Friday, November 22, 2013

Exploring the Parks of Hunters Point (and looking for the best place to dump a body in San Francisco)

Today: 9
Mileage: 728
Count: 103

The best part about not having a big race coming up, specifically a marathon with its constant push for training structure, is just going out for a run. No plan, no expectations, no course. Just running.

This morning I envisioned nothing more than a mellow jog out to Heron's Head and back. But when I got to the park, I opted for a right hand turn down a narrow trail leading to a bridge which I thought dead ended into a barbed wire fence. But there's only one way to find out and as I crossed the bridge, I saw the path extended out around the edge of the water.

So I just kept going. I found park after park, open space after open space, winding my way through housing projects and vacant lots, run down shacks, abandoned piers and one-off developments built way ahead of their time. All along this sunny stretch of San Francisco's forgotten shoreline.

Since my return to the Bay Area five years ago, my running and my work have had a strange relationship. Wherever I seem to run, I end up buying real estate, or wanting to buy real estate. And thus far my footloose premonitions have proven prescient.

Perhaps I've wanted to buy where I've been running because I manage to find the good in most places I go. And when I'm running, even more so. I see beauty in dereliction, potential in scrap. But running also gives me time to explore the nooks and crannies of neighborhoods, envision development, poke around where otherwise I'd never go.

Or maybe the market's just been hot, and I've been there too.

Hunter's Point is quiet in the morning. Especially this lonely stretch leading from the waterfront dump to where Lennar is breaking ground on their long-awaited, much maligned, development. Maybe it is a bad thing. Bad building for the neighborhood and the city.

But its happening, finally, after decades of waiting. Change is inevitable here, but the path is yet undrawn.

And that's why I am here. Looking for that invisible line, connecting here to the future. But its not that simple. Not that simple because that line runs through hills littered with projects, families who have been here for generations. And the political will to replace these projects, dispose these people, is harder to find than that invisible line.

Its proven nearly impossible to get rid of the more dangerous Potrero projects, or even the much more dangerous ones at Sunnydale. So the baseline assumption has to be that the ones here in Hunter's Point will stay. So what then for this waterfront?

I looped over the hill, through more projects with south side views of Candlestick. Its a perspective not often seen of that old, decaying stadium where Joe and Jerry and Steve made their NFL mark. But one that the new residents of Hunter's Point will soon be seeing far more of -- until of course they blow the old park up.

I wound back through the industrial underbelly of the Bayview, a smattering of wholesalers, lumber distributors and other businesses you don't hear a lot about in this glittering days of the San Francisco technology scene. The future here, like the coast, is anything but certain, as developers contemplate just how much conversions may be worth years, and decades out in time.

Back to the present, I eased up and walked the last block home. Sweating, a warm November morning greeting me after my Bayview adventure.

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