A Green Approach to Creating Community

In Hayes Valley, San Francisco, you can expect to find art galleries and nightlife as well as a mix of boutiques and restaurants to please every taste. Adding to the allure is an emphasis on green design—public parks and markets that bring people together outdoors and act as vibrant focal points in the community. According to Stefan Hastrup, principal of the architecture firm Turnbull Griffin Haesloop, green design in Hayes Valley began with demolishing the old freeway. The area was then rezoned, enhancing it as a pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented place to live. “That’s huge for green design,” Hastrup says. “You can have density without overwhelming the neighborhood with cars. People in San Francisco can choose a neighborhood where it’s actually possible to live car-free.” Hayes Valley soon also became replete with dynamic streetscapes that enhanced the neighborhood’s sense of identity and pride.

One such streetscape is PROXY, a gathering spot that has the feel of an outdoor festival. Here, shipping containers are used as temporary structures to house an array of shops and vendors. One can stop by Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours and embark on an adventure, or pop over to Ritual Coffee Roasters for a fresh brew. For meeting up with friends or a relaxed first date, try Biergarten, which offers locally sourced food and German beer. Regardless of your mood, there is always something at PROXY to experience.

“It’s a real draw,” says Hastrup. “You’re not in a store or restaurant, you’re outdoors. It allows for a lot of fun gatherings to take place. If you have a neighborhood spot to go to like that, you feel like the city in a sense is your living room. You can expand your sense of home to your whole neighborhood.” Another spot that conjures a sense of home is Patricia’s Green, a local park named for Patricia Walkup, a late community activist who advocated for more open space. While the play area is a popular draw for children, adults are attracted by the rotating art installations. Currently, the park is home to The Temple at Patricia’s Green, a work of art by David Best. Constructed out of wood, the unique piece honors community and invites people to write notes to their loved ones on its walls.

Works of art ranging from apparel and jewelry to furniture and decor are on display twice a year in Hayes Valley at the Urban Air Market, the most expansive al fresco design festival in the country. More than 100 local designers and vendors are selected to showcase their wares based in part on their dedication to sustainable design, which takes environmental impact into account. “[Urban Air Market is] filled with jewelry makers, clothing makers, people who work in textiles, so there are products there you wouldn’t find elsewhere,” Hastrup says. “It’s completely different from going to a chain store and buying a generic product—it’s like Etsy, but in person.” One of the goals of the market is to contribute to a sense of community by connecting environmentally conscious artisans with local shoppers searching for sustainable products.

While some Hayes Valley condos like Fulton 555 invite residents to create community by getting together outdoors on a private rooftop terrace, it’s also possible to turn the interior of your Hayes Valley apartment into a gathering place that celebrates your home’s unique locale. At the Hayes Valley home design store Maker & Moss, browse through a variety of items featuring details found in nature as well as handcrafted finds from local artists. Hand-painted tableware, whimsical wall art, and candles scented with fresh herbs and spices can add the finishing touches that make a home feel more grounded and welcoming.

Whether you crave sustainable products for your condo or an outdoor oasis in which to get to know your neighbors, Hayes Valley has it. “It’s so dynamic,” says Austin Gates, a local realtor. “I think green spaces are really important factors for building a neighborhood for quality of life.” In Hayes Valley, Gates adds, “the community benefits” of this approach “are snowballing.”