Category Archives: San Francisco

In which I write up the NEMA for Failed Architecture

I have a guest post on Failed Architecture about the uproariously tin-eared marketing campaign for San Francisco’s NEMA apartment complex.

Here it is. Editors Mark Minkjan and RenĂ© Boer did a lovely job. Especially RenĂ©’s choice of the opening image. Very Sirens of Titan.

In case you’re wondering, the people crossing the street outside in Santa and Christmas-tree costumes were part of last week’s Santacon pub crawl.

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.

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

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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. Continue reading

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 linear 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 Brautigan.net 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. Continue reading

The taming of Pier 70’s ghosts

IMG_0357detailTwice I’ve had the thrill of crossing the Spanish-French border under European Union law. Once at Hendaye, once at Portbou. There are no border guards now. No papers to show. You just go on through. If you’ve read and heard about the history of border crossings there, it’s like undercounting stair steps in the dark: you reach out a toe, feeling for that one more step down, and instead you find bizarrely solid ground.

Without meaning to suggest equivalence, I had a distant echo of that feeling today at the gate shown here. It was, until recently, the gate to San Francisco’s main city car impound yard. For the last ten years it was run by the Auto Return company. Before then it was run by the legendary City Tow. Continue reading