Mission Bay and San Francisco’s Future
Preface by Sally B. Woodbridge
A comparison of the following two views of Mission Bay makes it clear that the city depicted in the upper one–an engraving of San Francisco ca. 1860 that shows Mission Bay as the circular inlet in the middle distance–is no longer real to us. Yet the lower, ca. 2000 view is also certain to become unfamiliar as San Francisco continues its southward expansion.
Since southeastern San Francisco is changing dramatically, how will its transformation affect the city as a whole? Will people travel the same routes to the same destinations that made the city famous in the past? Or, will a new city center in Mission Bay turn the old familiar city into what we may call the “museum city.” This transformation will not rob the historic city of its charm and importance, but it may no longer have the dynamism that will characterize the new center.
When San Francisco is depicted in the public’s imagination, its important geographic centers are typically those that were established in the 19th century and remained dominant through the 20th century. They are: the financial district in the blocks around lower Market Street; the commercial areas focused on Union Square and in recent years extended to Mission Street; the hills named Nob, Russian, and Telegraph; and other well known residential neighborhoods: Pacific, and Presidio Heights, the streetcar suburbs such as the Mission and the Western Addition, and the Richmond and Sunset districts, automobile suburbs that began to spread across the city in the early 20th century.
In recent boom times real estate development for office space crossed Market Street, and a new cultural center coalesced south of Market in the 1990s in what is now called SOMA.
Both SOMA and the Central Waterfront district to the south have experienced more or less steady development of market-rate and affordable housing with related commercial activity. The completion of the baseball park in 2000 spurred growth and attracted attention further south to the Mission Bay area.
Yet, the idea of living and working in the barren southeastern flatlands so unlike the familiar and glamorous traditional city to the north did not appeal to most San Franciscans.