a giant spiny agave in potrero hill. check human for size comparison. this specimen had been “de-clawed” (to prevent snagging passersby?) – check out the tips of the leaves. agaves are a lovely drought-tolerant plant for your new california drought friendly landscaping – you’re already putting it in, right?  

Streetwalk SF: Land’s End 2_2_2015

ello everyone. This week’s streetwalk is off-road. Thus, less architecture and urbanism talk, and a bit more marine biology. Join me on the west side of San Francisco, where the Pacific Ocean crashes into the land. I hopped on my bike and rode from my apartment, through the Panhandle, on down through Golden Gate Park, then up the super steep hill past Cliff House. Almost at the top of the hill, I came to Land’s End, home of a new visitor’s center (replacing porta potties!), a large parking lot, and a view over the Sutro Baths. Usually full of tourists, there are several walking paths that branch off down and right out of the lot. I locked up my bike and headed straight for my favorite destination, the Land’s End Trail down to Mile Rock Beach (I always just call it Land’s End beach….). I planned to walk the labyrinth perched above the beach, but I’m so uncentered I’m not sure one labyrinth walk is going to do the trick. At the point above the beach look right: there’s the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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Look left: there’s Mile Rock Beach, a nice low tide, with sea mist and green spring growth carpeting the cliffside. 

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And here’s the labyrinth. Its quite nice, you should really visit. If there aren’t too many people visiting, you can walk it all by yourself while you enjoy the crash of the waves, the diving seabirds, and the illusion that there are no cars, houses, or people nearby. 

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Walking down the cliff to the beach, the ice plant is in bloom. I know its boring, and invasive, but ever since we moved out West I’ve loved the look of its spiky green branches dotted with hot pink cup shaped blossoms. I’ve Googled so you don’t have to: its botanic name is Carpobrotus edulis, and one of the common names that always struck me is “Hottentot Fig” – doesn’t that sound a little, I don’t know, colonialist and reminiscent of the 1800s? Let’s call it Ice Plant. Its native to South Africa but likes coastal California very much. Its considered invasive in the Mediterranean and New Zealand too. Apparently you can eat its fruit – “sour figs” – but I’ve never spotted one. Have you?

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I headed down to the beach, excited to see that it was low tide. Even though the low mark had been hours before the water was still well out – low enough to expose most of the rocks that are usually buried in crashing surf when I visit. I peeked under the largest boulder near the beach to find this sweet cluster of aggregating anemones with pinkish tentacles buried in sand. You can the one above the waterline is closed to protect its tentacles. 

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Check out this gooey cluster of aggregating anemones hanging from the rock!. There are tons of them everywhere around the mid-tide line. They open up underwater but look rather gross when they’re retracted and out of water. Anthopleura elegantissima are actually CLONES! Yes, all those anemones are genetically identical and branched off from one another. Even more wierdly, different clone groups are enemies, and will sting each other if a cluster gets close to a different cluster. 

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Look at that giant green….butthole? I know you were thinking it. But its actually a giant green anemone Anthopleura xanthogrammica. What a great name for a giant bulbous awesome anemone. I never get to see these guys, the tide usually isn’t low enough. They live a little deeper out, past the aggregating clone anemones, and around where you start to see clusters of mussels crowding the rocks. I’ve just learned that this is because they like to eat mussels, and as the starfish cruise through the mussel beds, knocking them off, these guys get a mussel treat when they fall down toward their buttholes…I mean, mouths. Actually – it is a butthole. Yes, anemones eat and eject waste from the same opening – who knew! 

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Look at the size of these things. 

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This one just had its tentacles open underwater before the tide sucked back out again. 

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This guy is in defensive posture. I think its a “shield backed kelp crab” – because of its distinctive shape. But I’m not sure how common it is for it to be dark red like that. 

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Here is a mossy chiton. An overlooked little intertidal mollusk. It clings onto the rock and rasps delicious algae off with its barbed radula (tongue like). It really anchors itself on there – not going anywhere. 

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When its low tide, the further rocks are really completely encrusted with barnacles, mussels, and gooseneck barnacles (the white ones, below). Have you ever eaten a gooseneck barnacle? I haven’t – looks like a lot of work for the meat. 

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Look at those rocks, totally encrusted. Its the perfect habitat for … 

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The big hunter, the Ochre Sea Star (below). They love to chow on mussels and wrap their bodies around mussel, pry it open with their sticky leg tubercules, and then eject their stomach pouch down in there to digest some sushi. 

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Headed back out – this streetwalk has a lot of stairs. 

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Oh – and Jesus was here. 

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Gorgeous outlook over the Pacific with a scalloped mackerel sky and cypresses in the foreground. 

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Back across the parking lot to my steed – the only one on the bike rack this fine afternoon. 

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This was mostly a nature streetwalk, but on my way up and out of Land’s End I had to snap a shot of a building a love to hate – this pistachio-mint-green building right on the corner of Geary. It actually works in this photo, contrasting with the blue and white sky and the zebra striped crossing. The building is a tragedy, but “at least” its not beige, right? (see neighbor building) 

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Streetwalk SF: Japantown/Geary 1_28_2015

I toted my camera along with me on a walk to the Post Office the other day. It was about 3 in the afternoon, with scudding white clouds across a blue sky – very warm temperatures. Between the clouds (instead of fog) and the temperature, it was hard to believe that is Janauary and that its San Francisco. Come with me on a walk down Geary and through Japantown.

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Man checks the 38 MUNI Schedule

This isn’t one of San Francisco’s most beautiful neighborhoods. The huge road cutting through doesn’t help. Most of the walk is up against rather monolithic structures. 

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This is a charter school that butts up to the sidewalk. There isn’t any landscaping, and its always dirty. There is a colorful and large mosaic along the east end of the building. 

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The playground and open space/rec center at the corner is under construction. It was always kind of a wierd place. There are kids playing, soccer fields, but if you go by early in the morning, its obviously a major spot for people who are sleeping out, using the bathrooms, and sheltering. That whole stretch of Geary features a lot of abandoned food containers, suitcases, rough clothing, and shopping carts. Now there’s less, since the whole park area is blocked off. Maybe its because there aren’t any homes on that stretch of Geary, and no one is around to get them kicked out, that people feel its a good spot to hunker down.

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There’s a lot, LOT of broken glass from car windows along Geary here.

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 Geary is a real scar on the landscape, especially with the strange undertunnels, but there are still some things to look at. I always liked the “California” paint on the side of the Boom Boom Room’s building. 

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The whole area was obviously developed (or should I say, redeveloped?) at another time. It echoes a lot of Eastern Bloc shape memories. Even the “Japanese” style landmarks are cast concrete, and the type of apartment towers in the background don’t show up in many other neighborhoods. 

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I walk up over one of the pedestrian overpasses. Geary has a couple of these, and they’re weird. Not many people use them. You either have to rotate up a super long winding accessible ramp, or tramp up a bunch of stairs. Its quicker to wait and cross at the crosswalk. Looking down from halfway up, you can see the general flavor of the pedestrian experience on this part of Geary – leftover. Trashed. Unattractive. Gray. 

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This pedestrian overpass is styled with Japanese (?) style lampposts to let you know where you are, I guess. 

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One was broken. Its a CFL. 

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Looking down onto Geary…you can see how easy it would be to add BRT or light rail! It would make commuting so much easier. Instead, its a huge paved slice. At this time of day, its not even that busy. 

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See? A little burst of traffic, then no traffic on all that open space. But we can’t use it for anything else, noooo!

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It stinks up here on the pedestrian overpass, too much diesel fumes. Time to head down…I’ve crossed the border! Now I’m on the north side of Geary, I’m officially in Japantown. 

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Its pretty quiet over here mid-afternoon. Just some retirees, school kids, and people doing their daily work and errands. Some Nijiya Market employees are enjoying a late lunch in the sun on the loading dock. There are some great old signs. 

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Part of the whole 1960s style redesign here is this odd little village-style pedestrian only street. San Francisco DOES have pedestrian only street! Oh, does it count if it’s only a block long? Oh well. I still like it. Its a little cold, and grey though … and the fountain’s been off for a long time. Drought? 

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Some more fun signs on the “pedestrian street”…

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This one is pretty serious! Watch out, old ladies who love feeding pigeons – you are not allowed to feed them in front of the hardware store….or else….

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Walk across the street with me to Peace Plaza, perched right over Geary, in between sections of the Japantown Mall. 

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Is that concrete I spy? Why yes it is! Because there’s nothing more pleasant to sit on in cold, foggy San Francisco than a concrete plaza, right over a giant 8-10 lane road. So much gray, so little permeable surface! I imagine a green river looping right through the middle of this photo, planted with moss, and ferns. 

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Furniture outside the entrance to the mall surprised me. Hulking assymetrical cast concrete benches, angularly elbowing us with their pointy armrests, actually have warm, weathered seats made of natural wood. Who knew? Onward, into the mall! Its never terribly busy. Lots of fun stores and restaurants, that would bask in street frontage and passersby, but they’re locked away in a dated mall. I do love animal-headed babies, though….

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Its late afternoon so the sunlight hits the buildings facing south in a nice way. This classic SF apartment building sits on Post Street, as I walked back home (enough of Geary, thank you). 

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But what’s this, right next to our friend with the nice trim and window finishes? 

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Its…a beige box next to its friend, the gray box? Wait, is that supposed to be someone’s house? I spy a rare bird though, a balcony in San Francisco. Along own Post street, here’s another juxtaposition – a small, wooden apartment building in faded pink huddles under the cold shoulder of a concrete box (with floor to ceiling windows no less). 

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I could make a comment about the contrast of the uninspired and sure-to-age-poorly condos going up all over SF right now, but these buildings are so much older. Probably the 1910s and the 1960s. Guess people have valued ROI and using every/last/scrap of building footprint more than creating a beautiful city and livable homes for a long time then….

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Finally, a shot of a colorful mural along Post, on the side of the Rec Center. SF has a lot of potential for murals and color…more would be lovely. Some neighborhoods have absolutely none. 

Thanks for walking with me, now headed to the Western Addition Library then down the street to my apartment. 

Park(ING) Day 2014 in downtown San Francisco. A little foot tour around my work neighborhood and south.

Park(ING) Day, originally dreamed up by local designers at REBAR, is not a DIY replicable event in cities across the globe.

Temporary pop-up installations repurposing public space (for the same time and cost as it takes to store a unused car there!).

Enjoyed finding fun textures and shapes to take photos of in a place I generally underappreciate – downtown SF. Like many cities developed in the past 70 or so years, its just so concreted in and depressing, with shady canyon streets and little visual appeal or greenery. Here are some of the tiny details that make it more appealling!

More Anza Vista Dreamin’…love the pretty pink against the sunny February sky and those sunwashed colors!