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Archive for the ‘San Francisco neighborhoods’ Category

Neighborhood hangout

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 13, 2016

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In New York City, its a bodega on every corner. In LA, its corner liquor stores. Here in San Francisco, its the corner grocery store which, unfortunately, is being threatened by rampant gentrification.

NeighborsCorner#5
We live in an already upscale part of the City, between Noe and Eureka Valleys. Two blocks down from our house, an old funky grocery store (no fresh fruits or vegetables, just canned or packaged food items, often with expired dates, plus the usual alcohol) gave up the ghost several years ago. This allowed four local entrepreneurs to take over the empty space and do a soft-story earthquake retrofit in addition to overall improvements.

NeighborsCorner#2
The resulting business is part coffee shop/ice cream bar/prepared food store/event and class location/commercial popup/neighborhood hangout. And its been successful from the start. They’ve scheduled a class on the “Art & Science of Saving Bees, Birds & Trees,” and host boutique flower arranging by the FloraCultural Society on weekends.

NeighborsCorner#4
Ryan and Laurel can often be found preparing gourmet coffees and teas or serving Laurel’s sweet and savory pastries. And people do what they usually do in San Francisco coffee shops, set up their laptops for long sessions of work and play online. Neighbor’s Corner is bright and airy, with a modern bathroom to boot.

NeighborsCorner#3
The previous store owner left quite mysteriously and was unable to pass on the location’s liquor licenses to the new owners. Now the new owners are working through the lengthy city permit process to allow for regular coffee shop occupancy and patronage during business hours. Given the enthusiastic response from the residents, Neighbor’s Corner looks like it’s here to stay.

UPDATED 2-14-16:
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Posted in Eureka Valley, gentrification, life, Noe Valley, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Not Phở Enough

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 25, 2015

I’m a big fan of Vietnamese phở soup. Phở differs from north to south (Hanoi to Saigon) in Vietnam by the noodle width, sweetness of the broth, and choice of seasoning herbs. When I lived in Oakland, I frequented an establishment where the phở was southern (thin rice noodles, basil herbs, bean sprouts). Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve been introduced to northern phở (wider noodles, cilantro, no sprouts). Southern phở tends to predominate in much of San Francisco, with exceptions like My Father’s Kitchen, which specializes in Vietnamese comfort food where the phở is decidedly northern. For restaurants and eateries where Vietnamese cuisine is not the main focus of the menu, the phở is often mixed, for instance cilantro with sprouts. Within the past year, three separate establishments in the nearby neighborhood of the Castro have either been started with phở on the menu or have added phở to the items they offer. Since they don’t tend to offer authentic phở as such, this will be a review of the quality and taste of the phở, not its authenticity.
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URBAN PICNIC (4039 18th Street) is “casual” Vietnamese food located in a previous beloved pizza parlor. The tagline “California Vietnamese Eatery,” plus the fact that Urban Picnic is a mini-chain, emphasizes the “fast food” nature of this establishment, with that clean new chain vibe. That doesn’t mean the food is bad. The ingredients are all organic and locally sourced, with a preference for raw, minimally prepared and cooked items. But the service was lackadaisical, the soup selection limited, and the phở barely warm the three times I ate there.
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CASTRO TARTS (564 Castro) is a longtime Castro Street cafe that’s been through several iterations, the latest one offering Vietnamese sandwiches and phở soups. This place is funky and caters to the locals, with Supervisor Scott Weiner’s seal of approval posted on the window. The soup selection is pretty decent, although the quality is not much above average. The friendly ownership, and the in-house bakery items are a plus.
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SLURP NOODLE BAR (469 Castro Street) is owned by the same folks who put together the previous restaurant Fork, which took over the location occupied by the beloved Castro Fuzio. The makeover was not just physical, but gastronomical, with Slurp offering noodle dishes from around the world. The phở here is the best of the bunch in the Castro, but its only one item on a quite varied menu featuring top notch ingredients. This place is a regular Castro scene; crowded and loud, with a full bar for those interested in that kind of thing.

Posted in Castro Street, life, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods, The Castro | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Unsustainable living in San Francisco

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 20, 2013

The graphic and table below are pretty clear cut. It covers the proportion of income paid by renters on rent that is 50% or over. And, by the way, it is not sustainable to have to pay 50% of one’s income or more on rent.
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Table1
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And here’s the analysis of the above data:
Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis
The above map illustrates the percentage of households that spend 50% or more of their income on rent at the census tract level. The table provides the data aggregated at the neighborhood level. As the map demonstrates, there are many areas in San Francisco where 24%-65% of the population pays half or more of their income to rent. In the following neighborhoods, 25% or more of the population spends at least half of their income on rent:

Financial District (26%)
Downtown/Civic Center (27%)
Lakeshore (28%)
Excelsior (29%)
Ocean View (29%)
Bayview (30%)
Visitacion Valley (31%)
Households that spend more than 50% of their income on their homes are classified by the National Low Income Housing Coalition as severely cost-burdened.

source: Sustainable Income Index, San Francisco

Posted in life, neighborhoods, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

City of Light; San Francisco, Paris of the West: part 7-conclusions

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 12, 2013

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TALES OF TWO CITIES

I started the series “City of Light” to record many of our experiences during our recent two and a half week vacation in Paris. My posts were full of excitement, enthusiasm and enjoyment for the fabulous places and wonderful times we had. The second series “San Francisco, Paris of the West” attempted to parallel the first, detailing outstanding experiences to be had in San Francisco, explicitly comparing our home town with Paris in a somewhat derivative, travelog style. The first series was enlivened by my personal experiences on holiday, while the second series was often confined by my personal history with the places and events where I live. So, lets begin this final compare and contrast with:
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ARRONDISSEMENTS VS NEIGHBORHOODS

It’s apples versus oranges. Arrondissements in Paris (arrondissements municipaux, administrative districts) are not the same as neighborhoods in San Francisco. When we vacationed in the 14th Arrondissement at various times, we experienced several distinct neighborhoods within the 14th; the upper, middle and lower, all three exhibiting different architectures, residential characters, levels of commercial activity, etc. Sometimes a neighborhood, such as the Montparnasse, spans more than one Arrondissement (14th & 6th). San Francisco neighborhoods are more homogeneous, more geographically contained, easier to characterize, and San Francisco neighborhoods are a part of, or span governmental Districts. In San Francisco, for instance, Chinatown, a neighborhood, is in District 3, but spills over into 2. I take the neighborhoods of San Francisco more or less for granted, having lived here for so many years. This faulty comparison fallacy began when I used, as a basis, arrondissments in “City of Light” and neighborhoods in “San Francisco, Paris of the West.”
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PARIS: REMINISCENCE AND LONGING

With this recent vacation, I’d been to Paris three times. My wife had been there four. We’ve shopped on rue Cler, avoided the pickpockets to marvel in the gloom of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (6 Parvis Notre-Dame), visited Le Halles, above ground and below, wandered about the startling architecture in Parc de la Villette (211 Avenue Jean Jaurès), took the barge up the Canal Saint-Martin along the Quai de Valmy, first underground and then open air, caught the remnants of Paris 1968 left in Butte-aux-Cailles, climbed to the Basilique du Sacré Cœur (35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre), then wandered the surrounding environs, and many more experiences. Yet, we can never get enough of Paris, nor have we seen everything the City of Light has to offer. Still on our wish list: the Opéra de Paris housed in the Palais Garnier for either a tour or a performance, the Musée Marmottan Monet, the neighborhood/village of Saint-Paul, the Musée d’art et d’histoire du judaïsme, the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, etc. There’s always something more to see and do in Paris.
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The Paris Metro is the 8th wonder of the world, as far as I’m concerned. You can get almost anywhere you want in the city by using the underground metropolitan system. Sure, its crowded, some parts of it are old and decaying, other parts of it are plagued with pickpockets and crime, and the whole of it is not at all handicap friendly. But its still one of best municipal subway systems in the world. The underground musicians are often a delight, and it can be enchanting to hear music waft through the metro tunnels as you rush to meet your train. And there’s rarely more than a 2 to 3 minute delay between trains during normal operating hours. So what if it occasionally takes 3 lines to get to your destination. My love for the Paris Metro is on a par with my affection for the NYC subway system.
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That Parisians are rude is a complete myth. Given our accumulated times respectively in Paris—over three months for my wife and over two months for myself—we have never encountered a rude Parisian. A clerk or waiter or worker occasionally can be harried or distant or unresponsive, but rude? We haven’t experienced it. As for the ordinary Parisian on the street, and aside from dodging them walking on the sidewalks, we’ve never had to deal with rudeness. Parisians in particular, and the French in general are exceedingly polite and formal. Once you address them properly (“Bonjour monsieur,” or “Bonjour madame”), and make some minimal attempt at the social niceties (“merci” for “thank you” and “excusez-moi” (“excuse me”) madame or monsieur), the average Parisian is more than willing to help you out. Throw in some self conscious attempts at speaking their language (“Je suis américain(e)” or “Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas français”) and cap it off with “au revoir” (“goodbye”) or “bonne journée” (“have a nice day”), you can get along just fine in most situations. However, if you ignore even these basic formalities and come off as a typical American, grinning from ear-to-ear, demanding information or service or attention, you’ll get what you deserve. My wife and I had exited the Cartier-Bresson Foundation on our first vacation along Impasse Lebouis and rue Lebouis, eventually walking up allies and along a strip of boutique shops to reach rue Jean Zay. A little lost, we flipped through our Paris Pratique to find Avenue du Maine and transportation to our next destination. A Parisian man came up to us, unbidden, and after the appropriate introductions, asked us where we wanted to go. He spent five minutes giving us directions, pointing out the correct, if distant bus stops to take, and bid us goodbye. We walked away hesitantly, still not clear about his directions or the route to take, given the difficulties in language and translation. Suddenly, he was by our side again, and again after the proper introductions, he said that his wife had told him he had better show us what to do. At which time, he took us over to the right bus stop, pointed out the right line to take, and then again bid us adieu. This happened more times than we could count while we vacationed in Paris.

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SAN FRANCISCO: FAMILIARITY AND DISAPPOINTMENT

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for twenty-three years, and in San Francisco proper for nearly fourteen years. My familiarity with San Francisco and its surrounding communities, while not breeding contempt, has no doubt made me jaded with respect to the available attractions and activities. In a previous part of this series, I noted the differences in area and population between Paris and San Francisco. Compared with the urban concentration that is Paris, San Francisco is positively rural, an impression compounded by the infusion of nature throughout the city. From the beaches to the west of the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field to the east, from the manicured expanse and many attractions of Golden Gate Park to the City’s rambling neighborhood parks, some of which I reviewed in this series, San Francisco has an airy, wide open feel to it. Throw in the numerous tourist attractions—Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd), the iconic cable cars, the Victorian “painted ladies” on Alamo Square, the cultural institution that is City Lights bookstore (261 Columbus Avenue)—and San Francisco’s quotient for charming, quaint and enchanting is extremely high. Having lived all these years in this city, I still haven’t seen and done all that I’ve wanted—actually walked the Golden Gate Bridge, shopped in China Town, climbed the Moraga Street tile mosaic stairs between 16th and 17th Avenue, explored the new, improved Presidio, etc. So much more to see and do before I die.
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What’s so great about San Francisco is the temperate climate. No sweltering summers that force half the population to leave and old people to die, and no winters with sleet and snow to brave. Its pretty much good weather all year long here, thanks to being surrounded by water. My wife and I live east of Twin Peaks and we are treated to the City’s natural air conditioning, fog pouring over Twin Peaks to moderate the weather. The neighborhood microclimates are well known, yet the overall mildness of the weather is a feature that promotes casual walking by residents as well as year-round tourism. Being homeless, not a pleasant prospect anywhere, is mitigated by being able to hang out outdoors and live rough in this city. September/October is the best time to visit Paris (or for that matter, New York City). In San Francisco, its positively gorgeous.
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One thing that I’m disappointed about with respect to San Francisco is the overall attitude of the people who live here. There’s an aloofness, a sense that people here just can’t be bothered. I wrote above discounting the myth that Parisians are rude. Now, having visited New York City off and on for the past thirty odd years, I know what rudeness is. There’s no mistaking the “go fuck yourself” temperament that’s part and parcel of your average New Yorker. San Franciscans are so self-contained, no, self-absorbed, so as to be detached from their fellow human beings. The proliferation of hipsters (who squat every available coffee shop seat) and the influx of techies into the City (who drive to and from work in their private, air conditioned Google or Genentech buses) has only made things worse. Say what you will about your average Parisian (or New Yorker), they aren’t detached from their surroundings or other people. Take your “individual looking at a map” test, not as some “thought experiment” but as a real life exercise. I described what occurred when my wife and I stood around a Paris intersection looking at our map. This happened to me many times when I was a tourist in New York, looked lost, and consulted my map. Invariably, some New Yorker would come up and ask “where do want to go?” perhaps not out of pure friendliness so much as an attitude that said “hey, I know this city like the back of my hand.” When I visited San Francisco as a tourist, but before I’d actually lived in the Bay Area, I would walk around different parts of the City, often checking out my map for where to go and how to get there. This happened on numerous occasions, but no one approached me to ask “where do you want to go?” Then, one time, when I was befuddled and staring at my map somewhere in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district a man came up to me and said, in a perfect Brooklyn accent, “so, where do you want to go?” Enough said.

LOVE: OLD AND NEW

This concludes my two series—”City of Light” and “San Francisco, Paris of the West”—on the only theme that remains appropriate to the subject. Love. Love for Paris and love for San Francisco. Thanks for following this blog.
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Posted in arrondissements in Paris, City of Light, Golden Gate Park, life, neighborhoods, Paris, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods, series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 6

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 4, 2013

TWO OUTLYING NEIGHBORHOODS

San_Francisco_Neighborhood_Map1
The above map, provided by a local real estate company (the name of which has been dutifully photoshopped out), provides the common realty names for various San Francisco areas. I’ve been focusing on the three neighborhoods surrounding my residence in this series; Eureka Valley/The Castro (or Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights), greater Noe Valley, and the Haight-Ashbury (including parts of Cole Valley/Parnassus Heights & Buena Vista Park/Ashbury Heights). There are two adjacent neighborhoods I also enjoy visiting and will briefly cover, while comparing them to Paris. Let’s begin with:

WEST PORTAL

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West Portal is the residential area that runs west of the three block commercial West Portal Avenue. Bookshop West Portal (80 W Portal Ave) has been an anchor store for the neighborhood. It’s run by one of the former owners of Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, and it sells new and remaindered books, as well as provides a range of services, from author signings and book release events to a meeting place for classes and community activities. It has a nice kids literature section, tables and shelves for current fiction and nonfiction trade paperbacks, and magazine racks. The staff is dedicated and knowledgeable. This is a well loved, full-service neighborhood bookstore that easily could be found in Paris. Right next door, there’s The Music Store (66 W Portal Ave). Okay, so they’re not big on creative names here, but this tiny little record shop is crammed full of CDs, DVDs, vinyl, tapes, anything musical new or used. Mostly used. This place promotes various local and regional musical events as well and besides, its simply a cool fucking store. Lot’s of great pictures and posters. In Paris, everything has pretty much made the transition to digital, and there’s not much specialty vinyl around. Not like specialty Parisian bookstores, anyway. So The Music Store is truly unique.

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There is absolutely no way I can visually describe El Toreador Restaurant (50 W Portal Ave). The exterior has that bright Mexican house coloring that only hints at the complete chaos inside. The furnishings are as multicolored as the exterior, and every other surface—every wall and the ceiling—is entirely covered with stuff. Photos, murals, paintings, streamers, pinatas, dolls, sculptures, hanging furniture, “day of the dead” figurines, jugs, pitchers, dishes, signs, neon, graffiti; this is only a small fraction of the crap stuck on everything, everywhere. This is only decent Mexican food, what I used to call border Mexican food when I lived in San Diego. The amazing deal is the range of beers on the menu and displayed via empty bottles lining the walls. I’m no longer a drinking man, but I was impressed with the selection. There’s no experience comparable to El Toreador Restaurant in Paris. While the cuisine is no great shakes, the decor is authentic and eye popping. Plus, its a family owned and run establishment. After a Mexican meal, its time to take in a movie at the CinéArts at the Empire (85 W Portal Ave) across the street. First run movies, some “independent” and some 3D, in this multiplex movie theater, which offers stadium seating, air conditioning, and the usual food concessions. The CineMark chain got into trouble when a CEO (I think) acknowledged donating to the Proposition 8 Campaign and provoked a short lived boycott from the gay community. Yet, with the dwindling number of cinemas around (unlike Paris), CinéArts at the Empire has managed to weather this controversy and remain a hub in the West Portal neighborhood, as well as relevant to San Francisco in general.

GLEN PARK

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Okay, Bird and Beckett Books and Records (653 Chenery St) fucking rules. This shop has had to struggle financially, like so many independent bookstores in San Francisco, and its month-to-month as far as the rent and bills. But Bird and Beckett is still here, and it is an institution not only in Glen Park, but in San Francisco as well. This place is not unusual by Parisian standards in offering new and used books and records. What is unique is the regular poetry readings and bebop jazz performances, in addition to the usual book and author events common to most other bookstores. When Bird and Beckett was evicted several years ago from down the block, its future appeared bleak. Now, at least the bookstore has a future, if only tentative. Keep patronizing Bird and Beckett to keep them afloat.

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Pizza is a religion in San Francisco. Thin crust, deep dish, twice baked, New York style; people fight over which is the best. Gialina (2842 Diamond St) serves up thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza, not to mention fresh antipasti and salads, and a roast of the day. The place is small, and Gialina doesn’t take reservations, so expect to wait to be seated. It’s also family friendly, so a few squealing kids is par for the course. Canyon Market (2815 Diamond St) is right across the street. Canyon Market considers itself a full service neighborhood grocery for Glen Park, but its somewhat of a boutique market and a tad pricy. But what stands out here is the prepared foods, the salad bar, the butchered meats, and the fresh baked breads, which rivals anything to be found in Paris. My wife and I do go out for take-out grocery food, but of all the markets we frequent, Canyon Market offers the tastiest, most varied prepared foods. Delicious.

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When I reviewed Dolores Park in part 5 below, I mentioned that it had the pretense of “wildness.” Glen Canyon Park (Elk and Chenery St) is the real thing, at least as real and as wild as a park gets completely surrounded by a city. Paris offers nothing like Glen Canyon Park in a fully metropolitan setting. There are grassy areas and playgrounds and baseball fields and a recreation center. Yet it also covers 70 acres, with a free flowing creek (Islais Creek), hilly and rocky terrain laced with hiking trails, and lots of trees and coastal scrub. Red-tailed hawks and great horned owls breed in the park, and coyotes have been seen in here. An example of urban planning at its best.

conclusion
I’ll conclude both this series (San Francisco, Paris of the West) and my other related series (City of Light) in a combined part 7.

Posted in City of Light, coyotes, coyotes in San Francisco, Glen Park, life, Paris, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods, series, West Portal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »