Situated in the middle of the road on the 24th block of Sanchez and Elizabeth streets in Noe Valley lies a maze of bright orange linework, zigzagging up, down and around the length of the road. While indiscernible when standing right on top, taking a step back allows the mural to be seen for what it is.
With Victorian houses, front yard plants, Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower ever-present in the background, artist Amos Goldbaum condensed the most quintessential elements of his neighborhood into a 180-feet by 30-feet city block.
The mural, titled “Slow Sanchez,” was painted on one of the city’s slow streets, a program developed during quarantine to provide more space for socially distant essential travel.
The streets were implemented between May and June 2020. While they aren’t places for a block party or public gathering, they serve as a way to create more space for pedestrians and bicyclists, and increase comfort and safety for those using an alternate method of transportation.
A summary of findings from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency showed a 17% increase in pedestrians and a 65% increase in bicyclist volumes since the program began.
I think it shows that if you have more communal spaces that people will occupy them.”
— Amos Goldbaum
The mural took approximately three weeks to complete, a timeline Goldbaum said his knees did not appreciate. He used red and yellow asphalt paint with non-slip grit to paint the road, and dusted reflective glass beads on to the outer lines of Sutro Tower, a trick used to make lines on the road visible to drivers at night, in order to set that piece of the mural apart.
“It was way bigger than other murals I’ve done, and also being horizontal is really tricky,” Goldbaum said.
After attempts with a brush holder on the end of an extension pole failed, he decided the best course of action would be on hands and knees. He joked that this was one of the slower and more painful murals he’s done.
Goldbaum has seen the area take on a much more suburban feel, with kids riding bikes and residents hanging out outside and chatting with their neighbors.
“I think it shows that if you have more communal spaces that people will occupy them,” he said.
Andrew Casteel, volunteer for Friends of Slow Sanchez — the group is made of Noe Valley community members who work together to encourage safety, health and art along the Sanchez slow street corridor — loves taking his 5-year-old out to the slow street to hang out and connect with the area.
“We go to the park on one end, and then we walk down Sanchez, and we get ice cream on 24th Street,” Casteel said. “So it connects two really great spots in the neighborhood. Now it feels like a cohesive whole.”
The mural started out as a coffeehouse conversation between two friends, who went back and forth about how cool it would be to have a local Noe Valley artist create a piece that celebrated the community and the slow streets program. Chris Keene and Rafael Burde quickly set to work on making their idea turn reality.
I see these points in the day, you know, when you’re forced to say hi to neighbors. There’s no more evasion.”
— Rafael Burde
Both are members of Friends of Slow Sanchez. With thousands of dollars in donations, the group commissioned Goldbaum, a perfect candidate given his lifelong residency in Noe Valley, to create the mural.
Burde has seen many positives through this experience because of limited human interaction this past year. Neighbors have been more receptive to efforts of community engagement.
“I see these points in the day, you know, when you’re forced to say hi to neighbors. There’s no more evasion,” he said of the wildly positive response they’ve gotten from neighbors and mainstream media.
According to a SFMTA questionnaire, 78% of respondents supported the slow streets program, with Sanchez being one of the most recommended corridors.
The group hopes to make Slow Sanchez a permanent fixture. Other work they do for the community includes weekly clean-up days and a Covid-safe easter egg hunt for the neighborhood children this past weekend.
“I think it’s a great way to showcase the street,” Casteel said. “I love that you can look up from 24th Street and see it, so folks know of Sanchez even if they’re just there for 24th Street.”
Bikers ride over the newly-painted mural done by Goldbaum on Sanchez Street in Noe Valley. Goldbaum used a combination of different colored asphalt paint, non-slip grit and reflective glass beads to make this piece as street-safe as possible. (Leila Figueroa / Golden Gate Xpress)