In Dogpatch

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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.

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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.

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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:

Aren't you curious?
Aren’t you curious?
One needn't wander far for gourmet truffles
In Dogpatch one needn’t wander far for gourmet truffles
Hither now, all ye laptop-toting, Italian treats
Hither now, all ye who tote laptops, Italian treats await


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.

Well, there's this...
Well, there’s this…
And this.  Work, in this case, is deployed as a signifier of some sort
And this. Work, in this case, deployed here as a signifier rather than a verb


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.

Live/works spaces with glass tile garage entrances
Live/work spaces…with glass tile garage entrances.
The ersatz crackhead ethos of Third Street is just not the same
The erstwhile crackhead ethos of Third Street is just not the same
Development is ubiquitous
Development is ubiquitous
Not without detractors
And not without detractors


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.

A great cathedral-like space, the size of an airplane hangar. Empty.
A great cathedral-like space, the size of an airplane hangar. Empty.
Form as function. Utilitarian beauty.
Form as function. Utilitarian grace.


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.