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Bayview-Hunters Point is well documented as one of San Francisco’s oldest and authentically diverse communities. Its history includes contact between early Spanish explorers and native Ohlone dwellers along the shores of Islais Creek, one of seven major watersheds in the Southeast part of San Francisco. Today, Islais Landing and the adjacent Bayview Gateway Park are being developed as an uplifting entrance and welcome to the varied Bayview neighborhoods.
Following California statehood in 1850, the land we now know as the Bayview- Hunters Point district was subdivided into rural ranch-lands and gardens, with these parcels then sold to a diverse group European settlers and ‘49ers. Between 1860 and 1910, the area evolved into San Francisco’s most consistently and ethnically varied community, with British merchants and landowner-farmers, Scandinavian and German boat builders at India Basin; Italian and German home-builders and ranchers in central Bayview. A number of Chinese shrimp camps were present along the India Basin shoreline near Hunters Point in the 1870’s, with Italian, Maltese, and Portuguese truck farmers in the Bayview from 1890’s and French tannery workers and Mexican and southwestern vaqueros at Butchertown since 1900.
Nearby Hunters Point established the areas industrial history, beginning with the construction of the San Francisco Dry Dock at Hunters Point in 1866. Today’s 3rd Street alignment was then known as ‘Railroad Avenue’, following its earlier use as a plank road stagecoach and railroad line. Renamed in 1910, the corridor we know today as the commercial and retail axis within central Bayview was intersected by a series of alphabetically named streets (A-Amador, B-Bancroft, E, Evans, T-Thomas, P,- Paul, etc., with the area between Kirkham and Williams Avenue lined with small shops, merchant warehouses and storefronts. In 1940, the U.S. Navy purchased the old Hunters Point Dry Dock (the Shipyard) for use during WWII. During this period, the population of the district increased significantly as thousands of African Americans moved to Hunters Point from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, and worked in the naval shipyard. A solid, growing, middle-class community was established throughout the neighborhoods within Bayview, with many single family homes built between 1940-1970.
Closure of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in 1974 precipitated significant job loss in the area, with the commercial and retail opportunities impacted further due to the decommissioning of the Naval base in 1991.
Additional challenges related to neglect, the impact of urban drug-use and isolation created a series of stressors over the past couple of decades. Yet investments, both public and private, continue along the Third Street corridor, with substantial examples of both since 2008, following the construction of the Third Street Light Rail, or T-Train. The area also boasts unusually warm weather, retains a vibrant and authentically diverse culture, is the City’s neighborhood with largest percentage of homeowners, and has thousands of small businesses in adjacent industrial areas of South Basin, Oakinba and India Basin. The transportation system enables trips that are minutes to downtown; 1/2 mile from Hwy.101 and 280 North/ South; 1.5 miles from Dogpatch and UCSF-Mission Bay; 15min. from SFO.
In addition to its local retail and restaurant offering, a distinguishing feature of the corridor is its rich network of institutional services, including churches, libraries and social spaces (such as Mendel Plaza), which serve as draw additional visitors to the area. Combined, residents and the industrial employees form the customer base for the neighborhood serving retail of the corridor.
Although myriad intersecting issues persist which could potentially thwart development and future progress, the resident stakeholders, property and business owners remain as dedicated, generous and positive participants in the planning and implementation for the future of the area.
Newer residents and business owners to the area are also engaged in the planning process. While encouraged by new, peripheral developments including a redeveloped shipyard, additional housing and nearby parks, these Bayview-based participants and related, associated agencies now recognize a sense of urgency with respect to delivering on a revitalized commercial corridor along Third Street. Major developments surrounding the Bayview and not located on Third Street business corridor, while not specifically serving the neighborhood itself, could draw customers from the historical ‘connecting thread’ that is Third Street. This commercial corridor, witnessing new private investment and interest, could also result in changes to the social, cultural, and physical character of the neighborhood. Retaining Bayview’s historic authenticity, diversity and genuine character, while returning a vibrant Third Street business and retail alignment to the neighbors and families who reside in the adjacent neighborhoods, is a call to action and a rare opportunity.