If you care about Hayes Valley’s public space, the city needs to hear from you ASAP.

This is what PROXY looks like on film festival nights. This was just before a screening of the excellent Try Harder . But the screen didn’t say this I photoshopped it :)

Over two years ago — even before a pandemic reinforced the value of outdoor city public space — I wrote about the looming reclamation of the popular “PROXY” plaza in Hayes Valley adjacent to Patricia’s Green.

The wheels are turning behind the scenes now.

We have reached an important decision point for the future of this public space. PROXY would like to extend its lease by three years, to continue to offer the plaza and support the interim uses we know and love (coffee, outdoor movie nights, ice cream, seeing hot people work out, etc).

The city Supervisor for this area, Dean Preston, has been clear that he does not support any lease extension without a concrete plan in place for the subsequent development of the lot.

…development of the lot?

Almost 20 years ago, the city designated this plaza lot, known formally as “Parcel K,” for a particular form of housing development alongside all the other land reclaimed from the old Central Freeway. But that was before many current residents lived in the neighborhood, and before the interim uses at PROXY proved to be unexpectedly successful and inviting for over a decade and counting.

Meanwhile in the last two years, a global pandemic has illustrated that having flexible public space in dense areas is enormously valuable. We now close blocks of Hayes Street to pedestrians-only on weekends, a beloved change. PROXY sits adjacent to the closed streets, creating a large and inviting multi-use pedestrian nexus in the heart of the neighborhood.

Hayes Valley deserves both parks and housing, and current residents of the neighborhood deserve to have a voice in determining the future of Parcel K. We can meet our needs if we embrace a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. We’ve learned a lot in the last ten years about how people use the central area of Hayes Valley. And we also know that our ongoing housing crisis requires creative solutions.

Demand a public process to determine the future of the plaza!

PROXY as it exists today was not designed to be permanent. We should get together as a community and figure out how to preserve the best parts of PROXY — the multi-use plaza in a critical location with some key retail. We can locate the intended below-market-rate housing further back on the same lot, at perhaps a larger height or density than previously foreseen while achieving the same net goal.

We could also talk about combining Parcel K with Parcel L (where the Biergarten is) to generate a larger number of housing units than planned while still preserving valued plaza space adjacent to the park. That also opens the door for Hayes Valley to play host to more great, creative architecture right in the most visible part of the neighborhood. (More info on the space, history, and possibilities are in my earlier article here.)

But we need to have this conversation for the win-win scenarios to happen, and we need to demand that community engagement because it will not happen by itself. We should extend PROXY’s lease while we figure it out.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Tell the city you want to extend PROXY’s lease and be part of figuring out future development plans!

The city needs to hear from you, personally and directly. Tell your district Supervisor, especially if you live within district 5 (where Hayes Valley is) that you support a lease extension for PROXY and request a community process for keeping the best parts of the park while getting the housing. Tell your Supervisor what you love about Hayes Valley’s public space!

The PROXY parcels are owned and managed via the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and SF Real Estate; cc those folks on your emails too:

  • Dean Preston (District 5 Supervisor): prestonstaff@sfgov.org (other supervisors’ contact info can be found here)
  • Kate Sofis, Director OEWD kate.sofis@sfgov.org
  • Ted Conrad, Project Manager OEWD theodore.conrad@sfgov.org
  • Andrico Penick, Director SF Real Estate andrico.penick@sfgov.org

Finally, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association represents the interests of its constituents. Join HVNA if you haven’t already, and communicate your preferences to them, too.

An Urban Air Market Event in Hayes Valley
Sweet parking lot, bro — Parcel K in 2009 before PROXY opened it up as a public plaza.

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