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Posts Tagged 'beach'

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. 😉

Stay Away From The Beach…For Now

Great HighwayI wrote about the makeover Great Highway was going to get a few months ago and I’m glad, in a way that it’s finally started. That being said, the beach is not the best place to go right now.

My wife [hear after known as wife because she doesn’t like public attention like I do] and I like to shop at the beach Safeway because it’s bigger and the lines are smaller. We took our once a week trip out there as opposed to our trips to the worst Safeway in San Francisco, but we were in for a rude awakening this day.

Construction workers were everywhere. The road was torn up all over the place and our usual trip of driving out Lincoln Way and making a right had to be re-routed due to the construction. On the upside, there are a lot of construction workers there so that means that the job will usually be quick. The down side is that it’s not a pleasant place to be right now which is a bit of a shame with the warm weather starting to grace our coastline and giving us sunnier days [side note: wife hates sunnier days. I think she was given up for adoption by a young Viking girl because the foggier and more unpleasant it is the happier she is.]

Go to the beach he said. You'll love it he said....

Right now if you need to cross the park down by the beach do it at 45th and Lincoln Way and drive through to 43rd and Fulton. It will be a much easier drive for you than having to go all the way to the end and then having to snake around the west end until you can find the exit at 47th and Fulton.  Just give the workers some time to finish off the job they’ve started and I’m hoping it’ll become a nicer place.

All this being said, I am hoping that this makeover will bring back a little of the beach area we once had. You have to be a very stalwart type of person to love Ocean Beach, but there was no reason for it to be left as a Russian industrial park looking place. I would like to see some food trucks out here on weekends and it would be nice if there was a way to have some craftspeople to set up shop on the large walkway on the sunny days that we do get out here. The first thing that needs to happen is a good marketing game played by the city to make people want to come out here. It’s a great place to relax and watch the surfers if you’re not going to surf yourself.

Katy Tang In The Polarized Sunset

Katy TangDistrict Four has a new Supervisor — Katy Tang and it is my belief that she has a hard road ahead of her. As I’ve been reading the neighborhood newspapers recently I’ve noticed something about the Sunset District that while I’ve known it, I’ve never really thought much about it. It seems like this is something that needs to be talked about.

The Sunset has a very hard delineation between the Chinese populace and the non-Chinese populace [what other people call white, but in reality is just  more homogenized American in that people don’t notice skin color and everyone speaks English.] The cut off lines are 19th Avenue and Sunset Blvd. In between these two streets you will find a large section of the Sunset District that is predominantly Chinese [I would be politically correct and say Asian, but when even the Japanese restaurants are run by Chinese you have to face facts.]

Above and below this are the other people. Yes, there are Chinese that live above and below the section, but they speak Cantonese and Mandarin much less so than in the Central Sunset. There has been a lot in the papers about her being a safe choice to be in charge of the predominantly Chinese neighborhood, but that isn’t really true of the Sunset. The Sunset over all is a place where it is going to be difficult to please everyone. The Central Sunset is very densely packed and Chinese, but there is a large number of non-Chinese who live in the Inner and Outer Sunset. This is something that can’t be ignored.

You’ll notice this the most if you go down to the beach areas around Noriega and Judah. To use the often used misnomer it’s a lot more white [meaning Americanized]. There is a group of people who want to beautify the end of Judah Street to make it an even cooler place to hang out. The people running this group according to the newspaper are two caucasians and two hispanics. You don’t see a single Chinese name included which seemed odd to me. This particular part of the Sunset is beginning to look a lot like Haight Street in that everyone has tattoos and piercings and loves wearing black. When John Avalos was running for Mayor he had a get together at the foot of Noriega and the group of people who showed up were locals of many different colors, but the Chinese contingent was rather slim.

It seems strange that there is such a hard split in the Sunset District and that is something that I believe Katy Tang will have to deal with as Supervisor of District Four. I do think her first move [which is safe, but also necessary] is trying to stop the switchbacks of the N Judah and L Taraval streetcars. I’ve been kind of lucky in that I rarely have to ride them since the 48 Quintara stops near my house, but it seems like whenever I have had to hop on a streetcar out in the Sunset I always have gotten thrown off before I get to my scheduled destination. I know nothing about Katy Tang and I think that will work for her out here as there are no preconceived ideas about who she is or what she should be. I wish her the best of luck and hopefully I’ll see her on the street one day. Oh and last thing Katy, if you get a twitter account be sure to use it to get things done. Carmen Chu would always answer within a couple of days.

Shhhh…A Shopping Secret

La Playa SafewayI was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.

It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.

The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.

When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.

Great Highway Finally Gets A Makeover

Great HighwayWell, I wasn’t the first to this story, so I’ll give credit where credit is due to my friends at Ocean Beach Bulletin.  Our beach is different than most other beaches. Just about anywhere else beach front property is expensive and in high demand. In San Francisco, it’s the place where they put a lot of low income Section 8 housing.

You have to be born and raised here to find anything fun at Ocean Beach except on the few warm days we get out there when the beach is packed. It can be so nasty out there some days that I’d have to say it’s worse than Coney Island in December. It was so disliked at one point in 1980 that a group of condos were built on the remains of Playland at the Beach and nobody wanted them. I could see the value in the future and when they’re were trying to dump a four bedroom condo with an HOA of $25/month on people for $13k I wanted to use an early inheritance from an Aunt to purchase one. While my parents didn’t like the idea, they would now if they saw that they are selling for over $500k.

The Great Highway itself is kind of a mess. I’ve written letter upon letter that they need to do something out there. When I used to live closer to the beach and had to cross over from the Sunset to Richmond to do my grocery shopping I’m sure that’s part of the reason my car’s wheels needed re-alignment every six months. The asphalt was garbage and there were potholes everywhere. With the passing of Playland at the Beach there was only the Beach Chalet and Safeway to go for shopping out there.

I’ve been using social media to try and get some food trucks out there on nice days. They wouldn’t really compete with the Beach Chalet and give visitors more choices. They could use a little something more out there to bring people out to the beach, but you also need nice roads with median lines you can actually see.

The part of the Great Highway that runs from Lincoln Blvd to Sloat also needs work especially to keep some of the sand off the road which closes it down frequently. I read that they’re planting a new median, but some more ice plant on the ocean side might help a bit as well. Work begins this week so keep an eye out if you drive around that area.

While I can’t take credit for it at least they’ll finally be doing something to get the place to look nicer. The redo will run from the Point Lobos parking lot where the Lands End Lookout is to Sloat Blvd and Great Highway. I’d really like to see some more added to the beach area to bring people out there. Now that we’re having climate change around the world we’re having less nasty days and more nice days, but the wind on the beach is still a bitch.

Tosca Cafe: A Piece of San Francisco History

I read an article on SFgate today that the Tosca Cafe may be closing. While I wasn’t a frequent visitor, I’ve been there enough times that it feels like home when you walk in the door. It has quite a history that the SFgate article doesn’t cover so I’m going to give you the details today.

It turns out that Tosca opened in 1919 and it was the first place in the United States to serve espresso and cappuccino. Started by three Italians who came to San Francisco after World War I, they wanted to create a bar like they used to frequent in Italy. This made Tosca a keystone of North Beach. Their drinks that they were known for were their cappuccino [which unlike Starbucks has brandy] and the White Nun [steamed milk, brandy and kahlua]. Tosca is also known for it’s Irish Coffee which many people say is better than the Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe where it was started.

Carol Doda was known to be seen sitting in the front window sipping White Nun’s in between her acts at the Condor club. Many other celebrities from around the world have been known to stop in at Tosca’s. Jerry Brown is a regular customer as is Willie Brown. It’s the place to go in San Francisco to find celebrities and it’s a same that the strip club owner landlord wants to shut down a piece of San Francisco history.

Phyllis Diller and the Purple Onion

I shed a tear today when I discovered that Phyllis Diller died. Many of you vaguely remember her, but I as a young kid in the 60’s remember her well from her TV appearances. Here hair defined the term fright wig, but while she looked scary as hell she was always funny and it was that old school vaudevillian comedy.  I actually ran into her as a child when my Mom pawned me off to my Uncle Al. I was about seven. I think I screamed or wet my pants at seeing her in person because she was scary and loud.

While she wasn’t born in San Francisco, but she got her start here at a little club called the Purple Onion. A strange club that my parents used to tell me was at times secretly a gay club where one of the gay partners would dress as the opposite sex so as not to be so obvious. For a female comedienne with a husband named Fang, this was the perfect spot for her. It was quite a club with a bit of an odd bent to it. The Smothers Brothers recorded an album there, Richard Pryor did some of his earliest shows there, I believe Lenny Bruce even got arrested there for his obscene performance which didn’t involve anything more than talking.

It’s a dingy cellar club that had a kind of warm feeling to it like your local dive bar, it’s ugly and dirty, but it’s your place to call home. Beat poets would hang out there for the cheap drinks if Vesuvios was too packed. My old Uncle Al frequented the place with his buddy Larry Ferlinghetti I’m sure.

It’s changed quite a bit since it opened in 1952 unlike Phyllis who has had that crazy old woman look since I was a child. I miss her and am sorry to see her go, but I’m sure her there will be lots of shows on for us in the next few weeks to remember her.