Only after they're gone do you realize that certain times and places in history were a golden age. Justin Hermann Plaza in San Francisco was such a place and time.
The plaza sat at the end of Market Street, on the strip known as the Embarcadero. EMB, as the spot was called, was a true skateboarding mecca that drew kids from around the globe and served as a backdrop for countless videos, and spawned many of today's top street pros.
Skateboarding enjoyed brief popularity in the mid- to late '80s during its first boom, but it wasn't until the early '90s, when times were lean, that EMB bloomed. Skating became more technical, with ledges, stairs and flatground becoming the chosen terrain. Skaters in San Fran began to congregate at EMB because of its mostly cop-free setup and its convenient location at the end of all public transit lines in the city. Mark Gonzales, the inventor of street skating, had a gap named for him there.
Like any skate spot, this one became a natural hangout where much else went on besides skateboarding. Chilling, partying, cruising for girls and fighting all became central to a spot that became more than just another meeting place due to the sheer volume of skaters there.
This guaranteed that its days were numbered; the city saw what was going on and moved to clamp down. The winds of change were blowing again, and there were new spots. EMB was left vacant, under heavy patrol, ledges chunky and ruined, until it was first filled with sand for a volleyball court, and then finally dozed.
If you want an idea of what the Embarcadero looked like before it was torn down, and are too lazy to look for vintage photos on the internet, go find a copy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and play the San Francisco level. That big open area with the ledges, fountain, and the gazebo is a great 3d walkthrough.