A Home in the Countryside of San Francisco
•••••••••• July 15, 2023 ••••••••••
My house at 3425 Alemany Blvd. was initially built where City College is today and it was moved to its present location in 1948. Permits indicate that this house was built in 1927. The value of the home when it was purchased in 1948 was $9,000. It may have been the only house on the block. Safe to say it is worth more than that now.
The neighborhood was much different then. Yellow and white margaritas were everywhere in wild areas on the south and north side of Alemany Blvd. There was no Highway 280. However, there was a railroad track which had a freight train carrying goods to the north, no passengers aboard. It may not have gone downtown but it likely went to the Bayview district which had numerous commercial enterprises. On occasion, a freight train would pass by the house, crushing the stones we children put on the railroad tracks for fun.
There was still a steep slope on the hill where the railroad track was. Unfortunately, the vegetation on the slope was often wild blackberry, making it treacherous to ride down the slope on our cardboard sleighs. Once, somebody dumped a car hood on the top of the hill. We turned the hood over on its front side, making a sleigh of sorts, and had one momentous ride down the slope. The hood was too heavy to take back up the hill for another ride. It was so heavy because, in those days, a significant amount of steel was used to make cars.
BROTHERHOOD WAY, A HISTORIC STREAM BED
Brotherhood Way was Stanley Drive then, but more importantly, the "pink bridge" was not built yet. Nuisance water appeared to be the stream's last remnants that historically flowed down Brotherhood Way.
While this bridge was under construction, traffic was at a standstill, as commuters had to drive great distances to circumvent the Highway One traffic. The memory of that intense traffic and the fear of the same traffic delays triggered my opposition to the construction suggested by Liz Brisson and the SFMTA on Highway One.
Most importantly, when the Westlake development was built, the best way for many westsiders to reach downtown was via Alemany Blvd. During those days, traffic was packed, and the hidden problem with all this traffic was the lead in gasoline.
A Safeway supermarket stood where what is now the entrance to Highway 280. I remember countless visits to the market and on our return home, we would stop and pick the margaritas for a lovely bouquet.
CHARACTERISTICS OF PALMETTO AVENUE
Palmetto Avenue was a dirt road behind my house in those days. Children on bicycles rode up and down that dirt road for exercise and fun. I was surprised to see the remnants of Palmetto Avenue in Pacifica beside Eddie's Valero gas station. Palmetto Avenue has been moved and altered countless times over the years. The church where Merced Extension Triangle Neighborhood Association (METNA) conducts its meetings is on Palmetto Avenue. When they built the San Francisco Golf Club, one of the casualties was Palmetto Avenue again. Palmetto means cockroach in Spanish.
When Highway 280 was in the planning stage, my neighbors to the east complained that the City purchased their house through the power of eminent domain. For a number of months, I worried that my house would be meet the same fate. Fortunately, those same neighbors went down to the Planning Department and discovered that my home at 3425 Alemany would be spared. Not so for the old house that was just behind ours and with which we shared a backyard. When that house was removed, our backyard doubled in size.
When I was a boy, there was a gas station at Alemany Blvd and Sagamore Street where a triangular house/apartment exists today. With the construction of Highway 280, traffic patterns changed, and the gas station was no longer viable. This triangular property remained vacant for many years and was only recently turned into a creative house using the tip of the triangle as a viewing porthole to see the Brotherhood Way Greenbelt.
There were numerous “greenhouses” where Extreme Pizza and H Mart are today. They had something to do with all the margaritas (daisies) that grew there in the past. In those days, there was plenty of undeveloped land in the Triangle. Today, the only thing undeveloped is the Brotherhood Way Greenbelt. We can only hope that Supervisor Asha Safai and Mayor Breed do not have their eyes on that property as the next big development in the area.
NATURAL STONE BRIDGES
There were at least three natural sandstone bridges in Pacifica along the beach, but they were much more delicate than the heavy one pictured. Sadly, I remember these lovely bridges taken by the tide — an important event in my childhood because we would visit the beach just to see them. Eventually, they were all lying horizontally in the ocean. Contact with the sea caused those sandstone bridges to dissolve quickly.
When I was young, fishing was common in Lake Merced. An angler caught an enormous fish — three-feet-long and one-foot-wide from top to bottom. As a boy, I thought it was a trout that avoided capture for years. Recently, in writing a history of Lake Merced, I learned of two large fish that aree indigenous to Lake Merced. They are the Sacramento Blackfish and the Sacramento Perch. Even though the lake has been poisoned several times with the pesticide rotenone, a poison that leaves vegetation intact but generally kills fish, these survived and may still be found in Lake Merced. One of my childhood experiences was seeing one of these ancient fish likely still swimming in Lake Merced today. People still fish Lake Merced.
DALY CITY EARTHQUAKE
On March 22, 1957, an earthquake occurred with a Richter rating of 5.3. While children were under their desks at Sheridan Elementary School during the quake, a two-to-three-inch crack developed in the classroom wall. For four years, the school was only superficially repaired but remained functional. Then, SFUSD built temporary classrooms around the school's perimeter damaged by the earthquake, and then the main building was demolished. These temporary bungalows remained on site for 17 years, until time, mold and fungus damaged the cheap siding of the buildings, rendering them uninhabitable. Mary and Al Harris advocated the replacement of those bungalows with a more permanent structure. The OMI neighborhood is grateful for the Harris' promotion and rebirth of the Sheridan Elementary School.
Any historical view of the area would have to mention Peter Vaernet, the founder of Brooks Park and Sisterhood Gardens. Peter passed away in March, but neighbors will always remember him fondly. I'm grateful to the Ingleside Light for their remembrance, and recommend the video of Peter. The photo is courtesy of the Western Neighborhoods Project.
LIVING IN THE TRIANGLE TODAY
As I mentioned before, my parents purchased the house I live in for $9000 in the ‘40s. At that time, houses were far more affordable in Western neighborhoods than today. An ad for a home in nearby Lakeside shows a similar home for sale in 1937, and though there is no asking price, but according to the advertisement, the terms were comparable to current rents. A similar home to mine in Merced Heights (a “fixer”) is listed for $600,000 today. I’ll always be grateful that my parents took the brave leap to invest in the Westside.
Glenn Rogers, RLA Landscape Architect
Glenn Rogers, RLA Landscape Architect / License 3223
July 15, 2023