Inside one of SF’s last Market Street artist communes

In 2019, when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, I found myself sitting in a neon-lit beige conference room on 6th and Market. The guy sitting across from me was introducing his new startup that would somehow manage influencers while measuring their performance online, or something. Fifteen minutes into the job interview, I still wasn’t quite sure what he was doing for a living. Even more confusing, I had no idea why I was still trying to convince him to hire me for minimum wage. It all seemed so boring and rote – but little did he know that just a few years ago this same office we were sitting in was an unauthorized community of artists hosting “acid promos”, Wine Fueled Day of the Dead and DIY Concert Series.

Studio 54 in its day, “1061” as it was known, was a commercial space on 6th and Market frequented by now-famous punk musicians, artists and producers, all of whom now live in the United States, Mexico and in Europe following a contentious legal battle with their corporate owners. It’s an age-old story about the clash between working artists and the rising tech elite – but it was also an experience that shaped the lives of many former tenants.

Before being turned into a drab office building, 1061 was occupied by dozens of San Francisco Art Institute painters, musicians, and filmmakers from 2011 to 2015. Their rooms were either small, cluttered, and windowless, or large and lofty . Edwardian mansions. I heard that a mysterious tech tycoon lives all alone on the top floor, but some say it was just a rumor.

To be determined


Pictures via
Inside Makalowski's bedroom, which was built with makeshift walls inside the larger common area he shared with his roommate.

Inside Makalowski’s bedroom, which was built with makeshift walls inside the larger common area he shared with his roommate.


Ariana Bindman
Gunn says she

Gunn says she “doesn’t miss the 1061 aesthetic.”


Ariana Bindman


Scenes from 1061 Market St. (Photos by Ariana Bindman and Sophia Germer)

I vividly remember taking the 49 bus to the building as a teenager, where my roommates and I would slather our faces in romantic new makeup and drink cheap booze out of brown bags. We mostly went to parties, but sometimes we just sat together and looked at the skyline. If we were lucky, we would see fireworks exploding in front of World of Stereo, the storefront that sold boomboxes and DJ gear.

I’m still good friends with an artist and former tenant, Maciej Makalowski, who wore thick-rimmed glasses and “obsessively” took pictures due to a long-term memory disorder. A Polish immigrant via Pennsylvania, he barely remembers his childhood but knows he grew up very poor from the fragments. He estimates that he has thousands of prints in his archive: of women, of close friends and of life in 1061.

According to Makalowski, rooms in the building were illegally occupied art studios, but the founders – SFAI alumni Kim and Joe Bender, who dreamed of forming an artistic community – would have been well aware of this. Their three children and Kim’s “unemployed porn editor” brother, as former residents said he introduced himself, also lived on the premises. “I felt like I was living in another country,” says Zaria Gunn, a production coordinator who rented a room there from 2011 to 2014. Every morning on her way to work, she would step over people and push fabric partitions that separated him, his pregnant wife. friend and her friend’s boyfriend who moved from Florida. She estimates that 16 people cycled in and out of this room over a three-year period – and that she got to know each one of them.

As a result, she said living there taught her to trust people in ways she didn’t think possible. “Community life offers something really beautiful,” she says over the phone. “You just need to have a community of people watching you. … It’s something so rare that we’ve been able to experience.

To be determined

To be determined


Pictures via
Molly Evans smokes a cigarette on the fire escape.

Molly Evans smokes a cigarette on the fire escape.


Courtesy of Maciej Makalowski
To be determined

To be determined


Pictures via
1061 collaborating tenants.

1061 collaborating tenants.


Courtesy of Maciej Makalowski


Before being transformed into a drab office building, 1061 Market was occupied by dozens of painters, musicians and filmmakers from the San Francisco Art Institute from 2011 to 2015. (Photos by Maciej Makalowski)

And, of course, it was also a lot of fun. “The [moving in] the party we had was pretty crazy because there were no tenants on the sixth floor, so we just threw a banger,” Gunn says. A series of parties she helped organize, “Bitches Brew”, provided a stage for indie rock and chamber R&B bands such as Hot Flash Heat Wave and Wes Leslie. Enveloped in the glow of Mylar and the sweet, syrupy haze of $10 wine, it truly felt like anything was possible.

But partying at the “community art fraternity” was very different from living there.

Although he never felt alone, Makalowski also remembers that living on 6th and Market could be difficult and dark. Just outside his window, he saw knife fights being broken up by police, people shooting heroin, and “a guy standing in the street outside the building with both wrists cut, bleeding on the sidewalk.”


The malfunction also crept into 1061. There were non-stop parties and subsequent break-ins. People would vandalize the hallway and set off the fire alarm. Sometimes they flew; other times they fought in the hall and left pools of blood. Eventually people came and went so fast it was hard to tell who lived there and who didn’t. “Once I wanted to cook something and found the kitchen occupied by Russians drying ketamine in the oven,” Makalowski writes via email. “That sort of thing was very common.”

And the people who actually lived there – mostly DJs – were playing loud music late into the night. Once, when Makalowski asked a roommate to turn it down, they replied, “Asking me to turn my music down is like telling a painter to use less red paint.”

As the problems began to escalate, the owners hired a security guard to stay at the main entrance, but by then Makalowski had already left. He says the owners, TT Group, had tried to evict him from his room – the biggest and nicest – to make way for an office, and suspects it was the first step towards evicting everyone. building. He wasn’t wrong.

In 2015, the Examiner reported that the thirst for office space in San Francisco was at an “all-time high,” and as soon as Twitter and Uber moved in next door, tenants saw the writing on the wall. In June of that year, TT Group hit 1,061 residents with an illegal inmate, according to public records.

Following a public battle that they eventually lost, most tenants fled to Oakland or became homeless. “We got kicked out and it was tough,” Gunn says. “It was really difficult.” Unable to find an affordable room, she ended up couch surfing between Los Angeles and the bay before finally settling in Los Feliz.

1061 after tenants move and renovations.

1061 after tenants move and renovations.

Ariana Bindman

Its neighbors, 1049 Market, have fought a similar battle for nearly a decade. As of 2021, reports indicated that the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) was to take over the building and convert it into low-income housing. The remaining 13 tenants would have the option of staying there below market rate, but it’s unclear if they actually did so — or even if THC took over. A rep said he couldn’t find the address in his property listing. Many 7,000 square foot units in 1061 have sat vacant for years, adding to the slew of empty properties that sit unoccupied during the city’s ongoing housing crisis.

Despite its complicated heritage, 1061 was a place where many people met and started families. It’s where friendships were made and broken, and where we came together to celebrate a city we all wanted to believe in.

Nearly a decade later, Gunn herself considers San Francisco an ex: someone she has a special bond with but will never return to. “Like, I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” she said. “But we spent our time together, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without you, but you have changed.”

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