city, and our region.

This section tells the stories of five places reflective of our region’s diversity. Each involves a different level of investment and change, ranging from transformation of a parcel in San Francisco's Mission District into a much needed neighborhood park to the regional vision for a 500 mile Bay Trail. The stories are unique, but illustrate themes relevant to a variety of places in the Bay Area.

Key Findings

These five places have touched people’s lives in different ways, but share some common features with other neighborhoods, main streets and downtowns in the region, providing insights to inform future planning and community participation. These places present three recurring themes that can be considered in our placemaking efforts across the region:

Inclusive, Shared Spaces. Shared spaces that improve a community's quality of life are inclusive and create a sense of belonging for people of diverse backgrounds, ages and physical abilities. Integrating a wide range of voices into the planning and design process leads to spaces that reflect the culture, creativity, and unique needs of a community and that people from all walks of life can experience on equal footing.

Creativity and Catalysts. Creative uses of public space—transforming a vacant lot into a community park, a block into a temporary downtown, a parcel with an outdated public building into a central square can create a shared space for a neighborhood or entire city and be a catalyst for private investment.

Vision and Coordination. It can take decades to build a trail around the Bay or to enliven a derelict downtown, but a shared vision and a commitment to ongoing coordination can make these things possible.

Connection to Policy. The long-term vitality of shared spaces is closely related to policy issues such as housing affordability and funding for parks and community facilities. For example, addressing escalating housing costs and evictions is critical to ensuring that longtime residents that form a community’s fabric and shape its public spaces are able to remain in place and sustain its unique identity.

Place Stories

San Francisco Trolley Dances

San Francisco’s Muni Metro light rail system weaves through the city's neighborhoods and public spaces. Every year, the San Francisco Trolley Dancers transform a selection of places around the Muni Metro stops into performance spaces. Using a wide range of dance styles, the troupe has performed on the side of a wall, in a swimming pool, a park, and a basketball court. According to Director Kim Epifano, the performances give public spaces a new life and history, the essence of which lingers and resonates in the dancers’ minds and in the audience’s minds.

Photo: San Francisco Trolley Dances
Photo: San Francisco Trolley Dances

Trolley Dances