Seal of the City and County of San Francisco
City and County of San Francisco

To view graphic version of this page, refresh this page (F5)

Skip to page body

In This Section

Jack Kerouac Alley Reopening

For Immediate Release
March 31, 2007
Falvey Christine
(415) 554-6920


Jack Kerouac Alleyway in San Francisco's North Beach and
Chinatown Transformed into Pedestrian Only Sanctuary

San Francisco, CA- City leaders, department heads, and community organizations celebrated the re-opening of the historic Jack Kerouac Alley that connects the Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods with a lion dance, music performances and poetry readings, today. The once drab automobile-accessible alley has been transformed into a beautiful public pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

Jack Kerouac Alley, situated between Grant and Columbus and just adjacent to famed Vesuvio's Café and City Lights Book Store, brings together the historic neighborhoods of Chinatown and North Beach. The Department of Public Works led the renovation project that added new streetlights with ornamental lampposts and cobblestone-like pavers. Stone tiles containing bilingual passages with inspired writings by Li Po, Confucius, Maya Angelou, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Steinbeck, as well as, Jack Kerouac, are also imbedded into the street.

Chinatown, the most densely populated community in the city and maybe the nation, has more than 30 alleyways in its twenty core blocks. Unlike the usual, empty back alleys that you find in the city, these narrow streets are regularly used as pedestrian thoroughfares, social-meeting places for residents, and storefronts for merchants. Chinatown's sounds, color, and vitality make it a special place, which draws visitors from all over the world.

 Residents in Chinatown used to name their unique alleys and streets that reflected their daily lives experience. Every alley name had a story to tell, Mayor Newsom said.  Today, our dedication of this beautiful and artistic alleyway to Jack Kerouac, asides from telling a story itself, also representing one of the key elements of Chinatown and North Beach communities that pieces up the enrichment and colors of this particularly poetic and historical neighborhood of the city."

 Jack Kerouac is a wonderful project, said Gordon Chin, Executive Director of Chinatown Community Development Center that spearheaded the Chinatown Alleyway Improvement Project.  It will bring together the Chinatown and North Beach communities. It also symbolizes the close relationship that the two neighborhoods have with each other. 

 Vesuvio is grateful to DPW and everyone involved in this project, said Janet Clyde, managing partner of Vesuvio.  The alley has been transformed into a work of art. We have already seen an increase of visitors to the alley and to our businesses. We believe this improvement will continue to attract people to the North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods.

Edwin Lee, Chief Administrative Officer, points out that every alleyway in Chinatown and North Beach is unique.  We will do our best to revitalize and renovate the alleyways to bring out the best for locals and visitors.

Work to beautify the alleys began in 1980, when the Chinatown Alleyway Improvement Association (CAIA), with staff support from the Chinatown Community Development Center (Chinatown CDC), sought help to improve the narrow streets in the neighborhood. Chinatown CDC conducted a study  CHINATOWN ALLEYWAYS: Their Potential/Their Future, which called for regular maintenance and physical improvements to the alleyways. Ross and Hang Ah Alleys were among the first to be renovated. In 1994, the Chinatown CDC embarked on a more thorough study of the thirty-one alleyways, and created the Chinatown Alleyway Master Plan, which was adopted by the Department of Public Works in 1998 to enhance all of them. By 2006, Commercial, Ross, Cordelia, John and Waverly Place had been upgraded and enhanced. The Jack Kerouac alley design is a neighborhood effort, decided upon collectively by the community property owners and merchants. To accommodate future cultural activities and ensure pedestrian safety, the property owners agreed to close off the alleyway to vehicular access.

The Chinatown Alleyway Improvement Association, the Chinatown Community Development Center, Vesuvio Café, City Lights, and community groups put together the celebration with cultural entertainment programs. Mayor Gavin Newsom, President of the Board Aaron Peskin, Chief Administrative Officer Edwin Lee, DPW Director Fred Abadi, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman, and many others attended the event.


Last updated: 2/16/2010 10:05:33 AM