Hayes Valley Resident’s Artwork Unites Distanced Neighborhood

San Francisco Public Press
 — Mar 20 2015 - 9:12am

Todd Young thought he was creating artwork for his mother’s enjoyment.

Each month for more than a year, Young, 48, has created a collage on the metal front gate of his Hayes Valley home and photographed it for his mother.

“I always try and transform the place to look different, so it’s not just ‘the house with decorations,’” said Young, who has lived in the home for five years. “My mom was like, ‘Oh, I would love to have a wall calendar with your decorations in it!’”

In December he created a calendar using the year of photos as a gift for his mom, Jeanne Young, who lives in a Kansas City suburb.

What Young didn’t expect was his neighbors’ interest in his gate — or the calendar. Even less expected was the way his project has united a sleepy neighborhood where people usually politely nod when they recognize one another and then move on.

As Young and his partner, Joe Casserly, spent more time in a pair of lawn chairs on a patch of AstroTurf in front of their home, they got into friendly conversations with neighbors passing by. And that led Young to join the fire department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team program.

“Now that I know my neighbors,” Young said, “after an earthquake, it would be nice to be able to help them!”

People began stopping to watch him create the gates, and they stayed to chat. Allan Higgins, a Page Street resident for 12 years, walks by so often with his dog that Young keeps a Tupperware container of dog treats so they can talk while the dog enjoys a snack.

“I love that everyone stops to appreciate the gates,” Higgins said. “It’s quite the attraction.”

See the gate in person at 220 Page St. (near Octavia) or search on Twitter for photos at #Page220.