28 May, 2010

San Francisco Botanical Garden Alternatives

Quite a few people are, understandably, upset about the recent (successful) push by the SF Parks and Recreation Department and the SF Botanical Society to charge an admission fee to the Arboretum. It's a pretty inexcusable appropriation of a great PUBLIC resource. First, they change the name of the place and demote poor Helen Strybing (her generous donation, in the memory of her late husband, made the garden possible) to a footnote and now they'll be charging out-of-towners a hefty fee and checking the IDs of all visitors. Pretty depressing.
Still... there's a lot of park left that doesn't require a fee or ID check. One place that's as beautiful, if not more beautiful, as anything in the Arboretum is the De Laveaga Dell/National AIDS Memorial. It's a short stroll from the Academy of Sciences. It's usually very quiet and it's very, very wonderful.

24 May, 2010

A Beautiful Freeway?

The freeways of California don't generally inspire anything but dread, frustration or, at best, boredom in most people. After recently spending a fair amount of time on freeways throughout our great state, I've experienced a renewed appreciation for our own 280 freeway. Running down the San Francisco Peninsula to San Jose, it's a generally spectacular roadway. Part of its attraction may be the lack of billboards, gas stations, fast food joints or large trucks. The real pleasure is the spectacular scenery that one encounters just minutes from the congestion of The City. There's easy access to many natural and man-made attractions including Filoli and countless county parks. The photo above was taken from Sawyer Camp Trail (easily accessed from the Hayne Rd./Black Mountian Rd. exit). The body of water is the beautiful San Andreas Reservoir and the unspoiled wilderness of the San Francisco Water District. Thanks to the freeway, this is all about a half hour away from the heart of San Francisco. Strange to be thankful for a freeway.

17 May, 2010

Valencia Street Makeover

Valencia Street has been undergoing some rather heavy construction in the last few months. The sidewalks are being widened, trees planted and new light standards installed. The bits that are nearing completion look quite nice and a few places have already put tables out on the newly-widened pavements. If it looks half as nice as the recent work on Divisadero, it'll be a great success. This shot was taken in front of one of the major assets in this neck of the woods: Community Thrift. It's the home of really good shopping, if you can endure the oft-times terrible music choices by the staff. Great looking new paint, by the way.

09 May, 2010

Free Floating Anxiety

I try to keep things on a lighter note in this blog. Still, sometimes it's hard not to notice darker skies. A few weeks ago, someone took to the streets of the Mission/Dolores Park area and scrawled this message on several buildings (it's a bit hard to see, but it says, "Kill Hipsters & Yuppies"). I couldn't help noticing that the locations had something in common; they were all popular restaurants, cafes or bars.
I live in what is, quite possibly, the HIPPEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICA®. The private Google/Yahoo/Facebook/YouTube buses prowl the streets, collecting their live cargo and transporting them to points south (places, evidently, no hipster would consider LIVING in).
The person who sprayed this graffito probably notices these people too, notices how they fill the restaurants, cafes, bars, gourmet groceries and organic ice cream shops to overflowing. In a place where lot of people are feeling less than secure, where a lot of people are unemployed or underemployed, a good number of people are doing very well indeed. I don't think I've ever been so conscious of the divide between the young and rich, who constitute so many of the neighborhood's new residents, and the old "just-getting-by" types who fill the rent-controlled apartments. The forces at work in this City and, specifically, this neighborhood are as old as the hills. There's not much one can do about gentrification. A little rent control here, some subsidized housing there. In the end, change is inevitable. I think the angry person with the spray can probably knows this. He (or she) probably "keys" expensive cars in his spare time (no doubt, he has PLENTY of spare time). I'm hopeful that's as far as the acting-out goes.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say with this post, other than to acknowledge the terrible anxiety that lurks not far below the surface of our beautiful City... and our country. Not happy thoughts.

08 May, 2010

Gone to Seed

We're still in Aquatic Park (probably because it's so nice this time of year). Most of the Wharf, deservedly, gets dismissed by locals, but this is one place with something for everyone. The Hyde Street Pier and Aquatic Park comprise the National Maritime Museum and they are perfect places to enjoy a beautiful late spring day. If you approach the park via the trail from Fort Mason, you can forget all about the crowds that throng such attractions as Hooters, Rainforest Cafe and the Wax Museum. It's easy, and not entirely fair, to dismiss the Wharf. Good things are happening and The City seems to be making an attempt to spruce the old cash cow up a bit. Lord knows, it seems the tourists will put up with anything. They still flock to the crowded sidewalks strewn with "performers" covered in silver paint. Then again, if you stay away, you'll miss the Musee Mechanique, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien and the U.S.S. Pampanito. That would be a bad thing.
Back to Aquatic Park; the scrappy shrubs pictured above used to spell out "Aquatic Park" and were a very nice, old-fashioned touch. Now they're just ill-maintained shrubs. I'm hopeful that they'll be groomed to their previous perfection once the ongoing park rehabilitation is complete.