It’s Always Sunny in the Sunset

Fog schmog, one of San Francisco's loveliest neighborhoods is just blocks from the ocean.

The Outer Sunset (Photo by Jessica Christian)

They’re reportedly all gone now, but for a long time, a section of what is now the Outer Sunset was a neighborhood constructed from disused cable cars and other pre-SFMTA cast-offs. During the quarter-century or so that led up to the First World War, Carville — or Carville-by-the-Sea, the tongue-in-cheek pomp of which sounds like shade thrown at Carmel  — stood around what is now 46th, 47th, and 48th avenues, just yards from the high-tide line.

A community built from reclaimed materials a century before tiny houses and reduced ecological footprints came into vogue, Carville was an artists’ colony tucked into the dunes. It must have been quite a sight to witness the fire that accompanied the 1906 earthquake from that distance, then watch as the survivors packed themselves into earthquake shacks as the city rebuilt.

If, amid all the pastel stucco and behind all the jazzy garage doors, any contemporary structures contain horse-drawn 19th-century rail cars, the secret is well-kept. Then as now, the Outer Sunset remains a neighborhood apart, intensely beloved by locals who sense more than a whiff of bemusement and outright snobbery emanating from other parts of the city. It’s so far! It’s too foggy! It’s basically suburbia!

It’s a treasure. Often, referring to someone’s neighborhood as “out there,” with its implication of remoteness from the main action, can raise hackles. Here, locals seem to revel in it. Sure, parking can be awful on sunny days or at brunch time, and part of the Great Highway may one day have to be abandoned and rerouted to prevent erosion and save indispensable wastewater infrastructure, but it’s a neighborhood that begs for block-by-block exploration.

From the Doggie Diner head mounted on a pole near the zoo to the SF Gem and Mineral Society’s rock tumblers to the polyhedral ceiling fixtures at Outerlands to the occasionally visible horizon on the Pacific Ocean, there’s plenty to marvel at in the Outer Sunset, if only you’ll take the time. You might even find a homemade Batmobile. And if you see anyone living out of what looks like a hundred-year-old train, let us know.

Check out more stories in our feature on the Outer Sunset here:

Who Opens an Independent Bookstore in 2017?
Black Bird Books has what it takes to make it work. But who knew the Outer Sunset had this many boutiques?

Infinite Appetite, Finite Budget: Eating in the Outer Sunset
Between Sunset Boulevard and the ocean, there are plenty of brunch spots, fish tacos, and third-wave coffee shops.

Unpaving Paradise
More than 113,000 gallons of the neighborhood’s stormwater are diverted through city sewers annually, thanks to the Sunset District’s Front Yard Ambassadors.

A Rejection of ‘Pure Shlock’
A colorful candy dish of castle-like houses hides along several blocks in the Outer Sunset.

Will Teach For Housing
Plans inch closer to converting a 1.25-acre lot in the Outer Sunset to homes for SFUSD professionals.

Surrender to the Sand
The southern end of Ocean Beach may get a facelift.

 

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