South Park is not to be confused with the show about four potty-mouthed animated characters. It’s a few block area located South of Market near the entrance to the Bay Bridge. The neighborhood is designed around a grassy, oval-shaped commons with a small playground. It’s ringed by former warehouses, metal shops and renovated Victorians. The neighborhood has been through considerable changes. About twenty-five years ago, it could’ve been dubbed “Needle Park” due to the many junkies nodding out on the grass or hitting up pedestrians for change for their next score. Crime and grime were high, so consequently, rents were cheap. Entrepreneurs eventually took notice and soon descended on the area. One of the first was South Park Cafe, an acclaimed French bistro. Graphic design, architecture and multimedia companies, and Wired magazine soon followed, converting spacious warehouses into work/live loft spaces and post-modern studios.
The junkies are long gone. More wine bars, boutiques and bistros have sprouted, including The Grilled Cheese Cafe. A new modern condo is on the market for $5 M. What a difference a few decades makes.
The car turned into South Park, then pulled up in front of the Coffee Farm café, a block from the Love Match office. Some children were playing in the small playground across the way, while their mothers hovered. Jessica glared at the women in their tight yoga clothes that showcased their sinewy arms and bubble butts. Look at them. All fit and gorgeous with their stupid, happy smiles. Why can’t I be like that?
View of South Park Cafe & playground
Equals “no fun”
renovation facade detail
junkies have been replaced by techies
When you emerge from the 16th street Bart station in the heart of the Mission District, you’d never know it’s considered the hottest neighborhood in San Francisco. You’re instantly accosted by some seriously mentally impaired and drug-addled homeless people, scuzzy sidewalks and the stench of urine.
But a few blocks over on Valencia Street, there are pricey eateries, chic boutiques and myriad cafes selling single-pour cups of coffee for $5 (Arabica blend with plummy, juicy notes).
This tide of gentrification is due in part to dotcom #1 (late 90s), and now the influx of young Silicon Valley tech employees from Google, Facebook, among others. They’d rather live in the city than the sleepy suburbs of San Mateo County. And who can blame them? The companies encourage and support this desire by providing enormous Wi-Fi outfitted coach buses to shuttle their workers back and forth.
A lot has been written about this influx of young techies with money to burn: they’ve driven up housing prices, caused a shortage and have changed the cultural landscape of the city. It’s created an acrimonious divide. Longtime residents are disgruntled and angry, rabidly flipping off the Google buses whenever they pass. At any gathering of “locals,” there’s at least a fifteen-minute bitch session about how much “entitled techies suck.” The changing Mission has become the focus for all that’s wrong with San Francisco.
Regardless of where you stand on gentrification, tech companies and entitled millennials, the Mission still retains its Latino and multiethnic roots, colorful murals and now boasts the “best burrito” in America. It’s an eclectic and unique place to hang out. But when you walk the streets, be prepared to hold your nose.
She (Jessica) had been leading Didi and her pack of equally inebriated bridesmaids on a bachelorette pub crawl through the Mission District. The Galanga Room was the fourth stop on the itinerary and most likely the last.
16th street pupuseria
Clarion Alley detail
It’s become a romance genre motif that the city where the events take place acts like a third character in the story. From Woody Allen’s Manhattan, which rhapsodized poetic about the city’s romantic virtues, to Sex and the City, and even Donna Tartt’s novel, The Goldfinch, New York City underscores, sentimentalizes and enriches the story.
The “third character” in Love Match is San Francisco. It’s a place I know well, is loaded with memories, and in many ways still has a hold on my heart. I wanted to show the places that have inspired scenes in the book—some are real while others are fabrications. All photos are taken by me unless otherwise noted.
She resided in Sea Cliff: an upscale enclave near the beach, populated by rock stars from the sixties, old-money families, and new-money venture capitalists. Her ocean view may have been to-die-for, but the marine layer was often locked in for days, even weeks.