Omar visits the Civic Center once or twice a month primarily to chaperone high school students on field trips.
“I work as a counselor for a local high school and there’s usually a field trip either to the Bill Graham or the Asian Art Museum. There’s a lot of civic spaces right there. I’ll go once in a while but not as frequently as when it’s work-related.”
He thinks the architecture of City Hall is really beautiful.
“I’ve jogged by there on Franklin just one block over on the Van Ness side. My favorite part is the Civic Center area; it’s just so beautiful in the morning.”
When he goes to Civic Center specifically to spend time in the area, he typically likes to try different restaurants and cafes.
“I like to try a new place every time I go there. The last place I’ve been to was right inside City Hall; there’s a little cafe in there. There a couple of coffee shops not too far on Market. I like to get some lunch around there and try something new and bring it back to the [Civic Center] plaza.”
Although he doesn’t frequent the Civic Center area often, Omar has had some memorable experiences there.
“I’m an ordained minister and so going in Civic Center and marrying people, I’ve done that twice; and then taking pictures right across the street. I thought that was pretty nice.”
“There was a graduation at the Bill Graham auditorium that I participated in as a staff member and right outside, families were invited to take pictures with their kids and then they took over pretty much that whole entire area of the Civic Center [Plaza]. They seemed pretty excited. Also…I got to volunteer for the Women’s March and that was a really awesome use of space there. I’d say the San Francisco Women’s March was the most memorable because it was like a once-in-a-lifetime thing; and seeing kids graduate there.”
“I went for the World Cup [viewing party] years ago and I had a really nice experience there. I’d say thousands of people were there watching the World Cup finals. I thought that was such a good use of the city space to have people meet there and watch a game together. I thought that was really awesome.”
Generally Omar’s experience in the Civic Center has been good but he thinks the area can make people feel uneasy at times.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative interaction with anyone there but the scenery seems a little rough and slightly dangerous but I have yet to have a weird interaction with somebody. I wish it was a little cleaner so I could feel safer.”
When asked how else the Civic Center could be improved, he provided some feedback on what would get him to spend more time in the public spaces.
“If they had more vendors, not just selling the typical fruits and veggies but like those European cities where they have these markets and chairs and tables. I wish they had that feel. That would definitely make me go there and drink some coffee outdoors because it’s so beautiful around there.”
“I think that being less homelessness around there and again, I don’t think I’ve had any bad interactions but I always grew up knowing that if I’m around a lot of strange people, like transients, just to be on guard. You know, so if there was less of that then I would feel a lot safer and a lot more relaxed.”
His favorite thing to do in public spaces is sit down and eat.
“I think one of my favorite things about traveling is walking around and finding new things and looking at new features in buildings that I’ve never seen before. So, when I go to a new space, I definitely like to have access to some sort of food. Maybe it’s the food that allows me to be in a space. Like I have an excuse to sit here and relax. It might not be that I’m hungry and I want to eat but I want to sit and relax and having a plate of something in front of me allows me to do that without being seen as suspicious. In fact there have been times when I go to a public space and I’ll order something…just so I can sit, not really because I’m hungry.”
“I think I’m always weary of just sitting somewhere for a grand period of time because I’m afraid that I might cause some attention or people might think I’m up to something. So I think having food just gives me the freedom to sit there and be left alone.”
Golden Gate Park is Omar’s favorite public space in San Francisco. Unlike Civic Center, he sees Golden Gate Park as a destination and a place he would go out of his way to spend time in.
“There’s just not enough to do there [Civic Center]. There aren’t a whole lot of reasons to go there. If I’m not doing anything unrelated to work or going to work. I think if it had more of a marketplace feel or even a beer garden or something with a lot of tables. And if people felt it was welcoming, it would definitely be a destination place because it has most of the elements that make it a really great plaza. You know, the beautiful architecture, the history, access to a lot of different places; it’s centrally located.”
Despite some of its shortcomings, Omar thinks having access to the Civic Center public spaces is important.
“I think positive. It’s always good to feel like I have access to stuff.”
“I come from L.A. where there isn’t any real space to go to. Everything has to be pre-arranged and get into a car to go, I think just knowing that it’s there, knowing that I have access to walk around if I want to. I think it makes sense to have in a really big city…having an open space to go to.”