Dogpatch is a mixed-use neighborhood on the bayside of San Francisco. Its location is cutoff from much of the City by the two main freeway arteries that run north south through the eastern side of San Francisco. The freeways make the neighborhood convenient for those who need to commute down the peninsula. But at the same time, the location makes Dogpatch less convenient to the City’s services and attractions.
With its isolated setting Dogpatch has escaped the early waves of gentrification that have swept through much of SF. Only recently, as housing prices have climbed, has Dogpatch become a trendy address. Today the neighborhood retains the vestiges of its rougher roots. Decaying industrial buildings still stand not far from the Dogpatch Historic District. The Historic District protects an enclave of homes, the oldest and most intact concentration of industrial workers’ housing in San Francisco. Though Dogpatch remains the location for the once notorious Hell’s Angels clubhouse, the motorcycle club has also gentrified; the clubhouse is no longer viewed as the den of iniquity as it once was.
The influx of new money has yet to crush the character of Dogpatch. Sitting near the docks there are reminders of the area’s once powerful industrial economy. Around the turn of the 20th Century iron works and shipyards dominated this bayside section of the city. Today the rusting hulks of workshops and warehouses remain as evidence of Dogpatch’s industrial might.
I have an affinity for photographing abandoned industrial buildings. There’s a certain beauty in the rust; untold stories lie unimagined behind the crumbling walls of the buildings. Spending the 2016/2017 winter in San Francisco, it was inevitable that there would be a trip or two to Dogpatch with a camera. The most informative visit, and a good way to learn more about Dogpatch, was the City Guides walking tour we took.
While the historic Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Italianate, Eastlake and Classical Revival style homes in Dogpatch are protected, there are grand plans for the redevelopment of the area’s abandoned industrial areas. For sure, San Francisco desperately needs buildable land. Nonetheless it will be sad to see the old factories and warehouses taken down or reconfigured in a way that the area’s connection to its past is muted.
San Francisco Bay Area’s shipyards produced 45% of the United State’s cargo shipping tonnage during World War II. Since its boat building peak the regions economy has changed. There are still shipyards but San Francisco today is very much a high-tech city. Tech giants dominate its economy. With the change, the City’s gritty and unromantic industrial heritage risks being forgotten. It would be a shame for this part of San Francisco’s history to be steamrolled by progress.