Valencia Gardens

By Tom Erikson

Almost twenty years ago, young and at a loose end, I took a job conducting market research interviews for the San Francisco Examiner. I got paid for each survey I conducted, and each participant received ten dollars cash. One day on my interview rounds I visited the Valencia Gardens Projects. I’d lived for the past year in the Mission District, three blocks up Valencia Street, but had never crossed the threshold of the low-income housing blocks that made up 246 of my neighbor’s homes. I was somewhat uncomfortable, but I had a lurking fascination with the strange prison-like structures that had housed some of the poorest of our city since the spring of 1943, when The Gardens first opened their doors.