Tuesday, October 31, 2006

John King and Octavia Blvd: A love that never dies

A group named, incredibly, San Francisco Beautiful shares John King's mystifying passion for Octavia Blvd., the new expressway through the heart of Hayes Valley.

They even bestowed an award on the street as a token of their affection:

In an age where "edgy" and "ironic" are all the rage, a word like "beautiful" might seem quaint. But when the group San Francisco Beautiful handed out its annual awards this month, we were reminded that beauty can be civil and creative as well. Friedel Klussmann, immortalized in countless Herb Caen columns as the woman who saved San Francisco's cable car system from extinction after World War II, founded the group in 1947. This year's awards focused on open space---and the ingenuous passion of the city's residents. The top award went to Octavia Boulevard, where a freeway was replaced last year by a landscaped thoroughfare after years of neighborhood activism. That change is still in progress---lots alongside it will be filled by housing, for instance---but it's already ignited the revival of Hayes Valley (John King, SF Chronicle, Oct. 31, 2006).

What a street that carries 45,000 vehicles a day through a city neighborhood has to do with "open space" is another mystery. "Landscaped thoroughfare"? Yes, there are trees---presumably tough enough to resist carbon monoxide and diesel poisoning---planted between the lanes of traffic. "The revival" of Hayes Valley? More like a stake through its heart, though the real coup de grace will be delivered when all that housing is built, along with the neighborhood-destroying Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan.

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