In my column “Finding unchanged San Francisco spots for a ‘gentrification oasis’” last week, I shared with readers how I went a “little bananas” while walking through a tech-heavy Valencia Street, one Saturday night. To save my sanity, I wrote, I ventured to certain neighborhoods, shops and S.F. locales that experienced much less change. I dubbed these places “gentrification oases.”
Well, I’m sure glad I wasn’t alone.
Readers wrote in with their own escapes, places they said still feel like the San Francisco they know and love. Not all of these places went completely unchanged — but there’s nothing wrong with change, when it’s reasonable.
Below are some submissions from readers, written by email, by Twitter and various spots in the Facebook universe. If you’d like to share your own, feel free to write firstname.lastname@example.org. And please, any time you feel you’re losing touch with the old San Francisco, remember what’s still here. Make sure to visit those spots, too — it’s helped me reconnect, and I hope it helps you also.
Some letters are edited for space and clarity. Thanks, all, for sharing.
Read your column today. Just want to add to your list Grant Avenue in North Beach from Columbus to Union, as well as Green Street between Columbus and Grant Avenue, have pretty much been the same for the past 20-plus years I have lived in The City. North Beach, as a whole, also has not changed so much. But some parts in the past year or so have gone through “the change.”
Very few entitled screaming b****es have found their way to West Portal, where people over 50 are not ignored. It is refreshing to go to the library, theater, charming shops, restaurants and The Philosopher’s Club without all the noise.
Always enjoying your column.
I read your article in today’s Examiner, and the same feeling you get when you see the tech yuppie transplants is the same one that I, my family and friends get. I’m a city boy, a native San Franciscan from the Mission district. The Mission district I grew up in and loved was full of culture, tradition, roots, passion, blue-collar hard work and gang violence (not that I’m condoning it, this has been the only positive of the invasion, the total decline of gang violence in the Mission and the other Latino neighborhoods).
This neighborhood, my old neighborhood, is the one I avoid the most. It breaks my heart and angers me every time I drive or walk by and see the gentrified dump it has become. No more sabor, no more culture, no more Latino faces.
I served in the Marine Corps for 8.5 years (all Infantry) and when I would return home, it always brought back a lot of great memories.
What soothes me and brings back that sense of pride is the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, the fog coming in over Sutro Tower, Twin Peaks and the still-Latino neighborhoods of Bernal Heights and the Excelsior. That is what calms my anger whenever I think of the Mission and loss of identity that my hometown is going through.
Keep up the great work.
I enjoy your On Guard column and I especially enjoyed it today. Ironically, while I was reading it, my friend Sheryl called me from NYC. You see, 40 years ago, I arrived from Brooklyn and stayed with her on Pine Street between Hyde and Larkin in her cute 1920s apartment with Murphy beds. By Christmas of that year, she had to leave San Francisco to care for an ailing aunt in Florida. She has never been back to San Francisco, but she called me today to tell me she is coming out in October to help me celebrate my 40th anniversary of arriving here.
Luckily, there are some spots which have changed only slightly or not at all that she should remember besides what you brought out in your column.
Since she was a single lady in those days, she frequented Perry’s on Union Street and the Balboa Cafe on Greenwich and Fillmore. Those two bars are still in existence. That corner, Greenwich and Fillmore, still has three single bars, so, in a sense, it is still the “Bermuda Triangle” as it was called in those days.
In October 1975, both the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square were in business as tourist meccas. Van Ness is still a driving nightmare.
The Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater is still gracing O’Farrell and Polk as it did then. Haight Street is basically the same, and so are Castro Street and 24th Street.
I’m glad I’m making a list like this for you, as it is reminding me of where I can still take her to remind her of “the good ol’ days” 40 long years ago.
Richie G, aka Frankie Morello
I liked your column today and share your views. As a longtime resident and even longer lover of the Richmond district going back to the late ’60s, I still like Gaspare’s Pizza on Geary, even though the prices have gotten a bit higher than I can easily afford — surely not their fault because of the retail rental skyrocketing prices. They have to pay the rent somehow. But it’s still fun to order a house special and listen to the juke box! The pizza is delicious and old-fashioned.
Plus there’s the still family-owned Tia Margarita on Clement and 19th. They feed you pretty well there — even a side dish can be a hearty meal, and there’s always a friendly crowd of neighbors.
Thank you for your reminder of what you and S.F. fans love that’s old San Francisco. I still love Sutro Park, the Sutro Baths remains and Pt. Lobos and old Louie’s diner and the Seal Rock Inn, where food is not fancy and the views are priceless. The windmills in the park, the 5&10 store in Laurel Village, The Telegraph Hill steps beneath Coit Tower, The Refrigier WPA History of California murals in Rincon Annex, Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero, and the The Fisherman’s Chapel on the Wharf.
Also, the little dog park on green street behind the Marina’s Octagon House, and Macondray Lane and of course old North Beach hangouts of beats, and bohemians and Italian bakeries and the Buddha Bar in Chinatown.
Best wishes and kind regards,
Readers were particularly responsive to the column on the Facebook page “Vanishing SF,” which shares articles relating to San Francisco’s gentrification. With permission from Vanishing SF, here’s what some of their followers wrote in response to the column:
Jesse Drew: Last weekend I walked up to North Beach and found some old haunts there that were still the same from many years ago. Lived in the Mission for almost 30 years, and just get angry walking around there.
Mark Julian Walsh: Turtle hill, Cafe Trieste in North Beach, The Cannery, Muni Pier. The haunts of a distant childhood.
Karen Wheeler: Cafe la boheme in the Mission. Musee Mecanique.
Joni West: I look out on (the Golden Gate) and Marina from the top of the Fillmore Hill. Things look pretty much the same as the did when I moved here 24 years ago from there.
Robin Goldman: Walking through (Golden Gate) park, Land’s End, Sutro Baths and Ocean Beach is always recharging for me. If you go mid-week, you’d almost think there was no bullshit brewing in the city.
Jim Roberts: I wish we could take the Bolinas approach, remove the sign so they can’t find what’s left, for me 9th and Irving, Mucky Duck had not changed in the 18 years since I first drank there.
Perhaps no one responded quite as thoroughly as green-party mayoral candidate and ever-present Mission guitar player Francisco Herrera, who wrote a blog post detailing his top 10 local spots. Read more at his blog. Until then, here’s a few of Francisco’s spots.
The real “curviest street” in San Francisco: Vermont and 20th Street. Very few people know about this.
The Bay Bridge because it reminds me of my father and his family as they crossed it with thousands of other working people in a line of cars that spanned all the way to San Jose and up a small highway that is now interstate-880.
This was when it was first opened in 1939 and my father was 10-years-old.
He and his family were in their two door Chevrolet with a rumble seat and all their belongings were tied up to the roof of the car, including their mattress. They worked in the fields and slept where the evening would catch them.