Monthly Archives: November 2013

Actually, neither one of these things is a mountain lion.

Because I have a thing for wrongfooted warning signs (see also yesterday’s item):

ImageImageAt left is a sign near the gate at the Asilomar conference center and resort in Pacific Grove, CA. (PIcture taken a while ago but the sign is still there.)

Below is a sign in Fremont Peak State Park on the other side of Salinas from there.

Each one of these signs marks a huge patch of poison oak, which can release dangerous oils from the stems even when not in leaf. By comparison with which, who’s afraid of a little old mountain lion?


Will San Francisco accept “upscale” residential hotels?

The smart commenters on Socketsite, a local San Francisco real estate blog, are having a two-day conversation that may document a key moment in U.S. housing history. I’ve put up a Storify about it here, including counterpoint from an anti-gentrification conversation that some of us had about it on Twitter.

[Note: The Storify page is showing 404 errors on first click of the link. If you reload it ought to show up, or if not try this link to my Storify profile and backtrack.]

All this started early yesterday afternoon with the news that a developer proposed to build a new “upscale” residential hotel. For some time now, San Francisco developers have been putting up small units for frugal single professionals. But until now it has been under the heading of “micro-apartments“.

The first few Socketsite commenters responded with confusion and distaste, thinking of hotels as places where poor people live. But they’re not dumb. As of last night, and continuing today, the conversation has turned toward seeing middle-class hotel life as a business opportunity.

Residential hotels, known as “SROs” for “single-room occupancy”, have been stigmatized in San Francisco for two or three generations as places where only the poorest people would live. That was never entirely true but the assumption may have helped protect the rent-controlled tenancies of some actual low-income people. Because of anti-SRO snobbery, they arguably faced less competition for their housing.

Some of this attitude persists. Socketsite commenter Kyle has written this morning:

“There is no such thing as an “upscale” SRO. What kind of “upscale” people live in a room without a kitchen? This will very quickly become a place of filth and crime. I would rather live next to a homeless shelter than a seven story SRO.”

Apparently he’s never heard of the Waldorf-Astoria.

On the Storify page I’ve included some links to historical context for what, from here, seems to be a genuine turning point in American commercial attitudes.

[Added later: As one of the SocketSite commenters noted, some middle-class residential hotels operate under the label “extended stay”.

Meanwhile, a string of “mini-suites” in Seattle has moved another notch upward — but no more — in the level of stability suggested by its promotion page: “Short-term leases (even month-to-month) are available.”]

Boundaries South of Market, San Francisco

At left: hole in the patch in the fence that they put up after they shut down the King Street camp. At right: Fence on the north side of the highway onramp, blocking the shortcut between the Berry Street housing and the Fourth Street rail station, taken from near the place where they shut down the King Street camp.

IMG_0569detail IMG_0570scaled



Right: five no-trespassing, no-parking and no-dogs signs. Count ’em, five.






Below: Telling myself the scary Disney billboard is about Santa, not taking your car. That’s 850 Bryant in the background, AKA the Hall of Justice.

IMG_0574scaled 850 Bryant from Boardman Place.IMG_0576scaled County Jail public entranceIMG_0579scaled They really do mean Customer Service is off to the left. Customer Service means the building with the heavy-glassed transaction windows where you pay to get your car back.IMG_0582scaled Elementary school. I guess these gates are primarily to shut people out, not in?IMG_0583detail Digital gates.IMG_0585detail Home.IMG_0587

In search of Brautigan’s Cleveland Wrecking Yard

When Richard Brautigan went Trout Fishing in America he told a tale of riding the Number 15 bus — that means, south on Third Street along San Francisco’s southeast waterfront — to the Cleveland Wrecking Yard where they had a trout stream for sale by the foot. Fictional-sounding kind of geography to the place. Part of it is an outdoor storage yard but it also has a front show window. And then it seems to have a second story too since “the waterfalls are upstairs in the used plumbing department.”

So it turns out the Cleveland Wrecking Yard was real, and (if you ask me) the funny geography may be explained by the real thing having existed on two properties. The erudite fan site says Brautigan really did help a friend buy a used window at the Cleveland Wrecking Yard in 1958. As location it gives: “2800 3rd Street; Quint Street” and, on second reference, “a demolition business on Quint Street”. That has to mean two different places. The Third Street address is a few blocks north of Islais Creek near the San Francisco Bay waterfront. All of Quint Street is farther inland (i.e. west) and definitely south of the creek.

The 2800 – 3rd Street address does seem to be right. The good offices of the SF Public Library and the Internet Archive have combined to place a 1958 San Francisco city directory online. Page 599 of it notes several businesses under “Cleveland”, including not only the “Cleveland Vibrator Co.” (no kidding), but also “Cleveland Wrecking Co. Chas H. Rose v-pres bldg 2800 3d.” As shown at this Google Street View link, a long two-story building at the Third Street address has been fixed up a lot but you can still see how, presuming suspension of the laws of physics, someone might have laid out a 60-foot waterfall horizontally along its second floor.

On the other hand, the city directory page for Quint Street doesn’t mention “Cleveland” at all. Pity.

Just a guess but maybe the Cleveland Wrecking showroom for customers could have been on hard-bitten but businesslike Third Street while the same company could have used a storage yard over on Quint for large, awkward and less popular items. A likely place for such a yard, on Quint, could have been somewhere around Davidson Street in the jumble of wrecking, auto and scrap yards on the south bank of Islais Creek.

This would fit the part in Brautigan’s story where the yard manager gives directions to an area where “what’s left of the animals” are on display as possible extras to go with the stream: “You’ll see a bunch of our trucks parked on a road by the railroad tracks. Turn right on the road and follow it down past the piles of lumber…” Sounds about right.

There’s still a yard where you can buy a salvaged window frame (if not a trout stream) just a few blocks east of Quint and Davidson along that south bank of Islais Creek. It’s Building Resources, out there on Amador north of the postal complex.

[Added: Brautigan’s fictional tale of animals in storage on Quint Street isn’t all that far-fetched either. Mike Garza, who ran a junkyard right near Quint and Davidson, had 13 Barbados blackbelly sheep, all rams, seized from his property in 2004. He briefly faced criminal charges but they were dropped on his agreement to move the sheep to a pasture in Sonoma County.]

It’s exciting to know the real locations involved. Especially that Brautigan may have picked up the unique industrial-backwater atmosphere of that Quint and Davidson auto-yard district.

On the other hand, knowing the facts is bad for a nice conjecture I had going.

I had started out to write this post by wondering if the trout stream for sale “by the foot length” might have been stacked up in its sections of “ten, fifteen, twenty feet, etc.” in Building 2 at Pier 70. I still think Building 2 looks like the kind of place even now I’m sure that it wasn’t. It has the old Dogpatch/Bayview warehouse-world feeling, only parts of which are quaint enough to qualify for preservation.

IMG_0449scaledYou get to Building 2 by way of the Delancey Street Movers lot. Apparently it’s still in use just like it says on the box: by Paul’s Cost Less, AKA Cost/Less Inventories. Some beautiful last-century language in those sigIMG_0454detail2ns painted on the wall.

The signs are very pre-Amazon, pre-eBay.

The signs say:

“Salvors and Appraisers”

“Wholesalers * Jobbers * Salvor”

“Parking for Scooters Only”

“Promotional Items”

“Flea-Market Venders Welcome” (sic)

Brautigan’s text just kind of fits those signs. Frexample: “‘Sir,’ the salesman said, ‘I wouldn’t want you to think that we would ever sell a murky trout stream here. We always make sure they’re running crystal clear before we even think about moving them.”