EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Baghdad by the Bay

The New Mission

The Sunset VillageI think everyone [well almost everyone] will agree that the Mission District is sooooo 10 minutes ago now. It’s filled with tons of entitled techies who have nothing better to do than move out the long time residents. Well that’s what everyone is saying at least.

The down side is that now people are going to be looking for the that new cool in spot to live and I think I know where that is and I’ve been seeing it happening for a couple of years, but well, it’s starting to take hold now.

It’s the Sunset District.

Yes, you heard me right. The suburbs of San Francisco, the Sunset District that two years ago people who say was too far away to live in has suddenly become the place everyone is saying they love. I think a majority of this has to do with the fact that it was the last affordable place to live in San Francisco. That’s changing quickly though and here’s why this is a problem.

The Sunset District is different than the Mission District. There’s a three story height limit that rarely gets approval to build higher and when it does it’s usually along a major thorough fare or commercial section. The rest of the time it’s just houses, mostly two story with a few three story thrown in, but very few apartments and those are only again along the commercial parts which are few and far between.

The Sunset District is the largest of all districts in San Francisco to the point that it’s broken up into the Inner/Central/Outer Sunset and the Inner/Outer Parkside, but everyone refers to all of it as the Sunset District for the most part. Technically I live in the Inner Parkside area, which is odd because it’s further away from Golden Gate Park than the Sunset, but I’m not a real estate guru, so I don’t understand the naming conventions.

Here’s where the problem is. Since San Francisco can’t spread out any more so it can only go up, but with a three story limit in the Sunset District proper you can’t go up. It would also be very rare to find several home owners willing to sell their houses together so that they could be torn down and have an apartment building replace it. This means that rents and home values will increase exponentially because there is a finite amount of space available and if everyone wants to move here because of all the room, well that’s going to be like trying to fit a square boulder into a round keyhole — it ain’t going to happen. So the only way to limit those who get to live here is by raising the price.

I’m not sure how I feel about this as I’m in a lucky spot that most other people aren’t. The houses aren’t rent controlled unless they’ve been split into two or more units [which Mayor Lee and Supervisor Tang are trying to get illegal in-laws approved] and I’m sure someone will buy the few apartment buildings and tear them down and rebuild them so they won’t be covered under rent control either. This will leave the Sunset in a weird place. My former next door neighbors were 6-8 [I never could tell how many] college students that were splitting the 4 bedroom house along with turning the dining room and living room into places for someone to live. In the near future you could see the same thing, but it wouldn’t be college kids, but well financed workers [I won’t say techies, because there are a lot that aren’t in tech] living like college kids. That’s just weird to me. I guess because I’m old I can’t see a rich couple spending multi-millions of dollars on what I would consider a not so big standard 3-4 bedroom home.

Ye Olde Tiled StepsThe neighborhood itself is changing which I don’t think is a bad thing overall. There were lots of businesses that you’d drive by all the time, but you’d never have a reason to go into them, or if you did it would only be once in maybe five years. There are restaurants that you can’t figure out why they’re still in business when you never see anyone go in or out of them. Clothing stores that are tiny and you can’t imagine paying five times what you would pay online for their t-shirts. We’re starting to get people to notice that there’s a beach that’s kind of cool to visit more than the few sunny days out of the year and the area at the foot of Judah Street has evolved into a new area being called La Playa. While that area has been around for awhile and was a bit alone and to itself there are a few other places that have little things that make gentri-sense tingle:

  1. Twisted Doughnuts: OK, it’s a doughnut shop, but it sells maple-bacon doughnuts for $2.75 each. Bacon and doughnuts is a true sign of hipsters.
  2. Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company: Yes, we have a brew pub in the Sunset now. I actually like the idea that I don’t have to leave the Sunset to go to a brew pub, but now the parking along Noriega is nonexistent.
  3. Lou’s & Grubbin’: These are two gourmet sandwich shops. They’re both good, but they have lines out the door most days and I’m not sure where the lines are coming from.
  4. $4 Toast: Trouble Coffee seems kind of like a veteran now because it’s been there for a few years and they were one of the businesses that started people talking about how ridiculous SF has gotten. Maybe it’s all their fault that this started, but I doubt that.
  5. The Tiled Steps: There’s a few of them in the Sunset and someone’s redone them and now it’s a thing to take pictures of them and have your picture taken by them. Oh, did I mention that they’re in heavily residential areas?
  6. Taco Tuesdays: Once a thing of Nick’s Crispy Tacos and the Blue Light bars in Polk Gulch and the Marina we’ve had The Taco Shop at Underdogs attracting crowds now. They’re so packed on Tuesdays that they’re flowing out into the streets.
  7. The Poor Man’s Marina: I actually heard someone use this term to describe the Inner Sunset and I realized it’s kind of true. If you condensed down Union and Chestnut streets to 4 blocks you’d pretty much have the Inner Sunset. It’s been that way for a long time, but it’s gotten bigger and denser since 2010. More restaurants and bars per square foot than you can imagine. It’s a nice place to visit, but I can’t imagine living there now.

Now when I tell people from outside the Sunset that I live here it’s not that’s so far away, but I love the Sunset! It will be interesting to see what happens. I’m already seeing homes selling for past the million dollar mark out here and I suspect unless there’s a significant event that doesn’t make people want to love San Francisco the prices won’t go down any time soon. There are things I like about the changes, but the increase in traffic I’m already seeing I’m not liking very much. Hopefully someone will come up with an answer to that. You will notice I’ve left out the links I love to pepper my articles with and there’s a reason. I don’t want to make it easier to visit for you. 😉

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Toyose: Let’s Eat In The Garage

oHappy 2015! I’m really hoping you’ll be seeing more of me this year as I want to make more time to write. I know I’ve been slacking a bit, but I’m trying to get back out there cover new stuff that’s out there as well as the old. That being said…

I still have to go to this place, but the number of times during the week I have to drive people here is amazing. Toyose is a “Korean” restaurant in the Sunset District that’s be built into the garage of a residence. Yes, you read that correctly. It is in the garage of a house in the Sunset District. I’m not sure how legal that is, but it’s been getting enough coverage that there’s been no reason for them to be closed down and they have a 100 out of 100 by the health inspectors.

Now I italicized Korean because it seems to me that it’s more a nod toward Korean food, more like Korean fusion food. Yes, there’s kimchi, but Korean food is so much more than that. It’s a late night place which is usually when I’m dropping people off or picking them up. They’re open from 6pm-2am every day [yes, every day] and for some reason it pulls people way out into fog and cold of the Outsidelands at 46th and Noriega late at night.

Apparently when you’re good and drunk [something I wish I could do every once in awhile, but unfortunately can’t anymore] there’s 3 things people like to get there:

  1. Soju: Sure you’re drunk already so why not get more drunk. If you’ve never had it it’s kind of like an Asian version of vodka with only around 25% alcohol so you’re more maintaining your drunken state than making it worse. It’s pretty boring on it’s own so they mix it up with all kind of flavors and yogurt even. Peach seems to be the recommended flavor.
  2. Chicken Wing: Well, ok, who doesn’t like chicken wings when you’re drunk. These aren’t your typical buffalo wings though, they’re in a spicy Asian marinade that will help wake your body back up after a night of drinking.
  3. Seafood Pancake: Yes, pancakes can be savory and no you don’t put syrup on it. It comes with a dipping sauce and looks like you can share it with a few others. I have no idea what kind of seafood is in there and from what everyone I’ve dropped off tells me neither can they, but they got 100 out of 100 from the health inspectors so at least it’s clean.

l-1There are lots of other choices for food like potstickers, garlic cheesy fries, fish cakes, all good sounding foods for when you’re out drinking. Apparently if you’re just going there to drink you can get free popcorn with your soju. Now to you see why I’m saying there’s a nod to Korean food here.

It’s a real mash up of food, but the fact that when you add in that it’s in a garage that’s been converted to a restaurant [yes, the garage door is still in place] it just makes it hip enough to attract people who want to try something different. Wife and I usually don’t get to try most of these places for dinner because we don’t usually get to go out at night, but I think we’ll have to make an exception and get a baby sitter. I’ve been told if you walk in you’ll have to wait between 20-40 minutes depending on the day and time, but they do take reservations. Toyose has a website and I use that term loosely.

Now that people are finding that the Sunset District might be one of the last places they can afford to live without having a bedroom smaller than the bathroom it’s suddenly not so far away as people used to say. A few blocks away is La Playa the spot the Westside Hipsters™ have built for themselves, sort of. Many of the places were there, but turned hip overnight while a few new places have popped up in the past few years.

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#Stormaggedon

Lightning Storm - Golden Gate BridgeOK, we got wet. We got real wet, but everyone is making fun of us about it now. Some are calling it the storm that wasn’t, but I think we handled it pretty well.

San Francisco got 3.5″ of rain [some places like the Sunset District actually got 4″]. That’s a lot of water and it was the 11th wettest day in SF history. It just didn’t seem like it because it was something San Francisco rarely gets — warm rain. When it rains in San Francisco there’s usually lots of big huge cold drops that chill you to the bone. This was a lot of small rain drops that constantly kept coming with no let up. People focused on the rain, but that wasn’t what they needed to focus on.

Wind was a bit of a problem and the lack of proper drainage caused the real problems. San Francisco was ready for the most part though. STAY HOME. Was the phrase of the day and people listened. That was even easier when most of the power was out east of Stanyan Street and North of Market. Nobody had much reason to go into work if there was no power. Lots of my friends where told not to bother going into work because there was no power so that stopped a lot of problems from happening. There was less traffic on the roads so there were less crashes even though there were quite a few car drownings outside of SF, mostly in the East Bay and down on the Peninsula.

These were in large part why we didn’t have many problems. We were prepared. They compared it to the last big storm in 2008. It wasn’t quite that bad and I actually had to drive to work in Burlingame that day and the wind was so bad that I got blown off the road when a big rig that was next to me sped up and the wind it was blocking suddenly whipped around and hit my car causing me to fishtail off to the side of the road. The puddles were bad from the flooding because they were big and muddy and when a car next to you hits one your windshield suddenly becomes a wall. If you’re traveling at 60mph this can be kind of scary, but most people weren’t out driving.

Power outages are something that we have to deal with from time to time so I think most of us were prepared. I was lucky in that we stayed connected the whole time. For the most part, San Francisco fared pretty well.

432819_1280x720On the other hand apparently people in the East Bay and Peninsula weren’t used to having to deal with lots of rain and the biggest problem was the sewer systems couldn’t handle it. There were lots of flooding in the normal places like freeway underpasses, but there were also some flat areas that from pictures looked a lot like New Orleans after the levees broke during Katrina. Hopefully those areas will think about that now and clean out their sewer lines before the next storms come through which should be happening soon. San Francisco needs to think about this as well. I noticed there were several sewer crews out after the storm unsealing sewer lines that were plugged that probably wouldn’t have happened if they had taken care of it before the storm.

On the upside, all of California got really wet and contrary to what some people have been saying, yes, this did make a dent in the drought. More rain is coming and that will make things much better. Northern California got the most rain with some places getting over a foot of rain in one day. We’ll still need quite a few good soakings to help fill up the reservoirs where waters had dropped severely over the past few years and we aren’t out of the darkness yet, but it is getting better. Oddly enough, this was something I was saying several months ago about El Niño. Yeah, I pretty much predicted that one accurately. December and January were always our coldest and wettest months of the year. El Niño just made them warm and wetter. Expect to see more heavy rains, probably not quite as big as the last storm, but overall this will help California and the drought quite a bit.

Just a last note, you all know how much I love to put photos in with my articles, but for some reason I’ve run into a little problem I need to fix that’s not allowing me to post photos at the moment. This is not fun as I collected lots of storm porn photos to share with you.

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Candlestick Shopping Center

CandlestickSo it looks like the remains of Candlestick Park are going to be transformed into an African Diaspora themed shopping center with 6000 units of housing. I suppose San Francisco could be called the city that never learns and I’m going to tell you why.

At least this time they aren’t pushing the affordable housing button to get everyone to go along with it. Sure a certain amount of those 6000 living spaces will have to go to those in need, but you’d be surprised at what looks like a person in need sometimes.

Nobody seems to remember what San Francisco was saying when Mission Bay was going to be built. Affordable homes in San Francisco! Finally you’ll be able to get a house! Back then in the 80’s that meant a house for under $100k if you can imagine it. I shook my head and my girlfriend at the time asked me, Don’t you want to be able to afford a house? Now look at Mission Bay. It’s got a high priced ball park surrounded by high priced restaurants with high priced living. It’s one of the most expensive places in SF to live now. I suspect the same thing will happen to Candlestick.

I was over in that area a few months ago and noticed that there’s lots of old houses in bad shape that are being torn down and replaced with condos. For most people who think they know San Francisco this part of town barely looks like San Francisco. The houses still there are no more than two stories and there’s lots of sun all the time. There’s next to no shopping for the people who live there and if you’re lucky to find a convenience store there will be bars all over the windows.

San Francisco is going to change all that now. There’s going to be bistros, and theaters, and pocket parks, and performance venues, and a hotel. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning to the smell of Candlestick [people used to refer to it as Candlestink Park.]

If there was ever a part of San Francisco that will show the biggest change from gentrification it would be this area. It will look nice and safe, but it will take quite a few years for that to really happen. Mid-Market where all the tech companies are trying to bring about some change is still working on that. They’re working so hard they want to build a land bridge so their workers don’t have to use the streets and interact with poor people.

The Hunter’s Point area is sort of a part of San Francisco that no one knows about. Sure, people talk about how hip it’s getting [that’s actually the Dog Patch area of the Bayview, not Hunter’s Point.] There are a few houses around lots of open spaces that either parking or places for houses to be built. The reality is that if they’re putting in affordable housing [right now it’s at a whopping 63 units out of the 12,000 planned over the next 10-12 years] they need to realize that people living in affordable houses don’t shop at Michael Kors or Saks which they’re planning on moving in there. As I said to a friend of mine today, they don’t build housing for poor people.

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Butter With A College Education

Cultured ButterOK, bad joke maybe, but I’ve been noticing that the next new big thing in San Francisco cuisine is all about cultured butter. Restaurants are making their own like it’s something new that’s never been done before and mixing in bone marrow or herbs or whatever they have laying around in the kitchen. The reality is that it’s not that new, it’s actually been around since people discovered milk comes out of cows and oddly enough it’s pretty easy to make yourself.

Why would I want to make butter? You’re probably saying. You can buy it at the store and if you look hard enough you can sometimes even find cultured butter. This is a bit different though because it’s fresh since you made it yourself and the thing that the restaurant chefs aren’t talking about is that if it’s made here it’s got San Francisco bacteria in it that you can’t find anywhere else. Just like our sourdough bread has it’s own flavor, cultured butter made in San Francisco has it’s own super rich awesome flavor.

I came upon making butter totally by accident actually. I kept hearing about creme fraiche as a new big thing and realized that I didn’t think I had ever tried it before so I had to make some. That part was easy. Here’s what you need:

1 pint heavy cream [not ultra-pasturized]
2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live cultures
1 jar

Yes, it’s that simple. Pour the cream into a bowl and whip in the yogurt with a whisk then pour it into the jar. Here’s the part where people might get a little hincky. Lightly cover the jar and leave it out for 24 hours and you’ve got creme fraiche. The creme thickens up and starts to get a taste that kind of between cream cheese and sour cream. You’re free to stop there and use it anywhere you’d use sour cream. The fun fact with creme fraiche is that it’s higher butterfat content means you can mix it into sauces and it won’t break. I was tossing it on everything just to see where it would be good. Baked potatoes are great. Add a little sugar and pour it onto berries or dessert and it’s great. Mix in herbs for a super rich and wonderful dip for whatever you want to dip in it.

Now for the butter part. You can take your creme fraiche and pour it into a butter churn. Don’t have one? A food processor will work just fine. Turn it on and watch it start to look like beaten whipped cream in a couple of minutes. Let the processor keep going for about 5 minutes and it starts to break up from all that agitation. You’re getting butter and buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk off and add some cold water and run the processor again. The water will wash out more of the buttermilk and you might have to do this a couple of times before the water starts to come out clear. The more buttermilk you can extract the longer it will last.

When you’re done you have cultured butter. The buttermilk you got out of it you can use to make more by adding a couple of tablespoons to more cream or you can make buttermilk pancakes. Part of the culturing comes from the yogurt cultures and part comes from your geographic location, i.e. San Francisco. It’s very high in butterfat like European butter. It’s kind of like a rock when you pull it out of the fridge. You can use it on whatever you like. I personally like it melting into some homemade dinner rolls, but again, I’ve been putting it on just about everything to see where it’s best. I’ve yet to be disappointed. It’s a little bit tangier than regular store bought butter and more than even the store bought cultured butter I’ve tried. I’ve used organic cream from Clover Stornetta or Straus Creamery because they’re local and I know the cows are grass fed so you get more Omega 3’s and all the good stuff that comes with grass fed cow’s milk. At the very least don’t tell anyone how easy it is to make and you can been all food snobby when you tell them that the dish you made incorporates hand made butter from the cream of grass fed cows. That’s a lot of words so that means it’s really good.

Yes, it’s pretty much all saturated fat, but it’s healthy saturated fat so it’s good for you right? Just try it and taste it and you really won’t care. I think I’ve found my last meal that won’t disappoint me.

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Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On

Downtown NapaYes, I woke up a 3:20am this morning to feel my house shaking quite a bit. To all the newcomers to San Francisco, welcome. You’ve just felt your first big earthquake.

Centered in American Canyon near Napa that is where the most damage was. So far I’ve read that there were about 70 people injured mostly near the epicenter of the quake. That wasn’t too bad. During the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that registered 6.9 [or some people still argue it was 7.1] 63 people died, but over 3700 people were injured. The 1906 was estimated at being around 7.8. The recent American Canyon quake people are saying was between 5.7-6.1.

I don’t remember the last time I felt an earthquake in SF other than the Loma Prieta, but we used to get them more frequently than we do now. They used to be so frequent that people tended to ignore them most of the time [see the video at the end. That’s the way most San Franciscan’s handled an earthquake even though it’s a clip from the movie L.A. Story].

Earthquake preparedness wasn’t a big thing before the Loma Prieta. The earthquakes just weren’t that big before then and there were never any after effects. I woke up this morning to feel my house shaking in an East West direction. The first thing I realized is that this was a longer than normal quake because I actually had the time to think about what direction the shaking was happening in. I heard the doors that were closed rattling and after I realized we were having an earthquake I made sure my wife was awake. We learned a few years ago during our NERT training that running for a doorway isn’t the best thing to do. Get up against a wall because if the building falls down being next to a wall is the best place to be because if the roof falls it will most likely break at an angle giving you the most room and air to breath next to a wall.

I of course made sure my wife was against the wall and then did the dumb thing — I started to run to get near our daughter. Her room is upstairs and being seven and autistic this might not go over well with her. Luckily by the time I got to the stairs the quake was over and my daughter had slept through it.

I did a quick check and saw that LED’s on some of our electrical gear was still on so I knew we hadn’t lost power. I grabbed my phone  as soon as the quake started and realized that my iPhone with the built in flashlight was probably a good thing to have next to the bed for just such an occurrence. I hadn’t heard anything fall over so I started to calm down and checked twitter and Facebook to see what my friends felt. San Francisco is fine, Napa looks like it’s pretty trashed right now.

OK, it was near American Canyon so we were away from the epicenter which was good. All of my friends in SF were fine so now it was time to calm down and go back to bed. The biggest problem after an earthquake is the rush you get that when you’re lying down trying to fall back asleep that makes everything feel like its still moving. While the quake lasted maybe 30 seconds or so [The NSGS never tells you how long a quake lasts only how big it was.] I still felt like the house was mildly shaking for about five minutes afterwards. I managed to get back to sleep and woke up this morning to see what everyone else was saying. There’s a kind of dark humor that pops up after a disaster, especially if you’re on the edge of it. I actually had to add to it with the following tweet that’s starting to go viral:

Dark Humor

Other’s are showing how tough they are by bragging that they were in the 1989 quake and this was nothing. While that’s true, I think the people in Napa might disagree with you. Earthquakes are pretty scary to say the least. We generally have a lot less damage than a hurricane or tornado though and the big ones only have once every 20 or so years. We’re pretty lucky overall. Now let’s see if people start leaving San Francisco since I did predict about a year ago that the only thing that would get people to move out would be an earthquake…

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Tiki Culture

Trader Vic'sI’ve always had a thing for tiki culture. It must have started when I was a kid and my Mom liked to go with her friends to a restaurant on the Peninsula called the Castaways that had a fashion show while you were eating and women [usually in bikini tops] would walk up to your table and give you an up close view of their outfit. Because of this I think I started to go through puberty at about seven.

It was more than the girls though, Tiki Culture was still kind of big when I was a kid having hit its peak in the 50’s when Hawaii joined the United States as its 50th state. The whole Tiki Culture thing started long before Hawaii became a state though.

It actually started in 1934 when A guy named Ernest Gantt started a bar and restaurant called Don The Beachcomer in Hollywood. He invented lots of tiki drinks that had nothing to do with Hawaii or anywhere else in the tropics other than the fact that they used rum which was pretty cheap at the time. Ernest changed his name to Donn Beach to solidify his place along with one of the mainstays of tiki cocktails, the Zombie.

Not too long after Don The Beachcomber opened though then a man by the name of Victor Bergeron visited the Beachcomber and thought to himself…I can do this one better. Trader Vic’s soon replaced Hinky Dinks in Oakland and with his keen eye for business Trader Vic’s blossomed. There were locations opening up all over the US with the last one oddly enough opening up in Hawaii. Victor Bergeron has himself seated at the tiki hierarchy along with Donn Beach because of this and Trader Vic created the famous Mai Tai.

Not so surprising Trader Vic’s caused a blossoming in the San Francisco Bay Area of tiki bars. There is of course the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel that has been saved for now from closing. For those in need of more of a dive tiki bar there was Trad’r Sam’s in the outer Richmond which is probably one of the last places that you would expect to find a tiki bar.

These were all the old school tiki bar/restaurants. The drinks were strong and the food, while somewhat pedestrian by today’s foodie standards were Americanized version of Asian food with appetizers like Crab Rangoon or Rumaki usually being served. The entire environment was dress how people expected the tropics to be, not necessarily how they were. My wife and I went to Hawaii and when the heat and humidity hit here when we got of the plane I was surprised she didn’t turn right back around and fly home. In San Francisco you don’t have to worry about heat and humidity though so the cheap grass skirt hangings and wooden canoes were just nice and not what you would see in your everyday life.

Tiki bars and their culture were a form of escapism and San Francisco was no better place to escape from it all. There were other places around the city that had bits and pieces of tiki influence that weren’t tiki bars. If you go to Bimbo’s 365 club they still have the fish tank behind the bar where through optical effects a girl down below dressing in a mermaid outfit looked like she was swimming around in the tank. Most bars would make a Mai Tai or Zombie, but they never did it as well as where they originated.

The Vietnam war started to cause a fade in Tiki Culture, but it never disappeared as a form of necessary escapism for many. I know of several friends who’ve created tiki bar like home bars that are always a lot of fun to have a drink at, but when those drinks come cheaper your liver might protest a bit more.

The Tiki Culture of yesterday has made a comeback though which is a good thing. Trader Vic’s, the Tonga Room and Trad’r Sam’s are still in business now joined by Smuggler’s Cover, Bamboo Hut and Tiki Haven among others. The older places have updated a bit [well, maybe not Trad’r Sam’s] and the new places are giving a spin on Tiki Culture for the new millennia. Definitely check out at least one of the old and one of the new so you can compare and don’t forget your Hawaiian shirt!

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