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SF Thinks This ‘Serene’ Image Will Bring Calm to Drug Crisis Epicenter

Written by Garrett LeahyPublished Dec. 15, 2022 • 4:18pm
Urban Alchemy employees stand outside a plywood wall that was constructed at U.N. Plaza near the former location of the Tenderloin Center in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2022. | Jason Henry for The Standard

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San Francisco has a plan to bring “a sense of calm and tranquility” to Civic Center—ground zero for the city’s drug crisis—a picture of trees.

A “serene graphic of majestic redwood trees” will soon be pasted onto a newly constructed wall at U.N. Plaza, built by the Mid-Market and Civic Center Community Benefit Districts in coordination with the Department of Emergency Management (DEM).

The department is calling the artwork an “aesthetic vinyl-wrapping barrier” that will show the trees “sprouting from rich brown earth and bathed in ethereal sunlight,” according to an email statement.

That particular scene was selected to “evoke a sense of calm and tranquility in the bustling Civic Center area,” DEM said.

The works began on Dec. 12 and will block access to outdoor planters while they are being restored by the city.

The vinyl wrapping around a wooden barrier at U.N. Plaza will max out at 138 feet at its longest and will depict a sunlit forest. | Courtesy Department of Emergency Management

The city will also provide enhanced lighting, increased ambassador and hospitality staffing, regular U.N. Plaza cleanings, increased safety personnel and seasonal decorations to the infamous Downtown area.

Civic Center is well known for open-air drug use and dealing and, for 11 months, was the site of the Tenderloin Center, a safe drug use site that closed in early December.

The arty barriers are a partnership project between the city, the Mid-Market and Civic Center community benefit districts, which exist to promote local business and advocate the concerns of local residents. The project is called “Be Barrier Beautiful,” and vinyl-wrapped barricades are referred to as “creative barriers” in project parlance.

A plywood wall was constructed at U.N. Plaza near the Tenderloin Center in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2022. | Jason Henry for The Standard

The Mid-Market Community Benefit District’s website says that “creative barricades add vibrancy to sidewalks and can improve safety in front of vacant storefronts and active worksites.”

Earlier in 2018, an artsy wall was placed in front of a vacant Civic Center storefront that previously housed a Carl’s Jr. restaurant.

The Mid-Market and Civic Center community benefit districts have been contacted for comment.

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Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]


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