Porta-Potties in My Face

Last year the vacant warehouse next to my office building was purchased by a development company and it was demolished over the course of the spring, the building disappearing by degrees, first into a pile of brick and mortar, then to a bare floor, open to the sky with rebar fingers scraping futilely at the sky from within the torn concrete.

Finally they brought drills in and pounded away the floor and the foundation, leaving a huge unsifted plot of dirt bare to the ravages of the weather. It got very muddy for a while this spring all along the half block between my office and the corner where I cross the street coming from the bus stop. Red water ran across the gray sidewalk, mixing with floods of foam along the edge of the street and making it seem as if the earth was bleeding into the gutter.

When the weather dried out, some sort of historical preservation society sifted through all the dirt to pull out any possible remains of a historic foundation that had been beneath the warehouse. Every day, they were crawling around that massive pile of red earth, pulling little bits of brick out, dressed in jeans and sweatshirts and rubber boots. Every now and then I’d hear them enthusing about ‘original flame-fired brick’ or things along those lines, arcane historic building talk that I didn’t and don’t understand, but found interesting if only for the fact that a bare lot next to my office could be considered historic.

Finally, when they were done sifting, the earthmovers came in to dig out the lot, shaping it for its future as a new foundation for a new building whose purpose I am still unsure of. The foundation took quite some time to put into place, the rains had come again and at times, they had a pump going non-stop to pull water out of the great pit the concrete was being poured into. It gushed red-brown water into the street all over again, discoloring my shoes and turning the curb into a frothy mess.

With the foundation complete at last, the pace of work next door has suddenly picked up. The workers crawl all over the structure like ants, efficiently building up supports and layers of concrete intertwined with cables and intricate metal outlets that are lined up with each other from floor to floor, the concrete poured around them so that wires and plumbing can be run through the building. Every day it seems, another floor has been added to the building. At first we could look down and see them toiling far below, but coming nearer week to week.

Today, the porta-potties are in my window instead of the distant view of Mt. Sutro that has been a constant companion since I moved to this desk. I’ve been deliberately looking away, because I really don’t need to know how often the workers next door are using those potties.

In a day or two, the view will be completely blocked by the hollow echoing emptiness of the seventh floor next door. I still don’t know if they’re building a new office building or if this will house apartments. If the latter, I feel terribly sorry for the new residents already. They’ll have McDonald’s breathing out at them on one side, and all of us peeking curiously in on the other.

It’ll be less glare on my screen for as long as I sit here, but I’ll have to get up to see if the fog is coming in over the mountain or if it promises to be a clear evening in San Francisco and all across the Bay.

The changes in this part of the city are simply amazing. In just a year and a half, it’s completely switched over from being run-down and down-at-heels to swanky, slick and modern. All it took was building the new ballpark here to start the seeds of change.