I’m walking from the Financial District to my home in Mission Terrace. I’m still on Market Street, just near Gough, before the area known as Upper Market begins. Not too far away is Hayes Valley, now one of the hippest places in the City to hang out. It became what this section of Market was striving for years to become, but this area just didn’t get the critical mass necessary to become a star like Hayes Valley. The hipsters and newly-come to S.F, will scoff it was never in the cards for this area of lost alleys and busy one-way streets, but it was not always like this.
This is Chris Daly’s place. The less said, the better.
Caffe Trieste is a coffee house on the corner of Gough and Market. It has no dedicated parking spaces. There is no parking for private automobiles anywhere on Lower Market. For most of its length you cannot make a left hand turn and in fact, no private automobiles are allowed east of 11th street. So why Market Street merchants get into a snit every time banning automobile traffic on Lower Market is proposed is really beyond me. Both The Buck and Caffe Trieste seem to be doing fine without big lots – indeed any lots at all.
A few steps on is Valencia. This is San Francisco’s most ecletic shopping strand, peppered with restaurants and bars to fit every budget, taste and lifestyle. One can arrive in S.F. for the first time, and find everything they need to live on Valencia; a U-Haul store, ZipCar, furniture and appliance stores, clothing and car repair shops, modern and classic apartments. Yes, this is true of many cities, but Valencia did it while remodeling the entire length to create a pedestrian-and-bicycle-friendly streetscape. The transformation to its current look from a run-down, grimy, four lane cross-town throughway was a bold social experiment that essentially re-invented the neighborhood. Two lanes of car traffic were removed, two bike lanes added, the sidewalks were widened, overhead wires removed, new lighting installed and sewer improvements made. Commercial businesses along the route thrived. While gentrification played a big part in this, a few businesses from the day still exist, and many more have been added.
Munroe Motors is one of the survivors. Way back when sportbikes were in their infancy and women riders were few, my friend Liz came here to check out the Moto Guzzi v50, the only offering that fit her. The sales guys were a little patronizing, to say the least. Now, female racers and riders hang out here, and all the makes have a few models comfortably sized for shorter inseams, and the selection of gender-appropriate clothing is un-remarkably equal – and I mean that literally.
The key happening thing on Valencia is food Basically, if you can’t find something to eat on Valencia, whatever you are thinking of is not edible. This doesn’t mean the street sports a line of crapulous dining establishments. There are no major chain restaurants, but you’ll find a lot of familiar cuisines – they just have a San Francisco twist.
This joint is called We Be Sushi. The caption under the sign’s headline reads “Just like Mom used to make.” Hanging under it is a cocktail icon reading “Drinks like Mom used to mix”.
For a while, every Friday after work a former co-worker and I went to a place near Lone Mountain for Hawaiian food and drinks, after which she’d give me a ride back home along Valencia. One day we finally asked ourselves why we were driving halfway across town to the same joint (though it was good) for a meal when all these places were available. So we started on 18th Street, hitting a different place every week. The first place was an Irish bar with stewed rabbit on the menu. We didn’t finish two blocks before she was laid off, ending the expedition.
At two different times, I lived two blocks away from Valencia. That factoid has little to do with anything and even less to do with this campus of the City College system. Have I mentioned San Francisco City College is the largest community college in the nation?
At this point we are close to 24th Street, a busy commercial strip extending from upper Noe Valley (expensive to live in and home to the stroller brigade) to the heart of the Mission District (expensive to live in and home to the muralists). You will find chain restaurants along here – there’s a Starbucks at 24th and Noe Street and a McDonald’s at 24th and Mission Street. It was only as I wrote this that I saw the eponymous geocultural irony in that.
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My typical afternoon on Valencia finds me on my bicycle. The end of the fun part of the street is where it intersects Cesar Chavez Street. More often then not, the bikes queue up here waiting for a light. In the picture below, they’re off!
What you see behind them is the open space part of Bernal Heights. I used to give walking tours near here, and at the time I called it Microwave Hill because of the AT&T towers planted on its crown.
Named for a family that owned a rancho here ages ago, the neighborhood is as eclectic as it gets in San Francisco. The hill is the birthplace of street luge and urban fixed-kite sailing.
Now Valencia is way behind me. There isn’t much to photograph between Cesar Chavez and Mission Street. St Luke’s Hospital dominates the block, and Mission is very busy. I do not expect to see it converted to two lanes in my lifetime. My walking route departs the street and follows a secluded path just across from Holly Street. The path rises along the hill that once existed on what is now San Jose Avenue. The hill was cut through for a railroad, which became a roadway , and is today both. The path descends to a stairway which drops below San Jose Avenue to Bosworth Street. It is here you’ll find the Bosworth Homes project.
Construction on these condos began just as the housing boom crested. Financing almost certainly started just before the mortgage meltdown. These were intended to be custom-styled large (3-5 BR) homes that would appeal to families. They lie just outside the freeway boundary of Glen Park; the back overlooks noisy San Jose Avenue. Construction came to a halt about two years ago, but new signs of activity recently appeared.
Pricing back in 2009:
A Upper (1/1.5) 1 parking – $650,000
A Lower (3/2.5) 1 parking – $855,000
B Upper (3/2.5) 1 parking – $960,000
B Lower (3/2.5) 2 parking – $1,099,000
C Upper (3/2.5) 2 parking – $1,099,000
C Lower (3/3.5) 2 parking – $1,149,000
D Upper (5/4.5) 2 parking – $1,275,000
D Lower (5/4.5) 2 parking – $1,299,000
Almost home. This bit of street art is painted on the 280 underpass abutment on Diamond Street.
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I haven’t measured the distance from my job to here. I know it’s at least five miles based on my running route, which I have measured and which is shorter than this. But to paraphrase Indiana Jones, it’s not the mileage, it’s the scenery.