Mark Baugh-Sasaki in his studio near Potrero Hill in San Francisco.
By Thomas K. Pendergast
(Originally published in the August, 2014 issue of HATCHBeat, a community newspaper for the community from the Upper Haight to Hayes Valley.)
After San Francisco’s political fight about the Central Freeway was settled and the City’s future appeared to be rolling along on it, Nature intervened with the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and decisively brought the dreams attached to that structure crashing down.
Madeline Behrens-Brigham runs a gallery at 580 Hayes Street and is a core member of the Hayes Valley Art Coalition. She remembers how this neighborhood was back before the freeway came down, when she moved here in '86. Another key member of the HVAC, Russell Pritchard, opened up his antique shop, Zonal, just up the street in '90 and together they began collaborating on improving the neighborhood with things like block parties, where neighbors could meet and get to know each other.
The low rents in this blighted area attracted artists looking for space, as well as shop owners like her who couldn’t afford to open up in more attractive neighborhoods.
“Our early shops were all artistic in nature. Just because it was such a blighted area when I opened my store, most of this block was closed. So there were not very many shops here. Slowly over the two years then we gathered a core group and started filling all of the shops and became known as Hayes Valley,” said Behrens-Brigham. “It was also on a real estate map but it was never called that. This was technically the Western Addition.”
Looking at Hayes Valley today perhaps belies the neighborhood’s seedier past, but last month a large sculpture was placed there to remind everyone of the ever-changing view.
Artist Mark Baugh-Sasaki has created a structure called Fractured Landscape on Patricia’s Green and the use of metal, asphalt and concrete in his work is not as haphazard as it might first appear. Instead, the choice of these materials is an intentional observation of both the neighborhood’s history under the Central Freeway and the ever-evolving City.
“When it came down, it really transformed this environment, Hayes Valley, into something totally different,” said Baugh-Sasaki. “But it’s also not only about the neighborhood; it’s also about the city itself and how it’s changing and how this shifting landscape and all this new construction, all these new buildings’ histories are changing."