Growing up as a bookworm gave me a strong affinity for older, elaborate homes. My favorite tales featured hidden passageways, transport to other worlds, or (as I aged) bodies crying out for justice. None of these things frightened me because each promised the fictional release my brain and spirit craved.
Later – as I pursued my passion for social justice – I looked to history both for inspiration and justification. The large homes I had avidly scoured for secrets became reduced to symbols of excess (especially after learning my relatives toiled downstairs to run them). Smaller, run-down homes I once barely glanced at achieved heroic status as examples of working class ingenuity.
In time – lots of time – I removed both the dreams and the judgments. Having come from a working class family I could see the skilled labor and fine materials poured into the more elaborate homes. Frankly the same went for the smaller homes clearly built from Sears Catalogs and salvaged items. In each case I could appreciate how these efforts allowed them to stand through the decades.
While I will never forget or forgive the excesses poured into some homes (both old and new) while many people barely survive, I cannot help but photograph them. In glancing at my favorites, however, I realize I need to capture the smaller, older ones. This will be quest.
Obviously it’s a rhetorical question since the hills generally offer the best views, freshest air, and (often) greatest safety.
Rather than launch into a screed regarding scarcity of resources, I’ll reveal another not-so-hidden secret to San Francisco. Our abundance of hills opens these benefits to the masses. All it takes is a willingness to climb or a SF MUNI pass. Moreover, you generally don’t have to go very far to find a sudden view. The ones to my left and right are only just outside my apartment door. Remember too, I can focus my camera to catch particular aspects of the picture. However, my eyes benefits from the whole shot.
Or I can take a few more steps up a short hill to find pictures of Sutro Tower. It’s an icon for locals and our communication venue. Someone once pointed out it looks like a clipper ship if you get underneath it (especially on a foggy night).
Still if you want the best views, it’s best to make the effort to climb some higher hills. When my health improves I’ll cast the proverbial wider net. In the meantime, I’ll cheat and stick to local venues like UCSF (one of the great teaching medical centers in the country if not the world).From my house, I can walk up the back entrance to both its buildings and gardens.
UCSF’s location on the semi-steep hills of Parnassus Ave provides stunning views of the Golden Gate Park, the Bay, and various local neighborhoods. Most people tend to avoid it, however, because it’s a cold, foggy, wind-tunnel. Eh it’s why us Sunset Natives love it (after all conditioning makes us curdle at sight of sun or is it we are vampires :)) It’s part of why – sadly – many of its practitioners are fleeing out to Mission Bay‘s better weather. Of course it probably has something to do with earthquakes as well.
Given my obsession with buildings, I appreciate what great views it provides of Golden Gate Heights and the Sunset. Though I can’t help but think of another native’s friendly gibe at me years ago. No matter how much some of us (e.g. me) may seek to flee the Church, we always tend to live within the sound of church bells. The pink imposing building in the lower picture is St. Anne’s Catholic Church and School (nope, not my alma mater). Nor does it skimp on views of the beautiful Craftsmen Houses in the area.
Our guardian (slave) has been out of commission so we jumped on the blog tonight to post a quirky and weird selection. We had to grab her camera phone to do it. A little harder to work than the TV remote but thankfully we figured it out.
Oh, who are we? Tonight you can call us the bear chorus. We will introduce ourselves more fully in another posting. Truthfully we merit our own blog but we CSheila hasn’t finished negotiating with our agents. Hey, we saw what happened with Ted. It could be big time for us.
Here she tries to get artistic as she walks along the Embarcadero or sits by the water. We’ll take her word for it since fur and water don’t mix so well. Not to mention it would screw up our outfits. (One of our biggest demands in the negotiations is fresh clothes, except for Telly (he’s not giving up the hat and coat for anything.)
She loves grabbing stuff in the neighborhood including free stuff (shudder) she later “fixes up.” Sigh, given the amount of design shows we watch with her you think the stuff would look better. But deep down she’s a hippie. Anyway we still love her even if she can’t channel a gay man or a straight woman. See below for some quick hits (both found, given, or bought).
Other times she snaps the stuff you just get to see when you wander through SF. Mind you we also hit the streets but prefer clubbing.
Sometimes she just grabs nature shots from parks or neighborhood. Warning she tried the artsy thing again. We want to encourage her to get out so haven’t sat down to give her tips. It makes her happy when she goes out. More importantly it frees up the remote for us.
Finally she likes to hit museums and snap some pictures. You will see some stuff here from current DeYoung show by Gaultier. We still have not forgiven her after we found she look at some rent boy bear costing $175!!!! Of course she didn’t buy it. She wants similar action one of us will volunteer to put the ring through our nose. Most like Broom Hildie (the crazy – and proud of it — Viking Kitty).
Other shots are from SFMOMA. She keeps trying to capture building shots — this time through glass. Worse she foolishly indulges her hot chocolate fetish. Sigh; we let it go since she always had one with her mom.
Our favorite shots, however, remain the ones she just finds walking in the neighborhood like the benches and gardens.
Essentially the ideal candidate is twenty-something techie who works all the time and merely needs a place to sleep until the IPO hits. Why most of us know the IPO fantasy is simply a fantasy, it’s not the only industry catering to disposable employees. In the legal industry, I knew any number of young college graduates in the 1990s who slaved for two to three years to earn overtime money for graduate school. Sadly when they graduated law school they found the money was much better but the hours were worse sans the overtime. The same went for future MBAs. Then with the tech boom they migrated to Silicon Valley.
These small spaces with their cute IKEA furniture would stack on top of each of other in high rises. In theory the increased housing stock would drive down rents because of course these highly educated and well paid employees would flock to live near each other. It would be a step up from the tech hostels profiled last week in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/technology/at-hacker-hostels-living-on-the-cheap-and-dreaming-of-digital-glory.html?pagewanted=all) This is of course assumes these middle and upper class youth would surrender shared space allowing for all their tech toys, parties every twenty-something enjoys, and the amenities associated with living in San Francisco.
Opponents fear overcrowding as people flock (read share) the smaller housing to save on rent. In other words the more likely tenant candidates would be low income workers and their families. I recall visiting the exhibits associated with the New York Tenement Museum (http://www.tenement.org/) These large buildings stacked tenants like cordwood, had shared sewage (big ditch), and housed any number of work sites (piece labor). Obviously it’s a leap to say these would automatically turn into these types of establishments. On the other hand, look at the McMansions in the burbs now overrun with tweaking squatters after the foreclosure crisis forced out the original owners (http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=21179977)
Clearly this small (should be bigger than 150 feet) house would benefit many in the community. We need alternatives to homelessness. Similarly we don’t need to litter our suburbs with opulent, albeit shoddily constructed, monuments to consumer excess. Many of us headed toward retirement might choose a smaller living space, if only for the opportunity to stay in San Francisco. As the opponents astutely pointed not enough time was given the underlying decisions associated with this change.
However, the real problem is marketing fantasies keeps driving our housing policies. During the boom period many bought the hype they needed and deserved an overly large home in the burbs. With many others the gentrification costs drove them to the outlying areas. Now it seems San Francisco wants to market its future around tech companies who (like many other start-ups) specialize in burning through employees for short periods of time. We need to ensure everyone has a seat at the table to discuss the future.
This does not mean we drive out the tech or bio companies. We need them. But we also needs the service employees, teachers, cops, and fireman. Perhaps most of we need to remember all of us will age.
Folks inching toward or past the half-century mark have lived through any number of recessions starting with Reagan and moving forward. Those slightly older can name more. We need to remember things move in cycles. Thus the one thing we can’t do is tear up our social safety nets which carry us through the inevitable down cycles. Nor can we forget the ultimate survivors in nature are species welcoming diversification.
Like every great movie, play, or television show the lead players rely on character actors to provide depth and texture. Here in San Francisco its often the geography as shown by the houses on the hill visibile from the front of my apartment building. Other times its the great arrangement of trees or an older brick staircase.
Plus we have local artists and neighbors who contribute items for the street. Check out these great benches and gardening additions.
One of the joys of living in the Inner Sunset is the variety of nearby houses. As a child I lived out near the beach – also in the Sunset – where many of the Houses looked the same. Mind you with the embrace of mid-Century Modern those Outer Sunset Houses are now “Golden.” Unfortunately to me they will always represent the old neighborhood I fled due to it seeming conformity. As a kid I used to ride the N Judah through the Inner Sunset or the 71 through the Haight and dream of living there. Now I overpay for the privilege but willing accept it.
Ultimately, my favorite houses will remain the eclectic mix of Victorians and Edwardians dotting San Francisco. As these random photos show their owners take tremendous pride in making each part of them look good (from the house paint to the landscaping to the political posters).
Sometimes it’s just the entire house which lights up with color and style. I have no idea how much it costs to paint and maintain these houses. I just thank the owners.
Folks even take the effort to make sure the window treatments match the amazing trim work. I loved the entire house but decided to carve out the window due to clever use of shades.
Speaking of trim work check out these shots. Each honors the carpentry put into the house. Unfortunately it can get discombobulating always craning my neck to see them. I especially don’t recommend it during vertigo outbreaks. But nice (and yes, I’ll admit rare) sunny days demand the extra attention.
The other thing impossible to overlook is how much work folks put in to ensuring their trees become part of the house’s decoration. There is an uproar throughout the City – and rightfully so – over the local government’s demand homeowners pay for the tree upkeep. I suspect, however, many homeowners here have done it for years. Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the best gardeners working for City and County of San Francisco. (I don’t say it solely because many are mics are like me (1/2) but because it’s true.) Still they don’t have the time to put in all this extra work. Check it out.