Family drama summoned me back to Northern California this week. Driving through the Dubai on the Pacific that is now San Francisco, I wondered: are there any remnants of old, industrial SF anywhere, which are still….sort of, functionally industrial? Then I remembered this neighborhood across the freeway from Potrero Hill, down by the waterfront, which I used to drive through on the way to Giant games at Candlestick, and made a detour. Fittingly, it not only now has a name, and a trolley stop, but a historical designation.
Dogpatch used to be a neighborhood of shipyards and loading docks and warehouses with simple, inelegant (by Victorian standards) clapboard houses for the families who worked there, often built by the owners themselves. Because it survived the 1906 earthquake and fire intact, it has some of the oldest housing stock in the city.
They are put to different uses today. The love labor of John Swan, shipbuilder, now hosts something called Uncanny Communications. As well as something called theLab:
But what of all the old ship and ironworks? Within the carcass of those buildings, someone, somewhere, must be doing something with their hands down there.
Most of the original buildings simply no longer exist, however, having been razed and replaced by live/work condominia. Work which perhaps involves frequent trips to Piccino. I type in envy.
I kept walking. Between two gravel yards servicing the many big crane projects in the nearby China Basin/Mission Bay area, a narrow street descended down toward the waterfront. I followed it around a corner and came upon a cluster of brick buildings which once belonged to the old Union Iron Works. They were cordoned off with chain link and barbed wire.
Venturing beyond, I came to this vast warehouse, open and unlocked. I wandered in, thinking perhaps I had found what I was looking for.
I followed the conduits down from the ceiling to this service panel. Here I reached the end of the journey. But where was I? According to Google, the former Plate Shop of Bethlehem Steel. But why was it empty? No one was writing code here, or designing hemp shoes of making fair trade cacao-based desserts.
On my way out, I found the answer to the riddle. The last industrial space in Dogpatch is, fittingly, a food truck rodeo.