Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Victorian Mansion Parade

A block up Franklin Street from my apartment, a surreal sight greeted onlookers early Sunday morning, an 1882 Victorian rowhouse inching down a three-lane road.
The small crowd that had gathered at Franklin and Golden Gate radiated cheer and amusement, as if a circus parade had unexpectedly arrived on a city's main street.
Cassi Sisto at the Hoodline site (click here) has an informative article about the abandoned building, and the maze its 70-year-old owner Tom Brown had to make his way through via the Byzantine agencies of the City and County of San Francisco. Planning, Transportation, Police, Traffic Control and other departments all had their own objections and specifications.
The plan to move the historic building six blocks to free up a large empty lot on Franklin Street involved eight years of setbacks and planning, but the monumental task was finally given the green light for Sunday.
A local man and his team led the move, and there's a fun testimonial to him on his company website: "Phil Joy, of Benicia, is a special kind of magician. He levitates whole houses, and even a few train cars, and moves them around like, well, building blocks.", says John Waters Jr., in an article in Weekly Calistogan News.
Though tree branches, signage and lights had been trimmed, moved or rotated ahead of time, it was very much an improvisatory process.
The top of the mansion at one point was stuck on a tree branch next to Opera Plaza, and after some maneuvering they just plowed ahead with a few branches tumbling to the sidewalk.
The six-bedroom mansion is 40 feet tall, 35 feet wide, and 80 feet long, and though crumbling, there were still plenty of traces of its former magnificence.
Turning right at the corner at Franklin and Golden Gate was another stumbling block.
However, the team somehow managed to maneuver the huge load a few inches to the right so it could arrive on Golden Gate unscathed.
The crowd cheered as it slowly advanced.
The back of the mansion looked slightly embarrassed to be seen in public looking so bedraggled.
Three hours later, we walked to Fulton Street where the Englander House was waiting to be backed into its new location.

Tom Brown, the developer, deserves an award for persevering through the bureaucracy and let's hope he is able to restore the building to a new glory.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Ocean Beach Life

Growing up in sunny Southern California beach towns, from Redondo to Avila, San Francisco's Ocean Beach has never held much appeal. I moved to the big city in the 1970s to be around smart people and leave mindless beach culture behind.
Forty-plus years later, Ocean Beach has become a safe haven during the pandemic for long, maskless walks, and it has been fascinating watching the animal and human life inhabiting its shores.
There are fitness enthusiasts on extrovert display, though not the multitudes of Southern California beaches.
There are also surfers...
...whose courage I admire immensely.
The ocean temperature hovers around 51 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter...
...and the sea is usually turbulent...
...with strong currents, riptides...
...and a long line of wave breaks.
Over the last month, dozens of amateur crabbers have arrived...
...setting up fishing poles on the shoreline... snag Dungeness crabs with bait and entangling wire bundles.

The crabbers seemed to be responsible about throwing back undersized crustaceans into the ocean...
...while keeping others for a seafood feast.
And then there were people whose joy was in building castles out of wet sand.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

From Boats to Buskers

The February weather this weekend was the kind that makes you want to move to California, even if you already live here.
We drove to South San Francisco's Oyster Point on Saturday afternoon, parking by new construction projects.
Instead of walking south, we ventured north along the Bay Trail on a jutting peninsula populated with office parks and small marinas. Unfortunately, the path was shared with way too many bicyclists grimly pedaling through pedestrian clusters as if by divine right.
Any blood pressure reduction from clean air and exercise was negated by sheer irritation at the bikers, so we bailed after a couple of miles and drove back home to Civic Center.
Hayes Open Streets on Friday evening through Sunday afternoon has returned after the latest pandemic lockdown, with Hayes Street closed from Franklin to Laguna, allowing for easy social distancing and outdoor dining in impromptu curbside cafes.
There were a new-to-me pair of buskers at Patricia's Green who looked like refugees from Cirque du Soleil or Palm Spring's Villagefest.
The picnic table crowd was suitably entranced, except for the sleepy woman next to me.
Watching someone playing a violin on a unicycle over a prerecorded soundtrack while a masked dancer does groovy moves is not my particular cup of tea, and it's not even the strangest thing one sees in this particular neighborhood on any given day, but it was a welcome, happy diversion.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

China Basin Birds

We walked from Civic Center to China Basin on Saturday afternoon.
Everywhere I looked there were birds decoratively displaying themselves on old pilings.
The waterside strip of parkland between 3rd and 7th Streets is perfect as a lunch spot...
...both for people watching...
...and bird watching.
Exotic waterfowl are hiding in trees...
...and sunning themselves on pilings before diving back into the water.