The Borderlands: San Francisco’s Southern Tier

You are still in the city.

The Sundial in Ingleside

San Franciscans can get a little tetchy about the boundaries of their neighborhoods. In SF Weekly’s 2017 Nob Hill issue, we took the word of a former resident (and Curbed SF writer) that California Street marked that neighborhood’s southern border. It made sense. But an irate reader wrote in insisting it was actually Pine Street, one block south (which suggests that she lived between California and Pine and her identity was wrapped up in a Nob Hill address).

Elsewhere, people frequently misapply the term “Outer Mission” to the area around 24th Street BART, when it’s actually a wholly separate zone southwest of Bernal Heights, largely enmeshed with the Excelsior District. The idea of “outerness” suggests the periphery, a place far from the main action, but the neighborhoods along San Francisco’s southern border aren’t merely inner-ring bedroom burbs with houses too old to have street-facing garages. They’re economically and racially diverse places, a little quirky — and not hard to get to, either. Beyond BART, the K-Ingleside and the M-Ocean View streetcar lines make for a practical commute, and the latter will eventually be rerouted into the thicket of high-rises at Parkmerced, a planned development built by MetLife during the Second World War and still the second-largest housing complex of its kind west of the Mississippi.

From the craggy panorama of Lakeview and Ashton Mini-Park to the orange-and-yellow excellence of El Pollo Supremo, there’s lots to see. Little Hollywood, surely one of S.F.’s obscurest nabes, also has one of the best names. Rumor has it that Mae West once lived in the city’s southeasternmost extremity, but it’s actually a reference to the L.A.-esque style of residential architecture. Leland Avenue, nearby Visitacion Valley’s main drag, is a little boarded-up, but there’s a public art piece called Street Life, REBAR’s clutch of 20-foot-tall melty parking meters. Crocker-Amazon sits at the foot of San Bruno Mountain, merging seamlessly with Daly City and home to some of the city’s more imaginative garage doors. The playground of the same name, an extension of John McLaren Park, has bocce courts, tennis courts, and no fewer than five baseball fields. West of the Excelsior and south of Balboa Park are Ingleside and Oceanview, whose commercial corridors burst with dive bars and taquerias and Vietnamese food.

Residents have to put up with a lot of “Is this still even San Francisco?” snobbery, but a Whole Foods and a Philz Coffee are within blocks of one another on Ocean Avenue, and Trader Joe’s is nearby. 5150 Mission St., a nod to the psych-ward code, is essentially the gateway to San Francisco’s southernmost section, via its longest thoroughfare. But the neighborhood’s jewel is the Ingleside Sundial, the 105-year-old sculpture on the site of a former racing track that was the largest such timekeeping device in the world when it was built. If the passage of Proposition 7 yields its expected result, California might decouple from Daylight Saving Time and the sundial will be accurate every day of the year.

South of the zoo and north of the lakes and golf courses stands the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant, a state-of-the-art facility. (Longtime voters may remember 2008’s Proposition R, Chicken John’s measure that proposed naming it for outgoing President George W. Bush. It failed, 70-30.) Not technically in San Francisco but always associated with it is the Cow Palace, the site of rodeos and the Dickens Fair, the launching point for the AIDS/LifeCycle, and the spot where Barry Goldwater once said extremism in defense of liberty was no vice. If anything, the city line is vague and indistinct, demarcated mostly in the negative sense, by Daly City’s blue-seagull street signs. Mission Street itself runs almost to Colma BART before becoming El Camino Real, its “outerness” becoming even fuzzier. Outer from what, exactly? This is the place.

 

Read more from SF Weekly’s “Borderlands” issue

NIMBY-land Brisbane Says Yes to Major Housing
The small city’s voters narrowly approved a development that would add up to 2,200 housing units on the border of San Francisco and Daly City.

Urban Camper: Escape to Sunrise Point
S.F.’s southernmost urban campsite is a little-known respite for the outdoorsy.

Borderlands: Five Places to Eat and Drink Along S.F.’s Southern Edge
San Francisco’s southernmost reaches prove they’re very much a part of this food town.

S.F.’s Republicans Are Hiding Near the Border
A small southwestern edge of the city turned out for Trump in 2016. Will they change their vote in 2020?

For BART, No Representation Without Taxation
San Mateo County’s decades-long reluctance to fully join BART has San Francisco residents closest to Daly City Station paying double.

Inside the 7 Mile House, a 160-Year Old Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere
Sisig, adobo, and lumpia remain the best sellers at this Filipino-Mexican-Italian-American jewel, founded in 1858.

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