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Sunday Streets Western Addition Shines with Communal Strength

A young girl sits on a street drawing with chalk, with people and a market in the background.
Source: Vita Hewitt

Chalk it up to its years of experience, but Livable City sure knows how to throw a party.

Hosted across a three-block stretch of Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco’s Western Addition Sunday afternoon, the nonprofit’s latest event was another colorful community gathering with something for seemingly everyone.

Following parties in the Bayview, Tenderloin and Mission earlier this summer, Sunday’s festivities this month centered on San Francisco’s Western Addition. They also served as the midway point for the nonprofit’s 2023 Sunday Streets program, currently celebrating its 15th season of throwing car-free community events in neighborhoods across the city.

Running from Laguna Street to Webster Street, the event included informational booths and hands-on activities spread throughout Buchanan Street Mall. Thanks to a generous availability of chalk, Golden Gate Avenue itself was even colorfully transformed, becoming a massive concrete canvas for tots and adults alike to write words of encouragement and doodle to their hearts’ content.

Relieved of its usual auto traffic, the area closed off for Sunday Streets Western Addition was instead filled with an array of delightfully uncommon sights, from a mobile climbing wall provided by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to oversize, colorful sets of tic-tac-toe available for families to enjoy. Radio station Wild 94.9 spun some beats for those by the Laguna entrance while booths covering a range of issues relevant to the neighborhood, the city and beyond engaged with local constituents.

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For Twana Davenport, a communications staffer for Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, hosting a booth at Sunday Streets was a no-brainer. With amenities including free books and a button-making station, the center sent more than a few teachers home on Sunday with armloads of new reading material for their classrooms.

“We’re here to help the community,” Davenport said. “The children are our future, literally, so we’re trying to educate them with books because books are fundamental.”

Headquartered nearby at 800 Presidio Avenue, the Black community service center, the oldest of its kind in San Francisco, is set to celebrate its 104th anniversary later this fall.

“We work with people from kindergarten to age 24,” she continued, “and we’ve seen a lot of them out here today, which is very nice.”

The center’s presence at Sunday Streets speaks to one of the main thrusts behind the rotating series of events: to provide a safe place for a community’s neighbors and kin to congregate, bond and help one another out.

At Sunday Streets Western Addition, that emphasis was present in many forms, from tables offering deeply discounted toiletries and complimentary clothing to a booth hosted by legendary local outfit Success Centers.

Founded nearly 40 years ago, Success Centers operates across the greater Bay Area and seeks to empower marginalized groups through the pillars of education, employment and the arts. Representing Success Centers at Sunday’s event, Community Job Coordinator La’Kista Coleman echoed Davenport’s sentiments on the value of getting out into the heart of a neighborhood and directly engaging with the people who live there.

“We just want to be in the community,” Coleman said. “We had the CEO out here earlier. We have the director here with me now. That’s commitment. You don’t see that too much at these things, but we’re all about it.”

The same could be said of the hundreds of people who were given a gloriously sunny afternoon to walk around and take in the scene, which included some live tunes courtesy of students from local nonprofit San Francisco Rock Project.

Featuring a four-piece, the band tore through spirited covers of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Zero” and the Ramones’ “Judy Is a Punk,” among others. Though the group may not have attracted the sizable crowd it unquestionably deserved, it was nonetheless an impressive testament to the work being done by San Francisco Rock Project and its wildly talented students.

Indeed, creativity was in the air everywhere one looked, from stations inviting young ones to draw and paint to an oversize floor mat edition of the board game Sorry. There were skateboarders and scooter-riders (manually operated only, of course) weaving through the crowd and even a well-placed ice cream truck that decidedly earned its keep for the day. In all, Sunday’s event in Western Addition found the communal spirit so central to Sunday Streets’ mission abundantly alive and well.

A self-professed longtime fan of the Sunday Streets program, Western Addition resident Shanice Wright pointed to her 10-year-old son, Aaron, when asked what makes Sunday Streets a staple of her calendar.

“I want to be able to take him somewhere where we can both have fun, you know?” Wright explained. “He loves going crazy and running around, so if there’s something we can do where he can do that, and I can see people, and it doesn’t cost me a fortune, you’ll see us there.”