Last Thoughts..

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It was great getting to know the Richmond district more through this blog and my reporting class. I can honestly say that I never would’ve gained the appreciation and understanding about all of the diversity and culture that exist in the Richmond if I hadn’t chosen to explore this place for an assignment. I leave the district with good thoughts and with a longing to one day live in one of the pockets of diversity that so well define it. Thank you for all of your help and knowledge Richmond!!

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My favorite place..

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Lets talk about something I hold near and dear to my heart.. Something I love, and can always make my day better. It was love at first try and ever since that rainy day in April I’ve never been the same.. I’m talking about boba!! Or tapioca balls, whichever you prefer. One of my all time favorite things is boba and luckily the Richmond district has a surplus of boba stores. So along with my reporting this semester I’ve also done some extensive research and trials of the boba stores in the Richmond and of the over 8 cafes that I’ve tried here are my top three, in order of best to decent:

Warning: my judgement of the cafes is based on my own opinion and tastes. I tend to judge a cafe for its boba based on the freshness and taste of the tapioca balls themselves and then the taste of the tea. In my heart, the quality of the boba outweighs the quality of the tea but this is a personal bias and I keep that in mind as I judge boba cafes.

1. Sharetea : 5336 Geary Blvd

This place is my peris favorite! It doesn’t get too busy compared to other cafes, like T-pumps or Purple Kow, and the quality of boba is always on point. It’s slightly sweet and always fresh tasting and warm, but still not too chewy. The tea is also pretty amazing, they make slushies, fruit flavored teas, red bean and matcha teas, and have some speciality teas that can be made fresh when you order. All around its a pretty great cafe when it comes to tea and boba quality! Plus it has the five stars program so every 10 drinks you get one for free. Pretty awesome. My favorites are the honey tea with aloe chunks and boba and the genmaicha tea with boba.

2. Purple Kow : 3620 Balboa St

I like Purple Kow because of the copious amount of drinks they have to chose from! You can get  slidhies, smoothies and teas of any flavor with almost every kind of topping you could think of: popping boba, honey boba, aloe, jellies, etc.. The only loss is that their tea quality hasn’t been so good the three times I went and that’s what’s makes it second on my list. Plus I’m kind of a boba purist! The only topping I ever get  is extra boba so this Cafe doesn’t really cater to my simplistic needs.

3. Beach N Boba Cafe : 3560 Taraval St

Yes so I know this cafe isn’t in the Richmond but I had to mention it! It’s set up like a sit down restaurant, which is unusual for a boba cafe and they also have  food like pizza tater tots and fries… How amazing. But the coolest part is how they serve you like a sit down restaurant, they seat you, give you a menu of all their items and the server Runs it to the kitchen! The server I had was helpful and hilarious and even told us about their “secret menu” that had drinks that were named after employees and included such flavors as rose, honeydo, toffee, and more! The menu really is amazing because they have premade drinks that you can chose from that combine toppings and flavors in ways that I woud never think of!!

I hope this helps in your quest for boba!!

A New Beginning….?

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The neglect of the Alexandria Theatre on Geary Boulevard may be coming to an end. During the decade that it has been closed, the theatre has been the subject of graffiti, squatters, theft and general neglect. In May of last year, the city cited the owners ,Alexandria Enterprises LLC, with violations of the maintenance of the building. After repainting the building and fixing some of the other violations Alexandria Enterprises LLC sold the building and its development plans to a new company, Alexandria Development Group LLC in August.

The new company hasn’t done anything major with the building but they did request a change in the original development plan, which was to maintain the main theatre, house a restaurant and retail stores in the remaining part of the theatre, and construct a  “mixed use dwelling unit” with five below market-rate units, 37 units total.  Although the changes requested are not major changes, they do have more of an emphasis on the housing part of the development, increasing the dwelling units to 41 and decreasing the below market housing units to four. This revised plan was approved by the planning department in September and is now awaiting the approval of the Department of Building and Inspection.

The theatre has been a staple to the Richmond community for decades and the stagnation of any kind of development has hindered not just the theatre but the community.

Although the new ownership carries hope for a better future for the theatre, so did the last ownership, only the start of construction will set the tone for the Alexandria’s uncertain future.

A Cafe

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Being a barista has been my daytime job for almost two years now but I still cannot get over the happiness I feel whenever I try out a new cafe. This week I chose to try Royal Ground Coffee on Geary and 17th. Although there are more locations throughout the city, this one stood out to me because of its prominent location and all the windows on the front of the cafe. The cafe itself is pretty large. Outside is a major 38 bus stop on Geary Boulevard and even though there is a lot of foot traffic outside the cafe, the cool jazz playing inside the cafe maintains the relaxed mood.

By far my favorite thing about this cafe are the paintings on the walls. One, shown above, is clearly of San Francisco and the other looks like a scene from an Italian Riviera ( the baristas didn’t know for sure), But this air of mystery gives the cafe a little more personality.

The coziness of this cafe is also off the charts. When you walk in you notice the large amount of chairs, couches and tables squeezed into any and all possible spaces in the cafe. The worn-in red stripy couches are squeezed between wooden tables and chairs with even more paintings on them which are underneath an almost false porch that runs around the edge of the store.

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In any other location the furniture would have made the store crowded and chaotic, but here it fits in perfectly with the mismatched mysteries of the cafe.

It may not be the most modern cafe in town but the mocha I had was good and the coziness was irreplaceable. A definite recommendation.

A Third Place

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Leaves crunch under running children’s feet as the gentle squeaking of swings mixes with the excited screams of children on a playground.

“Me first! Me first!” screams a little girl in a pink dress as she runs up to the slide, eager for her short awaited turn.

But not everything here is about youth, on the outskirts of the playground sit the stoic newspaper readers, the baby boomers who came to the park to read a newspaper on the benches or watch their grandchildren play.

This dichotomy of ages and activities at the Richmond/Senator Milton Marks Library is seen clearer here than most places in life. On a daily basis the library and the playground behind it serve a multitude of parents trying to entertain their young children, and older folks enjoying the quiet the library has to offer. Go on a friday afternoon and you’ll practically be run over by either a stroller or a walker.

“It’s close and convenient when you have young kids here. There are kids programs and it’s clean,” said Margot, a mother of two in the Richmond.

“I don’t come here a lot but it’s definitely on par,” said Elizabeth, who came to the park with son.

The library doesn’t only boast a playground and benches to entertain the young and the old, but many classes and events that are open to the public.

This week the library is hosting preschool story time, crafts, computer classes and on wednesday, a “Write Your Will Seminar”.

“The playground and the story time keep my kids entertained and me less stressed,” said Maori, a mother of two who frequents the library a couple of times a week. A thought apparently shared with other parents who tend to socialize with each other as they watch their kids play from afar. Occasionally stepping in to make sure the three minute swing rule is obeyed and everyone gets a turn on the swings.

Although the playground and the downstairs children’s section are social hubs for mothers and their children, the benches surrounding the library and the upper levels of the library are just as busy but more library-ish in noise level. Sitting only inches away from each other, elbows practically touching, there are just as many people in these spaces as are on the playground, only their interactions involve their seclusion in a laptop, a book or a newspaper. Here instead of the yells and cries of children, the space is filled with the realistic sighs and coughs of adults.

When I tried to talk to one of the persons occupying their time in the upstairs part of the library I was told to “shh” by three other people I wasn’t interviewing. A good overview of the atmosphere in that part of the library.

A First Look…

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When planning a trip to San Francisco, the Richmond district probably isn’t the first or even third location on your list of places to go. It is often brushed over as a residential area, but the different layers of the Richmond offer different looks into a neighborhood that has grown from originally being a community of Russian, Irish and then Chinese immigrants.

From restaurants to theaters, schools, churches and parks, the Richmond accommodates many San Franciscans lives outside of the hustle and bustle of the city.Map of San Francisco Districts

Outer Richmond stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Park Presidio and is sandwiched between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, although often foggy its charm lies in the hyperlocal shops and cafes. Unlike the Inner Richmond, on the other side of Park Presidio, the Outer Richmond caters specifically to its residents and not tourists, i.e. the reason you won’t find many tourists here. Family and or one-man cafes are frequent here and the rolling hills of endless houses pictured on San Francisco post cards are replicated among the neighborhoods in this district.

The Inner Richmond is closer to downtown and with its array of restaurants and bars, clearly feels more like a big city. The Inner Richmond starts on the right side of Park Presidio and ends before Fillmore Street, and although it’s still a mainly residential area, walk three blocks in any direction and not only will the look of the houses change, but so will the language you hear around you.

A bit of history on the Richmond:

Originally developed in the late 19th century the Richmond only really began booming with residential housing after the 1906 Earthquake. Since then Russian, Chinese, and Irish immigrants have filled the neighborhood with the diversity that still exists today. A neighborhood that gathers together for a farmers market every Sunday and according to Seedstore Owner Jennifer Huie, “It’s safe and it feels like a community. You know all your neighbors.”

“Just the people and the pockets of diversity,” said Sergeant Lee of SFPD when asked about his favorite part of the Richmond. SGT Lee is not only stationed in the Richmond but he also grew up there and recalled always loving the diversity it held. A common feeling shared with the other Richmond residents I spoke to.

“I love how eclectic it is and how there are so many different cultural aspects..It’s kinda like its own city,” said Sophie Wasacz a 20 year resident of the Richmond.

On Geary Street, the busiest street of the district, the combination of old and new, east and west blend effortlessly. The cuisines range from Dim Sum, to Korean BBQ, to Mediterranean, to Italian, to Ethiopian and back and all fight for a spot in the most popular part of the neighborhood. Temples and churches of almost every kind can be found on Geary Street and the number of buses that are constantly stopping to pick people up create the background noise of the Richmond.

Along with the restaurants are the random furniture stores, bookstores, flower shops, ice cream parlors, and everything else that makes a great neighborhood. While some shops give the appearance of being popular community hubs, others have seen better days, but all coexist in a frenzy of cultures. Although all of these elements might seem like they clash, they fit together in a way that no other district can make them. After seeing a Chinese Medicine Clinic I happened upon the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization that records such things as web pages and online music and books. Later I drank boba from a little cafe on Geary and then ate Thai food and donuts on Clement street.

“There’s a lot of community involvement,” said Tomika Anderson, Manager of Administration at Internet Archive.

“A fair amount of teachers bring their students,” agreed Christopher Butler, the Office Manager at Internet Archive.

Despite the Richmond having a reputation as a family oriented district only 23 percent of the residents in Outer Richmond and 21 percent of the residents in Inner Richmond have families with children according to the American Community Survey 2005-2009.

Although the majority of the Richmond community is not children, there are well over 10 schools throughout the district and many more ways to connect residents within the community no matter their age. Richmond/Senator Milton Marks Branch Library, a public library built in 2009, which offers the Richmond community, adult computer classes, preschool storytime and other activities that bring the community closer together.

“We have a lot of collections in English, Chinese, and Russian so we mostly serve those communities,” said Richmond/Senator Milton Marks Branch Library employee Dorothy Kimmel. Although a libraries tend to attract families, Kimmel said that the library usually mostly serves seniors and displaced people.

The Richmond also includes a YMCA.

“Every Y serves a type of community, this one is more family and the elderly.” said YMCA employee Antonina Belorusets.

Overall, my sample of the Richmond district provided me a look into the appreciation that so many people have for the district. The worst I heard about the district was that it was “underappreciated” and “kind of out of the way” said Cole Rayo from Green Apple Books. But even that could be a compliment to the effortless intersectionality of cultures and people that populate the Richmond.