Posts Tagged ‘photos’

Breakers to Bay

February 19th, 2017

Earlier this afternoon I decided to do something I’d never done before: walk all the way from Ocean Beach to the Embarcadero, across the entire length of San Francisco. It’s been so rainy recently I haven’t been able to reach my goal of 10,000 steps per day on a consistent basis, so I felt like I had some catching up to do.

To begin I took the N-Judah outbound to the last stop at 48th Avenue, and walked over to Ocean Beach. It was an incredibly windy day in general, but the wind was intense at the beach. So it should come as no surprise that people were windsurfing and flying kites, and that birds were everywhere. What I didn’t expect was the thick layer of sea foam blowing around. It’s kind of like when someone pulls a prank and fills a water fountain with soap, except it’s a natural phenomenon that forms at beaches. I think I managed to avoid inhaling any of it.

Ocean Beach Ocean Beach Ocean Beach Ocean Beach windsurfers

I also didn’t expect to find a mural honoring Lemmy from Motorhead, but they always had a strong following in San Francisco. Or at least that’s what I would assume based on the number of motorcycles that showed up whenever they had a show here.

Ocean Beach

After climbing back up the stairs from the beach I made my way through Golden Gate Park. It’s a long walk but I’ve done it many times before — I always try to take a different path every time to maximize the chances of getting lost and stumbling across something new so I sort of zig-zagged all over the place.

At the Music Concourse I noticed there’s a statue of Beethoven. Which, wait, why, exactly? He died before San Francisco was even on the map, really. Seems like an odd choice. As a city we’re better known for bands like… um… Third Eye Blind? Okay, maybe we’re better off with Beethoven. Forget I said anything.

Golden Gate Park Beethoven, Golden Gate Park

I’m going to spare you the details of walking down Haight Street, which was even more uncomfortably crowded than normal with tourists for the holiday weekend. It’s a classic case of a sidewalk that’s far too narrow for the number of people. The Lower Haight wasn’t so bad, and by the time I hit Market Street it was pretty easy going. Check out this rad skateboard mural I came across:

Skateboard mural, Market Street

Then I hit the Union Square area and… no thanks. I walked a block over to Mission to avoid the hellhole of consumerism on my way to the Bay. And, speaking of which, here’s one final photo: The Bay Bridge’s Bay Lights lighting up in the twilight of the evening. As with all photos in this post, click if you’d like to see a larger version.

Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge

Stray observations:

  • My fitness tracker says this was just shy of 20,000 steps. Your mileage may vary.
  • Google Maps predicted the total walk time would be about two and a half hours, which proved accurate.
  • Basic manners seem to be obsolete these days. A shocking number of people stepped right in front of me while I was walking in a straight line as though I were somehow invisible. What the hell?
  • Jeans and a thin wool shirt were adequate for the windy 50 F weather. No need to dress up in a thick jacket when you’re on a long walk.

Temporary public art: Night & day edition

February 14th, 2017


If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ve probably figured out that I spend a lot of spare time wandering the streets of San Francisco and taking photos of stuff. (Hey, it keeps my fitness tracker happy, okay?) On Sunday I happened to come across two strangely similar temporary public art installations, one in Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley, and the other in Civic Center just outside City Hall.

But before we get into that, let me get philosophical for a moment. When it comes to public art, I appreciate the recent trend in temporary installations. The idea of permanent public art seems both ridiculous and impossible. Ridiculous because what people appreciate about an art piece today may be loathed in a decade or three, especially in the harsh light of public space. Impossible because nothing is truly permanent; if vandalism doesn’t destroy the piece then natural disasters certainly will. Or the piece proves so far ahead of its time that it simply doesn’t work. Even if the civilization that created and loves the art still exists, good luck in a few billion years when the sun burns out… yup, I went there. Permanent my ass. Nothing truly lives forever, the “permanence” of a work of art really boils down to whether it has an end date marked on the exhibition calendar or not.

For these reasons, I’m a fan of temporary public art. If the work resonates with people they’ll find a way to keep it around longer — remember what happened to The Bay Lights? People responded so well that its temporary status got a reprieve almost immediately.

So back to Sunday. First, I found myself wandering through Hayes Valley and wound up at Patricia’s Green. This space has been the site of many temporary public art exhibitions, which are generally tied to Black Rock Arts Foundation and therefore have a special relationship with Burning Man. The current exhibit is from HYBCOZO with two three dimensional geometric shapes made of metal, carved with fractal-like shapes.


Next, I found myself a few blocks away at City Hall where Hong Kong-based artist Freeman Lau had installed a series of oversized lanterns to mark Chinese New Year.

Sui Sui Ping An - Peace All Year Round Sui Sui Ping An - Peace All Year Round

At first glance, these two pieces seem to have little in common, aside from the medium of temporary public sculpture. But looks can be deceiving. I poked my head up to the installation at Patricia’s Green. What’s this strange mechanism?


Likewise, what’s up with those plastic anti-trip strips between the lanterns at City Hall?

Oh… there’s a connection here — light. Lanterns aren’t for the daylight, and neither are those geometric sculptures at Patricia’s Green. If ever there was a time of year for temporary public art that took advantage of light, it’s in the winter when light is scarce in the evenings. So I took another stroll at night to find out what these installations look like without the sun.

First, here’s HYBYCOZO‘s pieces at night:


The colors of both shapes faded in and out and changed between colors in a dynamic fashion that’s difficult to capture. There were so many people wandering around taking photos that I couldn’t get a good video, but even that would hardly do it justice. Do yourself a favor and get over there when it’s dark out and see for yourself. That said, I bet this would be even more impressive if Patricia’s Green weren’t so well lit at night — I’m sure HYBYCOZO’s works are more delightful at places like Burning Man where city lights don’t impede the shadow patterns they cast on the ground.

Second, here’s the lanterns outside City Hall at night:

Sui Sui Ping An - Peace All Year Round Sui Sui Ping An - Peace All Year Round

While the lanterns don’t have the dynamic nature of the metal shapes, they’re strikingly bright and colorful against the black and white facades of the main buildings surrounding Civic Center Plaza. Just like during the day, at night both professional photographers and couples taking selfies with the giant lanterns impeded my view, making it a challenge to get a clear shot. But from the perspective of the artist, this looks like a resounding success.

So here’s to temporary public art, and especially this strange new frontier of electrically illuminated public art designed for viewing at night. We’re clearly on to something here, and I’m happy to see that San Francisco is on the forefront.

Hôtel de ville de San Francisco

December 11th, 2016

SF City Hall in red white & blue

I stopped by City Hall today to find it’s still lit up in red white and blue in commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. It looked particularly dramatic set against the wild evening skies.

But then I got to thinking about it: those three colors are pretty common choices for flags. In this case, the stripes of color seem to evoke France’s flag specifically. This evocation is compounded by the fact that SF City Hall is specifically built in the Beaux Arts style of French neoclassical architecture.

So in the immortal words of Nicholas Cage, “Vive la fuckin’ France man!”

Hiking Bernal Heights Park

October 2nd, 2016

If you live in San Francisco you’re undoubtedly familiar with Bernal Heights Park, even if you don’t know it by name — it’s the big rocky hill at the south end of the Mission District. From a distance, it looks like a bonsai arrangement due to a few short trees growing at the top.


Somehow I’d never actually hiked to the top of it before, a strange lapse on my part especially because I’ve spent many afternoons in Precita Park, which is just below Bernal Heights. Not having anything else to do on Saturday and given the reasonable weather, I thought I’d go exploring.

There’s a variety of ways to get to Bernal Heights Park. I took one of the most obvious routes: starting on Folsom Street, I walked all the way to the southern end of the street. The sidewalk ends on the right side, but continues on the left. If you turn around at this point you’ll see a home with an interesting mural.

Bernal Heights

Not far up the road there’s a somewhat infamous rock that tends to get painted over by local pranksters. Not long ago it was painted to look like the poo emoji. More recently it was painted a bright cyan color, and someone added a troll-ish looking face.

Bernal Heights

Crossing the street here leads to an entrance to the park. There’s a gated paved road winding around the hill that’s presumably intended for utility workers, but for parkgoers it’s a place to walk, bike, or play fetch with your dog.

From this particular entrance you’ll spot a colorful memorial honoring the life of Alex Nieto, a young man who’s life was tragically ended by police brutality. Though his death was over two years ago, the memorial is still immaculately maintained.

Bernal Heights

Continue walking around as the road turns and you’ll eventually encounter a stone labyrinth. Right now it could use some love, but you can still see the rough outline of the maze.

Bernal Heights labyrinth

From there you can get a clear view of the top of the park, where there’s the trees and a mysterious wireless hub of some sort. I headed up to check out the wireless thing. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but the building at the bottom is covered in murals, and there’s one of those air raid sirens next to it that’s tested at noon every Tuesday.


Bernal Heights Tuesday at Noon siren on Bernal Strange device on Bernal Heights

Jutting out just below the top of the park is a flat-ish rocky area where some children were running around, dogs were being walked, and some dude was flying a kite.

Kite flying on Bernal

I walked out to the edge of this area and snapped a giant panoramic photo. Click the image for the full view and you can see the “bonsai” trees on the left. Moving right you can see Sutro Tower, the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, the office towers downtown, and the two spans of the Bay Bridge near the left.

Bernal Heights pano

As for getting back down, there’s really only one way to go. Why? One word: slides! If you head to the northwest side of the park, there’s an unmarked staircase heading down to Esmeralda Ave. Head down that staircase, walk one block in the same direction, and you’re at the slide park. Grab a piece of cardboard and let gravity do its thing.

After that, keep heading in the same direction and you’ll get to one of the city’s smallest parks, Coleridge Mini Park. This tiny “park” is really nothing to write home about, but there’s a nice view of Sutro Tower from there and a micro-sized playground for little kids.

Sutro Tower from Coleridge Mini Park

To get to Mission Street, keep heading down the hill and you’ll wind up near the intersection of Mission and Valencia.

Want to see all the photos I took on this excursion? Take a peek at this Flickr album.

What is it a nice day for?

September 4th, 2016

It's a nice day...

Near 24th and Folsom I encountered the above pull-tag flyer, which sports an old photo of Billy Idol along with the heading “It’s a nice day.” The pull-tags include the following phrases:

  • To start again
  • For a white wedding

If you’ve somehow never encountered the 1982 hit song this is referencing, here’s the music video for your enjoyment. Have a nice day!


Murals of Lilac Alley

September 4th, 2016

These days it seems pretty much every alley around 24th and Mission is a de-facto canvas for street artists. Overall this is a good thing; it keeps the Mission’s colorful, artistic elements in plain view, acting as a counterbalance to the obscene housing prices that have made the area affordable to many artists. Go out there almost any weekend and you’re bound to find at least one such mural in progress.

Here’s a few I snapped photos of today on a stroll through Lilac Alley. Click any of them for a larger view on Flickr.

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals<

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Lilac Alley murals

Details leaked regarding mysterious new restaurant at 17th and Valencia

August 8th, 2016

Almost a year ago I reported that the team behind Garcon seemed to be quietly working on a new restaurant at the former site of Young’s BBQ in the Mission. Normally restaurant openings involve some press releases and fanfare, but this one seemed to fly under the radar. Naturally, that made it all the more intriguing.

Now new details are slowly starting to emerge in public: namely, the name: “Bayou.” New signage recently appeared above the space:


Here’s where things start to get a little fuzzy though. A quick Google search revealed a link to Bayou’s website, which is still incomplete. There’s missing information, like the phone number being listed as “(415) XXX-XXXX.”

Other signs that the website is incomplete include the fact that many links go nowhere, and the social media links direct you a brand design agency called The Imagists.


Sleuthing a bit further, The Imagists have a page on their online portfolio about Bayou, which includes this description:

A new multi-location concept, Bayou Creole Kitchen & Rotisserie proposes a casual offering of creole and cajun-inspired dishes to the lunch crowd of the Mission and Financial districts [sic] of San Francisco.

The second Financial District location isn’t mentioned on Bayou’s website, nor could I find any reference to it in the California liquor license database. Perhaps that’s intended for the future or was just a bit of wishful thinking. As for the “lunch crowd of the Mission,” that’s not even a thing.

Regardless, the one item on their website that appears to be (mostly?) complete is the menu. As the name suggests it’s focused on the cuisine of New Orleans. It features everything one might expect such as gumbo, fried green tomatoes with shrimp, rotisserie chicken, and po boys. Not much for vegetarians or vegans at the moment.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell on Bayou’s website is bad news for fans of Garcon. Though he’s still listed as the executive chef on Garcon’s website, Arthur Wall’s bio on Bayou’s website indicates he’s moving on:

Arthur Wall is the Executive Chef and proprietor of Bayou Restaurant in San Francisco. He previously spent six years serving as Executive Chef of Garçon restaurant in the Mission district, where he developed a strong, local following and connection to the community.

Obviously I can’t vouch for any information on an unfinished website, but it’s certainly unusual for news to leak like this in the hyper-scrutinized world of Bay Area dining.

I’ll update if I hear more.

Mini Strandbeest

August 4th, 2016

Mini Strandbeest

I received an unexpected gift at work today; a Mini Strandbeest kit. Like a wildly complex Ikea furniture set, there’s dozens of parts to stick together, but it doesn’t take terribly long if you follow the directions.

If you’ve been stuck under a rock for the past few decades and are unfamiliar with Strandbeests, check out the Wikipedia page on the artist who created them.

This particular tiny Strandbeest is powered by wind, with a small windmill and two reduction gears. Like its peers you can also just push it along with your hands, but it’s far more entertaining to blow on the windmill and watch it spring into action.

Want to see it walk? I placed it on the floor and pointed a fan at it. Here’s a short video of the result, complete with silly music to complete the effect:


Turn Up: There’s a whole other world up there

July 31st, 2016

This year I’ve been doing a number of “30 day” projects where I try to see what I can accomplish in my spare time in only 30 days. For July I decided to focus on photography. First I had to come up with some rules and make some decisions about what I was going to photograph and how.

Here are the rules I came up with:

  • Take at least 30 photos during the 30 days. This turned out not to be a worry at all, I took well over ten times that amount; the difficulty was in narrowing it down to the best of the bunch.
  • Give back to the community by offering the photos under an open license. I decided on a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial, share alike license and marked the photos as such on Flickr.
  • Only photograph with my iPhone 6 and only make minor adjustments to the photos. I didn’t want to distract myself with tools I didn’t already have in my pocket, and didn’t want to dive into RAW photo development either. This was to limit the scope of the project so it would fit in a 30 day period.
  • Most importantly, the photos needed a theme. I went with “Turn Up,” which I’ll describe more below.

The theme “Turn Up” comes from something I’ve heard from two disparate sources, video game designers and urban planners. Both point out that when left to our own devices, we typically don’t turn our head to look upward at the world above us. Sure, there’s a whole other world up there, but we rarely stop to look at it. Urban planners take this to mean that we should focus design efforts on making street level experience as friendly as possible and worry less about making, say, the exterior of higher levels of an office tower visually pleasing. Video game designers on the other hand have to find various ways to suggest aiming the mouse/controller up to see the rest of a puzzle, for example.

The corollary to this philosophy I suppose is telling someone who’s afraid of heights not to look down when they walk over a bridge, which of course is what they’ll inevitably do when told not to. People are like that.

Through the perspective of the lens of a camera, looking upward feels just as awkward as it does through our own eyes. For this reason many photographers stay way from such photos, lamenting the unnatural, often forced nature of this perspective. Part of that “otherness” I would argue is an odd feeling of familiarity. We were all children once, and we were constantly looking up at adults, taller children, or pretty much everything. The world is not made for small people.

Whatever the case, that sense of otherness is exactly what excites me about such perspectives. So for the past month I’ve been wandering around the city, finding tall things to look up at and often squatting down to photograph them from low angles.

And here, in no particular order, are the results.

1. Lotta’s Fountain

Contrasted by the much newer buildings behind it, we look upward to the 1875 Lotta’s Fountain on 3rd and Market. According to legend, the fountain served as a meeting place for survivors of the 1906 earthquake and fire, which is why people still meet there every year far too early in the morning on April 18th. The fountain was restored in the late 90′s.

Allegedly the fountain is still operated on special occasions, but I have to admit I’ve never seen water flowing through it.

Lotta's Fountain

2. Rincon Center atrium

Sometimes I wonder how many health-conscious office workers grabbing vegetarian quinoa bowls for lunch at the Rincon Center’s outdoor plaza ever explore the rest of the complex. My guess is not many.

Built adjacent to an old post office that was preserved for its historic murals is a 1980′s office/retail complex with a beautiful sun filled atrium (yes, we’re getting to that other downtown 1980′s atrium in a moment, hold your horses there folks.) What overshadows this atrium more than a cloudy day is the water feature in the center, where water falls from a shower head several stories above to collect in a pool in the middle of the floor. This in and of itself is all well and good, but a sign next to the pool of water claims that this is actually part of the building’s climate control system.

This is a claim so dubious I have to wonder if anyone out there believes it. Certainly if a fountain designer discovered a way to stabilize a building’s temperature with a water spout we’d all be doing this, because traditional HVAC systems are notorious for creating cold/hot spots, and have to be repaired all the time by grumpy maintenance workers. So if you believe a fountain can accomplish what an air conditioner cannot, I have a bridge to sell you.

Rincon Center atrium

3. Contemporary Jewish Museum

I’m not sure what it is with Jewish museums and wild architecture that eschews standard 90 degree angles, but that seems to be some sort of unwritten rule. This photo captures the Contemporary Jewish Museum (or the “Jewseum” as the hip kids call it) at its most unexpected angle, framed against the backdrop of more typical architecture.

The cube structure is made from steel panels, jutting out from a much older brick building that once served as a PG&E substation. The museum opened in 2008.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

4. Old Mint

The Old Mint at 5th and Mission was actually San Francisco’s second US Mint, which was eventually replaced by the one behind the Safeway at Church and Market today. While the New Mint no longer prints currency, it’s still used to stamp out special collectible coins.

What makes the Old Mint photogenic in part is the fact that it’s been recently restored. Occasionally plans have been floated to turn the building into a permanent museum, but so far nobody’s been able to raise enough funds to do so. If only someone had a machine that printed money…

Old Mint

5. Dolores Street’s palm trees

Dolores Street is one of the most consistently sunny parts of the city, so it makes sense that the street’s wide median is covered in palm trees. In this photo I tried to capture several trees of various heights on one such sunny day.

The trick to capturing this photo wasn’t so much the angle or getting the palm leaves to frame the photo, but rather kneeling in the grassy median without getting dog shit on my pants. Even as a hobby, photography is truly a glamorous endeavor.

Palm trees of Dolores Street

6. 16th Avenue Steps

There are several places in San Francisco where a street or avenue is so steep and narrow that it’s actually a staircase. One section of 16th Avenue is an example of this.

Back in 2003 a local resident decided that the bland concrete steps could use some sprucing up, and two years later a long colorful mosaic was installed on the 16th Avenue stairs. If you want to see what the stairs used to look like, walk about a block east to see a separate staircase that never got a mosaic upgrade.

16th Avenue Steps

7. St. Anne Church

While the Catholic Church may not approve of Barbie, there’s no question in my mind that Barbie would approve of this aggressively pink Catholic Church. The palm trees out front make it look like something from LA, the gray skies above in this photo make it clear this is in the Sunset District.

The 1930′s building features asymmetrical towers and dozens of white plaster sculptures stuck just above the entryway. Fog permitting, the towers are often visible from across the Sunset District.

St. Anne Church

8. Spencer House

Across from Buena Vista Park at Haight and Baker is a classic Queen Anne Victorian known as the Spencer House. Built for a man named John Spencer in the late 19th century, the mansion was restored about 15 years ago. Unlike many of its contemporary buildings it was never converted from a single family home into apartments.

One important note: unlike the other Queen Anne Victorian later down this list, you may be able to afford to stay in this one if only for a few nights. Even if you’re not interested in booking the room, check that link for some shots of the home’s gorgeous interiors.

Spencer House

9. Sanchez Street tree lanterns

Not far from Duboce Park Cafe I happened to look up and spot these paper lanterns hanging out in the trees above. Who put them there? Why are they there? I have no idea, but it’s some harmless fun.

Oh, and to the half naked guy in the window I accidentally took a photo of when I was trying to capture the paper lanterns? Sorry! I deleted that photo.

Sanchez Street tree lanterns

10. Armory

What can you say about the Armory that hasn’t been said already? It started out as an actual armory, and it sure looks like one. Since then it was briefly a hospital, it’s hosted various events, and now it’s a porn studio that occasionally hosts concerts.

From this angle it almost looks like the building is begging a rock climber to come along and try to climb up it. Come to think of it, that’s probably not the best design for an armory. Then again, I’m pretty sure rock climbing wasn’t as big in 1914 as it is today.


11. Forest Hill Station stairs

In college I was taking Muni Metro somewhere with a friend and we got out in Forest Hill Station. He started walking towards the stairs, so I stopped him and said we should just take the elevator. He looked at me like I was insane and said, “Do you really trust Muni to rescue you if you get stuck in a broken elevator?”

Sadly, he had a point. But despite being the deepest underground of all of Muni’s subway stations, the stairs aren’t as strenuous of a walk as they look at first glance. Besides, it’s the oldest subway station in San Francisco that hasn’t been renovated. It still looks almost exactly like it did when it appeared in the film Dirty Harry, and by then it was already over 50 years old. So if you skip out on the stairs you’re missing part of the old-time aesthetic of the station.


12 and 13. Hyatt Regency San Francisco’s atrium

This late 1980′s hotel in the Embarcadero Center is one those places where you might wander in and be so busy with your luggage or whatever that you forget to look up. This would be a mistake; between the wildly designed elevators to the pyramid of floors above, the atrium does itself a disservice by holding the world record for the largest indoor atrium. That’s so missing the point of the spectacle of this incredible space.

I first found myself in here as a teenager, and I’ve returned many times. It still blows me away.

Hyatt Regency SF atrium

Hyatt Regency SF atrium

14. Embarcadero Center tower

The Embarcadero Center took nearly two decades to build, and features an open-air mall topped with four office towers. Each tower has a similar design, but they’re all ever-so-slightly different. From far away you could be forgiven for mistaking the towers to be featureless and rectangular, but up close the rectangles have an unexpected, almost organic nature.

I’ve already forgotten which tower is reaching for the sky in this photo, but it’s definitely either One or Four (the two taller ones.)


15. Embarcadero Center entry hall

Okay, one more photo from the Embarcadero Center and then we’re moving on. I promise.

This plant-lined hallway with a gentle stairway takes you into the Embarcadero Center. Look up and you’ll see a plant-lined trellis of sorts above, but be careful not to trip on the stairs while you’re doing so. Unfortunately nobody ever seems to use this entrance to the western side of the complex, which is a shame because it’s so photogenic.

Embarcadero Center entry hall

16. Transamerica Pyramid

Sometimes you just have to go with a safe choice, and the Transamerica Pyramid is exactly that. It’s safe because it’s an icon of San Francisco.

The depression-era Glass–Steagall Act forced Bank of America to spin off its insurance division into a separate company, which they named Transamerica. Decades later both firms built nearby skyscrapers in the Financial District. This shot was tricky to get because the building is currently surrounded on all sides with maintenance equipment, so forgive me for the unintended lens flare.

From this angle it looks like either an alien space shuttle, or some sort of highway to the sky.

Transamerica Pyramid

17. Coit Tower

While we’re talking about the most iconic structures of San Francisco, here’s Coit Tower. Looking up at it from this angle, it seems to almost touch the sky. Or maybe that’s just me hallucinating after climbing what felt like a million stairs to snap this photo.

You’ve probably at least been inside the lobby of Coit Tower and looked at the murals, but — did you know? — there’s a second floor with even more murals. It’s typically only open to the public on special tours.

Coit Tower

18. Mark Hopkins Hotel

It’s almost impossible not to look up at this hotel, seeing as how it’s one of the tallest structures on top of Nob Hill. The hotel is named after a railroad baron who once lived on Nob Hill.

According to a City Guides tour guide, it was a tradition for women to take their husbands or boyfriends to the top floor bar, the “Top of the Mark,” before he was sent away to fight in World War Two. The bar is still there today.

Mark Hopkins Hotel

19. Grace Cathedral

For all its luxuries, Nob Hill is topped with a poor man’s 20th century knockoff of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. But if you ignore the drab exterior walls, the ornate windows — such as these in the back — have merit in their own right.

Initially I’d planned on photographing the towers on the front, but those were covered in a giant banner at the time. I “settled” for the back, but in retrospect this is a more unusual shot. A happy accident, as they say.

Grace Cathedral

20. 8 Octavia

This condo complex seems to elicit very strong love-it-or-hate-it reactions. Personally I lean more towards the love it side simply because it’s different. I’ve never seen anything with fins quite like that outside of the heatsink squished on top of the CPU in my computer. That said, I wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to clean building’s exterior.

It took a good ten minutes to get a photo that came out at all — those glass fins are all too happy to reflect sunlight into a camera lens, so this might be a good place to live if you’re constantly hounded by paparazzi.

8 Octavia

21. Supreme Court of California (Earl Warren Building)

This classic-looking building only dates back to the 1920′s, but has been added onto over the years. It was badly damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake but has been repaired since. The courtrooms are supposed to look quite nice, but if it means getting roped into a jury I’m happy to take in all in from the outside. The law and justice motifs mean there’s no mistaking this place, it’s definitely a court house.

Supreme Court of California (Earl Warren Building)

22. UC Hastings College of the Law

The pure blandness of this building makes it stick out like a sore thumb in the Civic Center area, completely out of touch with the classic French look of the rest of the neighborhood. (See #21 which is right down the street from here.) But the clean geometric lines also beg for this type of photographic treatment, flipping the blandness to an unexpected angle where it’s almost enduring.

Planning insists that this building dates back to 1907 — if that’s true it clearly must have been overhauled in the mid 20th century.

UC Hastings College of the Law

23. 101 California Street

This early 80′s skyscraper is notable for its round shape and the impossible-looking triangular “bite” taken out of its glassy lobby. The structure essentially stands on massive stilts, which seems ill-advised but what do I know — the place survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. I think it looks more daring in person than it does in any photo I took of it, but this was the most intriguing photo of the bunch.

Unfortunately architecture is not what the building is best known for. It was the site of a grizzly mass shooting by a deranged gunman who thought MSG was controlling his brain, or something. This tragic incident led to a short-lived ban on assault weapons.

101 California Street

24. Twitter’s headquarters, aka San Francisco Furniture Mart

This 1937 Art Deco building was once the home of San Francisco Furniture Mart, also known simply as “SF Mart.” It closed in 2008 and sat empty for a number of years until it was converted to offices and Twitter moved in (along with several other companies) enticed to the area under a bizarre tax deal, even by the standards of San Francisco tax laws.

Historical notes aside, the ornate geometry of the Art Deco styling coupled with the brown exterior almost makes this building look like an ancient tomb that Indian Jones might pillage.

Twitter headquarters / SF Furniture Mart

25 and 26. Sutro Tower before and after

The other day when I hiked up Mount Sutro I had this sneaky idea that I’d head over to Sutro Tower and take some photos of it for this project. But our old pal Karl The Fog had some different ideas, and was looming over Twin Peaks by the time I’d made it out of the woods.

So I had to return the following weekend to get a clear shot of Sutro Tower without Karl’s cold embrace, but decided to include both photos as an exercise in contrasts. As it turned out, getting a shot of Sutro Tower from the same angle was much more difficult when I had to carefully position myself so that the tower blocked out direct sunlight. The two photos don’t quite line up, but this was my best attempt.

Sutro Tower (with fog)

Sutro Tower (no fog)

27. Mission Dolores Basilica tower

After the 1906 earthquake knocked down the Gothic-style brick church that once stood here, a stucco building replaced it. What you see here is the bell tower from the 16th Street side. Apparently it was a bit bland until they added some finishing touches to it in the mid 1920′s. From this angle you can’t see the bells but that’s probably for the best given the pigeon netting that would be visible.

Mission Dolores Basilica tower

28. Market Street pedestrian/bike overpass

If you’ve ever made the hike up Twin Peaks from Noe Valley this may be a familiar sight. This tower winds around at a gentle slope to take you up to a bridge that crosses over the hilly part of Market Street. If walking up or down this thing doesn’t make you at least somewhat dizzy, nothing will. Fortunately since it’s on a hill you’re at ground level on the other side.

While the geometry of the corkscrew design makes for an interesting photo, I’m not sure I’d want to be walking in this thing during an earthquake.

Market Street pedestrian overpass

29. SFMOMA expansion

Designed by architecture firm Snøhetta, the expansion of the SFMOMA includes a white “skin” to the back of the building that looks like an undulating wave. Particularly at this extreme angle, it feels as though you’re floating across a slightly off-white sea.

New back of SFMOMA

30. John Daly’s mansion at 21st and Guerrero

According to the Planning Department, this beautiful Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1895 by John Daly (yes, the man Daly City is named after) and was recently restored in 2009. Confession: I’ve wanted to live in this building since the first time I saw it years ago.

Since this building is built into a hill it’s possible to view it from many angles, but I prefer looking up to it from here because it emphasizes that gorgeous tower.

John Daly's mansion

That’s all thirty! If you’d like you can also view these photos in this Flickr album.

Hiking Mount Sutro and Twin Peaks

July 18th, 2016

For the past few years I’ve been aiming for 10,000 steps a day to make my fitness tracker happy get some exercise. Most days I don’t go anywhere special, but on weekends I like to branch out when I have the time and find new places to explore. That’s no easy task when you’ve lived in the Bay Area your entire life or spent the past (checks calendar) nearly thirteen years in San Francisco (holy crap.) So to do something a little different I walked from 17th Street to 23rd Street using the least efficient route possible, starting with Mount Sutro.

Take any map of San Francisco, and somewhere near the center there will be a green patch that’s either labeled “Mount Sutro Open Space Preserve,” or “Interior Greenbelt,” or some combination of the two. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a gorgeous man-made park — the non-native trees are a dead giveaway — with various trails zig-zagging around for hiking and mountain biking.

There’s several entrances, but I started at the one maintained by Parks and Rec at Stanyan near the end of 17th Street. There’s a small staircase and a sign to mark the entrance.

Interior Greenbelt sign

The hike up Mount Sutro is not one for the faint of heart — the trail is often steep, covered with rocks and fallen tree branches, and can be muddy and wet from the fog. At times it even felt like it was raining due to the fog rolling off the trees above.

Interior Greenbelt trail

The park has a somewhat surreal feel to it; you know in your mind that you’re still in the city, but for the most part it doesn’t feel like it. Sure, you can see some houses from a few vantage points, or hear sirens in the distance, but there’s little evidence to suggest there’s a bustling city not far below.

To add to the strange feeling, the place was nearly deserted. I could probably count the number of other hikers I encountered on one hand. Some part of me kept expecting to find a group of teenagers drinking or smoking pot in the bushes, but I didn’t even see any litter to suggest that this was a place people had escaped to for such endeavors.

Which is all a fancy way of saying that this place is rather unique. You won’t find crowds of tourists here like Golden Gate Park or Telegraph Hill.

Interior Greenbelt

By the time I got to the top I was somewhat lost. There were no obvious vantage points to find my bearings thanks to the trees and the fog, and my phone wasn’t picking up enough of a signal to use Google Maps. Fortunately, UCSF was kind enough to put a map there right when I needed it.

Following the map, I took the East Ridge Trail down to Aldea Housing. From there my phone briefly got a strong signal again. I thought about turning back, but figured what the hell — Sutro Tower wasn’t far away. Why not press on?

Interior Greenbelt

There’s no obvious signs leading you to Sutro Tower from there, and it was so foggy I couldn’t have even guessed which way to go to find it. Fortunately Google Maps had my back and a few minutes later I found what I can only assume is the base of the tower, prodding the underbelly of our dear friend Karl.

Sutro Tower in the fog

Following my gut, I walked around the reservoir next to Sutro Tower until I found another trail that seemed to be leading towards Twin Peaks. Once again this would have been much easier had I been able to see where I was going. (Million dollar idea: Glasses that let you see through fog. Get on it, hardware startup entrepreneurs!)

Fortunately an older couple heading in the opposite direction confirmed to me that I was on the right track.

Trail from Sutro Tower to Twin Peaks

After jumping a barrier and heading up a somewhat steep trail that didn’t seemed “official,” to put it mildly, I found a whole crowd of tourists. I’d done it! I’d made it to Twin Peaks!

The fun of Twin Peaks — if you’ve somehow never been — is not the view. In fact, there’s rarely much of a view at all. No, the fun is watching hoards of confused tourists scream about how they’re freezing, watching pamphlets get blown out of their hands by the wind, and seeing them take selfies against a backdrop of fog. It’s really a blast.

Twin Peaks in the fog

At this point several hours had passed and it was time to head back home. On the pedestrian/bike side of the recently reconfigured figure eight, I jumped another barrier and made my way down a staircase, followed by another, then another, then like maybe two or three more. Yeah, my knees are going to be sore as hell tomorrow.

But at least from here I more or less knew where I was going. If you’re walking to or from Twin Peaks from the Mission/Noe Valley, those stairs lead to a pedestrian overpass over Market Street, which is very handy for this particular part of the hike. The ramp on the other side takes you down to Grand View Ave. near the end of 23rd Street.

Market Street pedestrian overpass

The fitness tracker says all in all that worked out to just over six miles, though if you follow in my footsteps your mileage may vary depending on your exact route. A word to the wise: bring water with you, appropriate shoes, and full-length pants to avoid poison ivy. You also might consider an umbrella if it’s super foggy.

Finally, here’s a few panoramic photos of the Mount Sutro hike. As with all the photos in this blog post you can click it for a larger view. Additionally, all of these photos are in a Flickr album.

Interior Greenbelt pano

Interior Greenbelt pano

Interior Greenbelt pano