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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

SFSU skaters express mixed emotions about construction of new UN plaza

Construction began last month on a new skate park in the United Nations Plaza and is due to end on Nov. 8
Ryosuke Kojima
A brand new skateboard quarterpipe built at the new skatepark at Civic Center United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 7, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress)

The smell of fresh produce, kettle corn and various other baked goods permeates through the United Nations Plaza every Wednesday and Sunday. For the last 20 years, residents of the Tenderloin have relied on The Heart Of The City Farmers Market for fresh groceries and communal bonding.

Renovations to the United Nations Plaza are underway, with a new skatepark taking center stage. The plaza used to host The Heart Of The City Farmers Market, the only farmers market in the Tenderloin and the largest source of fresh produce in the area.

Construction workers putting up the last of the string lights across the new skatepark at Civic Center United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 7, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) 

The new skate park utilizes an area in the UN Plaza that was empty most days of the week, the only business being conducted in the area was the Heart of The City Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Sundays. Construction on the skatepark began last month and is due to end on Nov. 7, with its grand opening happening the next day on Nov. 8.

The UN Plaza hosted the market for the last 20 years. The market processes more EBT and Calfresh money than any other farmers market in the United States, according to Steve Pulliam, the market’s manager.

With the market being moved across the street to an area roughly a third of the size of the previous grounds, Pulliam says farmers, vendors, and community members are losing their only access to fresh, healthy produce at an affordable price in the neighborhood.

“Farmers can no longer park their trucks behind their fans. So what they have to do is come in, unload quickly, move their trucks and park them elsewhere. And parking is certainly an issue,” Pulliam said. “These farmers work 16-18 hour days, and the new parking adds another hour to that.”

Pulliam described several issues related to the move, such as access to BART, heat issues due to the black asphalt of the new parking lot location, and parking access for customers.

Pulliam says the city did try to solve parking issues by providing free access to the Civic Center parking deck, but this doesn’t help farmers who need access to their vehicles and was only given after the forced relocation.

Pulliam isn’t completely sure why the market was moved and why the move is essential now.

“I think what they wanted to do was activate the space seven days a week instead of the two days that we activated the space,” Pulliam said. “Now what I can say is that the market has proven to be the only thing that has activated this space in the 15 years I’ve been here.”

Signs and flyers of the new location of the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market at Civic Center United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 7, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) 

The most salient point Pulliam wants to make is that the market isn’t dead. Although the move has affected business, Heart of The City Farmers Market is still running every Wednesday and Sunday in front of the San Francisco Public Library.
Pulliam hopes that a skate park will revitalize the area and drive business towards the market. He says the new location and issues presented threaten the communities’ already poor food security.

“We’re trying our best to make it work,” he continued. “We’re supplying food security for the entire neighborhood. It would take a colossal mistake to ruin our market. I want people to realize that it’s certainly not easy for us and a lot of customers.”

Lou Whitaker is a former San Francisco State University student who withdrew from courses in 2022 to pursue a career in skateboarding. Whitaker currently works at Victory Stables Skate Shop in Oakland and spends his free time getting photos and videos of his skateboarding for sponsors.

Whitaker says the area surrounding UN Plaza has a number of skate spots but issues with homelessness and general safety have made many skaters steer clear of the area. Whitaker is all for the renovations to the area and sees it as an opportunity for skaters to help promote a positive image of the city.

“I think it’s gonna take some time for everybody to get adjusted,” Whitaker said. “There might be conflicts between the skaters and the people in the area at the start, but I overall think putting a skate park in might be the best thing for the city.”

Whitaker acknowledges the homeless population in the area but references other famous skate plazas such as Love Park in Philadelphia and Embarcadero in San Francisco. He says there’s a history of skaters and the homeless community getting along and making areas like the UN Plaza more safe.

A brand new skateboard ledge built at the new skatepark at Civic Center United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 7, 2023. (Ryosuke Kojima/Golden Gate Xpress) 

“If they build a regular park, the homeless people might fight off the people trying to use it,” Whitaker said. “Skaters can get along and make a solution where both parties end up happy. Everybody looks at skating and thinks it’s cool. It’ll open up the door for other people to just hang out, even if you’re not skating and just watch.”

Eduardo Jauregui is a biology major at SFSU with just a few credits left to complete before he graduates. In his free time, Jauregui skateboards all over the Bay Area. He is excited about the new skate park but doesn’t see why the farmers market location was chosen.

“I use my EBT at the farmers market all the time. It’s my favorite place to use it,” Jauregui said. “ The prioritization is clear and it’s not food security. Food access should be prioritized, in my opinion. The skatepark is cool. I just don’t know why it doesn’t sound like the city or whoever’s in charge really planned on a proper move for the farmers market because that’s really important.”

Chris Mondragon is Jauregui’s roommate and a fellow skater. He grew up in San Francisco and has been skating in the city his whole life. He expressed interest in a skate park in the UN Plaza and didn’t have any hesitancy about spending time in the Tenderloin.

“It’s a nice area that just doesn’t get utilized as much as it should be,” Mondragon said.

Mondragon recognizes the need for both the farmers market and the skate park. He wondered why the farmers market couldn’t be moved to the larger area in front of City Hall.

“I feel like they could use the space that’s also in the plaza in front of City Hall,” Mondragon said. “That middle strip where it’s like all dirt. Either push it there or somewhere that the area is bigger than the side of the library. A farmers market in front of City Hall would make perfect sense.”

The UN Plaza skatepark will be open to the public on Nov. 8. Skaters and community members are hopeful that the new park will bring community members together.

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About the Contributors
Jonah Chambliss
Jonah Chambliss, Staff Reporter
Jonah Chambliss (he/him) is a reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. He is majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. He was born and raised in Oakland, California. He lives in San Francisco, California, while working full-time and attending San Francisco State University. He previously contributed to The Cabrillo Voice, the student newspaper of Cabrillo Community College in Aptos, California. He served as a staff reporter for Golden GateXpress last semester, covering arts and entertainment, and will cover student life and club events this spring. During his free time, Jonah is an avid cyclist, motorcycle rider, and mechanic. Jonah is also a huge fan of Bay Area sports, specifically the Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors.
Ryosuke Kojima
Ryosuke Kojima, Photographer
Ryosuke Kojima (he/him) is a photographer for the Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine, majoring in photojournalism and minoring in sociology. Growing up in southern California and Japan, Ryo is an avid fan of various sports, the outdoors, backpacking, film photography, and more. In his free time, you can catch him hanging out with friends, skating, shooting film, or on the golf course.

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