You had always perceived Yerba Buena Gardens to be everlasting. After all, the familiar cityscape is comprised of literal concrete and steel, impervious to harsh weather and human use. But after embarking on the “You Are Here: A Yerba Buena Gardens Walking Tour” from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, you find yourself viewing the neighborhood through an entirely new lens. 

The self-guided walking tour begins in the gardens where you discover that this area was once nothing more than a parking lot. A barren space devoid of the expansive lawns, budding flowers, and clusters of shade trees that you know and love today. Something that’s difficult to imagine. 

Across the street in Jessie Square, the tour then takes you back in time to when the Contemporary Jewism Museum was home to a power station. It survived the earthquake of 1906 and quickly became a symbol of revitalization as it helped to bring San Francisco back to life. And although most of the neighboring St. Patrick’s Church crumbled in the earthquake, the front wall remained intact enough for the church to be rebuilt around it.  

As you continue to wind through the neighborhood, occasionally stopping in front of places like the Metreon and the PacBell Building to learn about the history, you realize for the first time that your beloved neighborhood is indeed fluid. It’s an odd feeling to look up at familiar landmarks and think that generations from now, Yerba Buena Gardens will look and feel entirely different. 

However, it also sparks your creative mind as you imagine what the future may hold. Surely the area will still be overflowing with avant-garde art and some of the best architectural marvels the world has to offer. But what will this living masterpiece of a neighborhood look like? Only time will tell.