15 Things: 3rd and Army

By: | Thursday, July 21, 2005 //

15 Things You Didn’t Know About 3rd and Army

1. The area known as 3rd and Army is located neither on 3rd nor Army Street (long since renamed Cesar Chavez Boulevard). In fact, the spot isn’t even visible from 3rd and Cesar Chavez. It’s actually located at the end of Indiana Street, just off Cesar Chavez and two blocks from 3rd.

2. The spot is located on a body of water known as Islais Creek. The name of the creek is derived from the Native American word islay, meaning “wild cherry.” A very popular Native American food, the cherries would grow on the banks of the creek.

3. In the 1870s, local commerce consisted primarily of slaughterhouses, tanneries and meat packers, and the area became known as Butchertown. The rusted metal crane that towers above 3rd and Army was originally used to unload copra off of boats arriving from Southeast Asia. Copra is the dried white flesh of the coconut from which coconut oil is extracted.

4. The 3rd and Army Plaza was created by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission as a part of the Bay View Gateway Beautification Project at Islais Creek, in order to give Muni workers a nice place to have lunch and hang out when not driving buses.

5. It’s rumored that Mike Carroll was the first to discover 3rd and Army. As the story goes, he saw the spot from the freeway and, using his skills of triangulation, figured out how to get there. Legend also has it that Mike was the first to kickflip the rock gap.

6. Skaters around the world have a guardian angel in the form of Julia Viera, founder of Friends of Islais Creek, who was responsible for seeing the plaza come to fruition. Though she didn’t intend for it to become a world famous skatespot, she was willing to let skaters use the plaza if they picked up after themselves and didn’t engage in acts of graffiti.

7. The area is a veritable skatepark. The 3rd and Army area has played host to demos and contests and served as a kind of ramp dumping ground. A once-present, crazy cement vert-quarterpipe with a sketchy transition was only braved by a few. Dan Drehobl was known to session it with ease.

8. The spot is next to a bus yard. In the early years, security guards from the bus yard would kick skateboarders out of the spot come night fall. They were worried about tagging and didn’t feel comfortable with groups of teenage boys lurking around the yard after dark.

9. The area is notoriously toxic and believed to be built on top of a sewer. A visiting pro once threw a complete skateboard into the creek, free for anyone to fish out. A local went to retrieve it and in the process got creek water in an open wound on his arm resulting in a serious bacterial infection.

10. Several years ago, a meth lab sprung up on the banks of Islais Creek, next to 3rd and Army. A horrible stench flooded the spot, as did numerous undesirable characters. The lab was eventually shut down following a 15-car police raid.

11. One day a man drove his brand-new BMW up the three stairs leading to 3rd and Army. Distracted by the skating, he failed to notice it was a dead-end street. His car got stuck and began leaking oil everywhere. A tow truck was required to remove the vehicle, and sand was applied to deal with the oil spill.

12. A gang of young kids once hotwired a bus from the neighboring yard and attempted to steal it. The tykes took the bus on a joyride before depositing it deep in the heart of the Bayview/Hunters Point district. Soon after the incident, a fence appeared around the perimeter of the yard.

13. Employees of the bus yard removed a bike rack located at the base of the rock gap after witnessing a gruesome slam. The skater landed far short of his target, impaling himself on the rack.

14. A homeless encampment invaded the lower level of 3rd and Army, setting up tents, a cooking area and even a makeshift marketplace, making it impossible to skate there. Eventually, the transients and their unfriendly dogs were rounded up by the SFPD, freeing up the area for skating again.

15. It has long been rumored that Friends of Islais Creek, the group originally behind the creation of 3rd and Army, has plans to build another promenade just upstream. The spot has yet to materialize.

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