[Update Dec 2023: some photographs of the quickly rising Gateway building now found at the end of this post.]
As recently revealed in the Ingleside Light, three of City College of San Francisco’s iconic public artworks are slated for relocation into the new Gateway building complex currently under construction at Ocean Avenue and Frida Kahlo Way. The collection of public art belonging to City College is significant and extensive, and the selection of these three works, spanning 65 years, forms a suitably impressive welcome to any student or visitor, and a visual statement about the importance and history of the college.
Let’s take a closer look at the works and the artists.
Bighorn Mountain Ram
In 1940, in the Art In Action ‘pit’ at the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE), Dudley Carter skillfully carved the form of a springing ram into a massive redwood trunk using just a woodsman’s axe.
Nearby, up on scaffolding above the ‘pit’, famed muralist Diego Rivera was also at work, painting the panels of Pan-American Unity, which would also later end up on the college’s campus. Rivera was so impressed by Carter that he made the process of the Ram’s creation and its sculptor the centerpiece of the mural. One Dudley Carter was not enough for Rivera; to show what he so admired, he painted three Carters.
By Amy O’Hair More photos and history about the Balboa Reservoir here.
The Balboa Reservoir is due for big changes, if all goes to plan—perhaps the last of its many transformations since Adolph Sutro’s eucalyptus trees were cleared from this corner of his massive forest in 1894. From these recent images I hope to someday create then-and-now photo sliders, showing dramatic changes after housing and a park go up on this land. These are places that automated street-mapping cameras never went, but later will go, when there are new streets and houses.
On the Lower Reservoir, the planned housing project has yet to break ground, but I have included some images from the developers’ projections. See plans here (under ‘Meetings’ > PDFs labeled ‘Boards for Community Feedback’; the most recent one has been removed unfortunately). More about the planned housing project on the developers website. Read some recent news on the funding at theIngleside Light.
Meanwhile, on the Upper Reservoir, City College is presently in the process of building the STEAM Center, for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math; a tall crane rises over the construction area, an unusual but increasingly more common sight in these neighborhoods. Read about the new project at the Ingleside Light. Or on CCSF’s own page about the new construction. Rendering and floorplans here.
In related news, the Board of Supervisors has approved naming the extension of Lee Avenue through the housing project after the mayor who set the ball rolling for the new development in 2014: “Mayor Edwin M. Lee 李孟賢市長街”. The other planned new streets have been given generic plant names–read more at the Ingleside Light.
Traffic calming – planting and saving trees – safe places for children to play – newly revealed local history: the issues on the minds of Sunnysiders fifty years ago were not so different from things that interest residents now. The newsletters of Sunnyside’s local organization from those years have recently been archived and made available online at the Internet Archive, and tell some inspiring stories about actions that still impact our lives today.
Although Sunnyside has seen organized advocacy by residents since the 1890s (more here), the current organization, Sunnyside Neighborhood Association (SNA), dates to late 1974. The 1970s saw a surge of local activism in the many neighborhoods in San Francisco. Five decades later, we still enjoy some of the fruits of that upwelling, for instance in open spaces that were established as parks. There was also a downside to the activism then that still affects the city; in some areas, such as the Richmond district, residents fought density with downzoning measures, working to exclude multi-unit buildings and “retain local character,” resulting in a dearth of housing units in subsequent decades, and de facto residential segregation.
But SNA was, according to the record of these early newsletters, more intent on trees, parks, and calming traffic. Monterey Boulevard had already undergone big changes in the 1950s and 1960s, with an extensive apartment-building boom. The 1970s saw even more upzoning on the boulevard. SNA didn’t oppose more housing, but as we’ll see, it did try to rescue trees that were eventually to fall victim to a particularly determined developer of multi-unit buildings, among many other projects, such as tree-planting and boosting local businesses.
The strange dominance of small single-family homes in San Francisco, with its roots in pre-Quake planning and post-Quake building, has come at last in this century to bite the city in its housing-supply backside. Density doesn’t match need now and it is difficult to see how it ever can. It is as though San Francisco, to personify for a moment, never expected to become a real city. So it allowed builders to fill the thousands of residential blocks with one-story-over-basement structures that cannot reasonably ever be transformed into multi-unit, multi-story buildings—unlike, say, a Mission-District Victorian or a Brooklyn brownstone. And should you be inclined to try, zoning and/or neighbors will prevent you from rebuilding one as a four-story wart on the smooth skin of row-upon-row of SFHs.
In their vast inertial numbers, the Little Boxes will always win. The march of those attached four- or five-room homes, on their narrow 25×100 foot lots, across hundreds of city blocks can only ever be disrupted here and there—a few corner developments, a few big structures on old gas station lots, a few scattered replacements, or the odd added story or ADU.
The die was cast—getting on for a hundred years ago now—and the pattern will persist.