Marvin was sitting outside of the public library on Fulton Street eating lunch and enjoying the sunshine. He is currently working on a novel and comes to the library every day to write it.
“I live right on Polk Street so I live about maybe a 10 minute walk [away], if that. I got into this routine of going to the library in the morning because I’m working on a novel. I always go to the third and fourth floor and most of the time I’ll bring my lunch. Every now and then I’ll go to a restaurant but typically if I just come out here and eat my lunch and I can go back up. I like to sit out, especially on a day like this; it’s really nice with the breeze. Sometimes it can get a little chilly but I like to be out in the elements. So that’s my routine. I work evenings and so I have the day to myself pretty much so this is the routine.”
Marvin has been working on his novel for the past 5 months and feels that having access to the library and the public space at Fulton Street helps him reach his goal of finishing it.
“I’m making good progress on my book and so this is allowing me to just keep going forward with it and I think that’s something really positive for me. I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of this space just relaxing and having my lunch here on a nice day. If this wasn’t here, just this space where I can just sit, then I think that it would be a much sadder place.”
Marvin says that even without visiting the library to write his novel, he would still visit the public spaces in the Civic Center, particularly Fulton Street and Civic Center plaza.
“It’s very convenient. I can go from here and go to any other place I want. And the market is here so I go to the Farmer’s Market a couple of times a week, so it’s really convenient just to do my grocery shopping on the way home and Wells Fargo bank is just across the street. If there’s an event going on, then I’ll come here to watch it. I suppose there’s a chance that I would come over here if I just happen to have my lunch with me. I couldn’t have this sandwich inside the library and so it kinda brings me out here but I enjoy sitting out here anyway even if they did allow us to eat in there. I just come out here just to enjoy it. And I’m a people watcher so I get to watch people going by and so that by itself would be something I might do occasionally even if I didn’t go to the library.”
Marvin likes the diversity of people who visit the public spaces in the Civic Center.
“I think there’s a real diversity. There’s a lot of tourists who come through here. There’s a lot of the people who are homeless, who I assume are homeless, or live in shelters, come here because they can’t stay in the shelter during the day so they go to the library and use the restroom there and so forth. I mean, it’s too bad that we have the homeless problem here, that’s one thing that’s sad but other than that, you see young people here that are traveling. …so it’s nice for the tourists to be able to have some place to visit and you know, whatever contributes to the local economy.”
Marvin has been living in the Bay Area since 1981 and has seen some changes to the City, but thinks not much has changed in the Civic Center.
“I’ve lived in different places, I’ve lived in Berkeley, I’ve lived in Oakland, now I live in San Francisco…but I left for a long time and I came back. It’s become more crowded. I mean, you used to be able to park on Market Street and now I can’t even think about parking on Market Street. I used to work at City Hall, I would park about a mile or so closer to the shore. I haven’t tried that because I live down here so I don’t drive anymore but I doubt that it’s easy.”
“The Civic Center is exactly the same. I mean, they were always planning to do something over there [Civic Center Plaza]. This was in 1981. I didn’t actually work for City Hall until 1983 but the only thing is they’ve got new office buildings, but otherwise, it seems the same.”
Marvin had some ideas about how to make Civic Center an even better place for people to visit.
“I think it succeeds as a place for people to meet, for people to organize. There is one thing that is not happening here which if you go to Fisherman’s Wharf, they have all this public entertainment going on. This isn’t really set up so much to have these street entertainers. You go to some place like Paris or Munich, you have a big open area and it’s concrete but then the shoppers pass right by so you have a lot of that activity. But the way this is set up since it’s all city buildings and the shopping is separate, then you don’t have that synergy that happens. Street entertainers need an audience. So they’re not gonna sit out here and play their saxophone because they’re not gonna have enough people listening.”
“They don’t have benches here. Benches encourage people to sit down. If they are deliberately planning a town center like that it would say ‘We want you to come here and sit down, there’s a lot of people going through.’ ”
Despite the lack of street entertainers and foot traffic, Marvin finds the public space on Fulton Street to be a positive.
“It’s a place of peace almost like a meditation where you can just come here, sit down, and relax. I like it and I hope that it stays and continues to be accessible to people. I appreciate it and it allows me to do what I want to do.”