A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos III

Part of a series of posts about the history of the Balboa Reservoir. View more photos here and here.

By this time next year, the lower portion of the Balboa Reservoir will have begun its transformation into a housing development. These photos were taken over the previous year to document some of its life as a a rather scrappy and wild open space–used by people and animals–which will soon pass into history.

The massive north tree. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
The massive north tree. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Foggy view north on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Foggy view north on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
A walker and a cyclist. Balboa Reservoir, June 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
A walker and a cyclist. Balboa Reservoir, June 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Looking west to San Ramon Way. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Looking west to San Ramon Way. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

Continue reading “A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos III”

A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos II

Part of a series of posts about the history of the Balboa Reservoir. View more photos here and here.

By this time next year, the lower portion of the Balboa Reservoir will have begun its transformation into a housing development. These photos were taken over the previous year to document some of its life as a a rather scrappy and wild open space–used by people and animals–which will soon pass into history.

A walker on the berm taking a selfie in setting sun. Balboa Reservoir, Apr 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
A walker on the berm taking a selfie in the setting sun. Balboa Reservoir, Apr 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Looking west on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Looking west on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Walkers on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Walkers on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

 

View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

Continue reading “A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos II”

A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos I

Part of a series of posts about the history of the Balboa Reservoir. View more photos here and here.

By this time next year, the lower portion of the Balboa Reservoir will have begun its transformation into a housing development. These photos were taken over the previous year to document some of its life as a a rather scrappy and wild open space–used by people and animals–which will soon pass into history.

Sitters on the berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Sitters on the berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

Continue reading “A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos I”

The Congo in Sunnyside

One of a series of posts about Sunnyside streets and street names.

Congo Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood runs nine blocks, from Circular Avenue to Bosworth Street, from the edge of the I-280 freeway to the edge of Glen Canyon Park. It makes the ‘C’ in the short run of alphabetical street names that begins with Acadia Street on the east and ends with Hamburg Street on the west (changed to Ridgewood Avenue in 1927).

The name has been a mystery of sorts to many. A scooter messenger I once knew who liked to contemplate the city’s enigmas used to find himself pleasantly puzzled when stopped at Congo on his way out Monterey Boulevard. If you live in the neighborhood, it’s easy for the name to become part of the furniture—used but not noticed.

Unlike the picturesque set of river-themed street names in a Sacramento suburb, where ‘Congo’ sits next to ‘Klamath’ and ‘Nile,’ Sunnyside’s Congo seems without meaningful context, being next to streets named Detroit and Baden. How it came to be the choice of the Sunnyside Land Company when the district was laid out in 1891 is the story of idealized capitalist aspirations that would soon meet the realities of imperialist atrocities against indigenous peoples in the heart of Africa.

In the two decades following the naming of the street in Sunnyside, the Congo in Africa was the site of a genocide of staggering proportions. Many people have told the story; this article highlights only some of it, including a few heroes of humanitarian reform of the time who should be better known, as well as an African American poet who evoked the Congo throughout his long working life.

And the Congo has resonance in the immediate present: the recent efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement in Belgium may finally knock the villain responsible for the atrocities, King Leopold II, off his plinth. Better a century too late than never.

Continue reading “The Congo in Sunnyside”

Ocean and Frida Kahlo Way: 1980 and Today

Shot from the pedestrian overpass in 1980, this view of Ocean Avenue and Frida Kahlo Way (then Phelan Ave) shows the same transit-dense area as today, but with a few changes. Grand Auto Supply is gone, replaced with housing and retail at 1100-1250 Ocean (2011-2014). City College Station (aka Phelan Loop) was repositioned in 2013. Overhead utility lines were undergrounded in the late 1970s. The Ocean Ave Vet Hospital is still there, on left, 40 years on. The growth of a large tree next to the overpass made a precise match to the original impossible (therefore no slider). View more comparison photos here.

1980. View west from pedestrian overpass, Ocena Ave and Frida Kahlo Way. Photo: William J Madden OpenSFHistory.org
1980. View west from pedestrian overpass, Ocean Ave and Frida Kahlo Way. Photo: William J Madden OpenSFHistory.org View larger 
2019. View west from pedestrian overpass, Ocean Ave and Frida Kahlo Way. Photo: Amy O'Hair SunnysideHistory.org
2019. View west from pedestrian overpass, Ocean Ave and Frida Kahlo Way. Photo: Amy O’Hair SunnysideHistory.org View larger 

View from Hazelwood: 1973 and Today

1973. Photo: Greg Gaar. OpenSFHistory.org

Move slider to compare photographs. Looking south from Hazelwood Ave in Sherwood Forest neighborhood on Mount Davidson. Changes at the Balboa Reservoir (center) are notable, while much else remains the same. San Bruno Mountains on horizon. View larger here.   Look at other comparison photographs here.

 

Ballot Battles and Campus Claims: The History of the Balboa Reservoir 1983-1991

One of a series of articles on the history of the Balboa Reservoir.

As San Francisco city government currently works through the planning process for a housing project on the last remaining seventeen acres of the original Balboa Reservoir land, a review of the dramatic fate of the first housing plan for that land is in order.

1985-BalboaHeights-streetview-eg
1985. Architect’s drawing of home for “Balboa Heights” on South Balboa Reservoir.

In the 1980s, rather than watch the Mayor’s Office of Housing sell off part of the Balboa Reservoir land that was for ten years the site of City College’s West Campus, a campus-based coalition of faculty, staff, and students, joined by some local residents, fought back against housing plans through the ballot over several elections, from 1985 to 1991.

1991-L-No-Flyer-CCSF-Archives
1991. Front of flyer for No on Prop L campaign. CCSF Archives.

Continue reading “Ballot Battles and Campus Claims: The History of the Balboa Reservoir 1983-1991”

WAVES, West Campus, and Waterless Basins: the History of the Balboa Reservoir 1945-1983

1954. CCSF. SF History Center. SF Public Library.

One of a series of articles on the history of the Balboa Reservoir.

From the end of WWII until the mid-1980s, there were several ill-fated attempts to fund the building of the Balboa Reservoir; it was dug and paved but not finished in the late 1950s. Its real life during these years was as an asset to City College, first as West Campus, then as parking for students, faculty, and staff.

But it also functioned as a place for a host of casual uses by local residents, some legal and some not: teen drivers, go-cart races, runners and walkers, Riordan football team training, underage drinking, motorcycle berm-jumping, police safety training, and more. No city agency seriously considered housing during these years; after WWII there were still plenty of empty lots in the city on which to build.

Making Wartime WAVES

In June 1944 the SPFUC discussed the matter of leasing the reservoir land to the US Government, in line with the US President’s edict that any unused public land be put to wartime use.[1] The Navy was given a lease which was to end six months after the “national emergency.” A large compound comprising many buildings was quickly built for the United States Naval Reserve Women’s Reserve, known under the acronym WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). The facility opened in July 1945. It included housing for over a thousand enlisted and officer women, two-story buildings, and an auditorium, with all the needed water, sewer, electricity, and gas infrastructure.[2]

It was an impressive effort.

1954April12-West-Campus-BalboaReservoir-sm_AAD-7777
1947c. Aerial looking over the Navy’s Women’s Reserve facility on the Balboa Reservoir land. SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY.

Continue reading “WAVES, West Campus, and Waterless Basins: the History of the Balboa Reservoir 1945-1983”