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Thread: Ever Leave Your Planning Heart in San Francisco?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Earl Finkler's avatar
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    Aug 2001
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    Barrow, Alaska
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    Ever Leave Your Planning Heart in San Francisco?

    Happy 2005 to you all.
    Don't know how many of you are going to the annual APA conf. coming up in San Francisco. My wife and I will be in the East Bay area around that time, visitng daughter and husband and new grandson. but likely will not have time to get to the APA conf.

    Anyway, I wanted to throw this out to all you planners? What is it, from a planners' perspective, that makes San Francisco such a unique and attractive city? Assuming that you feel it is. If not, share that.

    But anyway, I think about it each time I visit. Obviously the steep hills, and the setting by the bay, the fog rolling in and out. The cable cars. But the people always impress me as well---so friendly and so happy to live there, for the most part. And so innovative on ways to perform, etc. and support themselves with donations. Like those who balance rocks down toward the waterfront.

    So if you've ever left your heart in San Francisco, share it with us. If you didn't like it and hurried back out to the airport, let us hear from you as well. If you are a Barry Bonds fan, well.....
    cheers
    Earl
    Earl the Farthest North Cub Fan

  2. #2

    Registered
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    Wewll, I live and work about an hour northeast of San Francisco. I can imagine living nowhere else than the Bay Area or Northern California. I would love to actually live in the city itself or one of the more urban east bay suburbs.

    There is of course weather/climate/topography. It's probably 70 degrees outside right now, with beautiful sunshine. Yet, we do have chilly, rainy weather, too, and there are four mild but still very distinct seasons. Climate and topography are clicheed reasons for liking California, but life is tough enough without months of miserable weather.

    As a Planner, I love the City despite its manifest problems because it is so urban. Much (not all, of course) of the core of San Francisco is dense and walkable. Its not another suburb. The architecture caters to walkers, as does the scale of the blocks and the built environment. In other cities or the suburbs, even if there are sidewalks, why would you want to walk through boring suburban crudscapes of sound walls and freeways?

    I love the vernacular-the wood frame Victorians, the stucco, even the open-ness of San Francisco to modest scaled residential modernism.

    I love the hillside staircase "streets" usually planted with semi-wild gardens. What other city in the United States has a flock of parrots flying around the neighborhood?

    I love the neighborhood shopping streets. Polk, Union, Mission, Valencia, Fillmore, Cortland, West Portal. The City feels like a collection of fine-grained villages.

    I think the new freeway-free Embarcadero is mighty fine. I even like the new warehouse district apartments in South Beach (Mission Bay is a little too bulky and lacks the fine grain, but give it time).

    I like having a downtown that is not ALL enclosed mall (although a few nice malls are fine, too). I like the new Union Square, as hard edged as it is, it is a vast improvement over the raggedy hedges. It proves that things can maybe improve, not just get worse.

    I like feeling that it is ok to walk in almost every part of the City. There are relatively few absolute wastelands that frighten me to the point of not visiting.

    ________________________________

    None of the above is a denial of the manifest problems of the Bay Area-the crime, the outrageous expense, the traffic congestion, the flocks of lost souls, the occasional overbearing smugness (still, I'll take lefty liberal smugness over....Dallas smugness ) And, there are other cities I love as well (Boston and Chicago come to mind). Still, I'll stay here for the rest of my life, barring tragedy or disaster.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Earl Finkler's avatar
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    Barrow, Alaska
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    San Francisco great as usual

    Just returned from a super urban experience in San Francisco.
    Most important ---finally getting to meet 5-month-old grandson. He could be President someday, or maybe a star pitcher with the Chicago Cubs. I can just see it in his eyes.

    Enjoyed virtually everything in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area.
    Cable cars are always the best way to travel, especially hanging out into traffic.
    Food, food, food and more food.
    And so many interesting nooks and corners and little streets and walkways and patches of flowers here and there to brighten up spaces. The aroma of fresh fish and deep dish pizza and so many other things to eat.

    But also just the people there ---so friendly and so in love with their city.
    Can't wait till we can go back (saving up our pennies, dollars, bonds, etc.)
    Earl
    Earl the Farthest North Cub Fan

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Jul 2003
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    San Diego, CA
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    I missed this thread when it first posted. I have traveled some -- military wife, been through a lot of big cities. I fell madly in love with San Francisco shortly after arriving in the Bay Area and spending maybe an hour or so there.

    Some reasons I think it is so special:
    It has densities like Europe and urban development more like Europe...only better.

    The mostly grid layout makes it reasonably logical in the way that so many grid-based cities are but super-imposing it on such hilly terrain creates beautiful vistas, natural "endings", etc -- of the type you would normally only get if you carefully engineered them. So it remains organic and the grid doesn't make it feel so stilted. It is a wonderful juxtaposition.

    I think San Franciscans have always loved their city and have always been extremely devoted to it. My understanding is that The Golden Gate Bridge was built during The Great Depression and that San Franciscans essentially agreed to mortgage their homes to pay for it. It seems like such a tribute to the human spirit amidst circumstances that were so defeating for most people.

    Some of the extremely liberal values that get lived out, not just talked about. Okay, those create a lot of problems too. But you have to be kind of charmed by the "hippie" ideals being acted upon in some way.

    I think it also has a sense of history that is unusual in a West Coast American city. Most of them seem so very young and not yet...simmered to a full-bodied flavor of culture.

    Well, I am sure there is tons more one could say. Those are just a few obvious high lights off the top of my head.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Future Planner's avatar
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    Jan 2005
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    I absolutely love San Francisco and have been there many times.
    I like it because of the urbanness, the walkability, and the choice of unique and local shops, bars, and restaurants.

    I usually stay on Market street. I walk out of the hotel and literally have a choice of taking the Street Car (F line), BART, or Muni. Or, I can walk, hail a cab or drive a car. Amazing that there are this many choices.

    Only one complaint is that there is so much concrete in many of the neighborhoods. I think they could plant far more trees and make it a bit greener than it is.

  6. #6

    Registered
    Oct 2001
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    Solano County, California
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    Quote Originally posted by Future Planner
    I absolutely love San Francisco and have been there many times.
    I like it because of the urbanness, the walkability, and the choice of unique and local shops, bars, and restaurants.

    I usually stay on Market street. I walk out of the hotel and literally have a choice of taking the Street Car (F line), BART, or Muni. Or, I can walk, hail a cab or drive a car. Amazing that there are this many choices.

    Only one complaint is that there is so much concrete in many of the neighborhoods. I think they could plant far more trees and make it a bit greener than it is.
    The streets do lack trees in many districts. Sadly, its because of the sandy soils, too many driveways and curb cuts, and extra-wide sidewalks. On the other hand, the staircase gardens help make up for it in some places.

    In the Castro District, the Director of Planning at the time (can't remember his name) invented "garden blocks" which have evolved into an amazing collection of planter strips, trees, boxes, pots, benches, etcoverflowing with flowers and greenery. In a quite dense townhouse/small apartment building environment, these blocks are some of the lushest urban streets I've seen. Very informal, but still definitely NOT suburb. If I remember correctly, Noe Street off Market and 17th Street above Market are two of the best examples.

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