The East Cut

Written by BlackbirdGo December 14, 2018
The History

The East Cut Community Benefit District (CBD), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has been providing cleaning and security services for the San Francisco neighborhood between the Financial District and Rincon Hill since July 2015. In May 2017, the CBD dropped its original name, the Greater Rincon Hill Community Benefit District and announced a new name for itself and for the neighborhood. The CBD attached banners that said “The East Cut” to lampposts, emblazoned the name on the back of its street cleaning team’s jackets, and asked Google Maps to implement the name on its map of San Francisco. In August 2017, Google Maps complied, and The East Cut became an official S.F. neighborhood.

More than a year after the neighborhood’s christening, opinion about the new name among those who live and work there remains divided. Fourteen-year resident Tad Bogdan told the New York Times that the East Cut name was “degrading to the reputation of our area” in an August 2018 story. Former SFist editor-in-chief Jay Barmann suggested readers berate anyone who says they live in the East Cut in order to make sure the name does not stick in a June 2017 Curbed story. Blackbird could not reach Bogdan or Barmann for comment.

Travis Kelly, whose grandfather, Tony Rosellini, has been running East Cut landmark Klockars Blacksmith and Metal since 1970, said he has been coming to the neighborhood for his whole life. Kelly said he does not agree with the criticisms he has heard of the East Cut name.

“The argument that I’ve heard has been… from residents thinking it’s going to diminish their property values, and I’ve seen zero evidence that that’s the case,” Kelly said. “I don’t believe that anyone in my family was upset or offended by the name change, and, having spoken to all kinds of people within that neighborhood who know that neighborhood well, specialize in it, from, say, a real-estate perspective, property values are not affected.”

Kelly said the East Cut name does not matter to him but that he appreciates the services that the East Cut CBD provides.

“I don’t care about the name, but making it smaller and making it its own group has allowed the smaller community to get the attention it needs. The street team they have that’s specific to the East Cut does a great job cleaning up,” Kelly said.

Andrew Robinson, executive director of the East Cut CBD, said that choosing a new name for the neighborhood was a collaborative process that spanned nine months. CBD members organized community meetings, interviewed people on the street, and consulted urban designers and community development experts to find the most suitable name.

“The board, when I started, was very keen on coming up with an identity that really encompassed all of the stakeholders,” Robinson said. “So, if you’re owning or living on Mission Street, you’re not on Rincon Hill—how do we find some identity that encompasses and includes all stakeholders in the CBD?”

In a CBD video, developer and East Cut resident Matt Lituchy explained that the name comes from 1) the 2nd Street Cut, a swath of Rincon Hill that city planners removed in 1869, and 2) the fact that the neighborhood is in the eastern part of the city. Robinson said that, during the nine-month name selection process, he did not hear the argument that the East Cut name sullies Rincon Hill’s reputation, and he says that most of the people CBD members interviewed did not identify with Rincon Hill.

“We’ve honestly been contacted by fewer than five people who oppose the name,” Robinson said.

The rechristening is just one part of the CBD’s campaign to reform the neighborhood. Robinson said that the CBD’s ability to plan and manage parks in the area was one of the factors that drew him to the organization originally. The non-profit, which contributes $1.5 million to Salesforce Park each year, is currently planning a park called Under Ramp Park that will be located under the I-80 Folsom Street exit ramp.

“We’re really in the densest part of San Francisco. It is our goal to develop quality open space for people—the new park at Under Ramp will have basketball courts, it will have bocce, it will have a general grass gathering area,” Robinson said. “It will have the things a neighborhood needs to be a neighborhood and be a place where community can gather that isn’t always transactional.”

Robinson said the CBD is also planning an economic revitalization of Folsom Street. The population and number of buildings in the neighborhood are growing faster than the local economy, and the CBD is trying to usher in more businesses that could serve the swelling community.

“We’ve been activating vacant retail mostly through arts community projects but also through game nights, we did a Valentine’s Day, we’re basically trying to demonstrate to potential operators, and to leasing agents as well, that there are all these people in this neighborhood who are looking for something to do on a Friday night,” Robinson said.

One business coming to the East Cut will be Travis Kelly’s new project: a cannabis retailer in his grandfather’s old blacksmith shop. Kelly says that his family has turned down countless offers from developers who want to buy the property and that transforming the shop is the only way he can maintain some of its history and charm. Though his grandfather still occasionally forges metal there, Kelly says the shop is essentially a relic gathering dust.

“It’s a blacksmith shop sitting in the shadow of the Sales Force and Facebook towers,” Kelly said. “It makes no sense that it’s sitting there.”

According to Kelly, Rosellini has thrown a Christmas party in the shop every year for decades. It was an event that would attract hundreds of people, and, in the 70s and 80s, the police would have to close down the block Klockars was on because it was so full of partygoers. This year, for the first time, Rosellini hung a sign on his door announcing that there will be no party.

“He’s just ready to stop driving into the city at age 89. But he’s very happy to have somebody else sort of take [the building] off his hands,” Kelly said.

The East Cut is no longer the industrial neighborhood it was when Rosellini was working in Klockars every day, but Kelly says he hopes he can help preserve some of its character as it develops new parks, new businesses, and new buildings with the help of the East Cut CBD.

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