Remember the thriller Pacific Heights? About a yuppie couple (Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine) who renovate their Pacific Heights house only to have their psycho tenant (Michael Keaton, possibly trying to stretch his acting chops after two rounds of Batman movies) terrorize them and ruin their home improvement bliss? It was a bit of fun schlock. More unintentional giggles than thrills. The biggest laugh was that the couple’s dream house wasn’t located in the Pacific Heights at all, but Potrero Hill. Only San Franciscans would know the difference and appreciate the irony. Pacific Heights was (and still is) a very upscale area whereas Potrero Hill in the early 90s was a working class district. Gentrification has since kicked it up a rung; it’s now an upper-middle class neighborhood.
I thought about the movie last October when I was driving around the area looking for examples of Edwardian houses that were the inspiration for Love Match character Joe Trigoboff’s place. The view is still spectacular when it’s not obscured by all the construction. There’s tons of renovation going on. Rumor has it the budget for one home remodel is around $10M. It’s completely sheathed in white plastic to keep the flying debris and dust at bay. All those dotcom millionaires have to spend their money somehow.
There were plenty of Victorian, Mission revival and Chateau styles but fewer of the less ornate Edwardians. Did I imagine they were plenty in this neighborhood? Would I have to be like the movie’s location manager and go to another area for good examples? After much searching I found a few, but the intricate green terrazzo steps with red jewel-like granite … I found those in the Mission.
Jessica leapt up the terrazzo steps of a stately Edwardian house in Pacific Heights and rang the doorbell. Even though a few lights glowed from inside, nobody answered. “Mr. Trigoboff!” She banged on the door. “Joe! It’s Jessica Durrell!” Still no one came. She turned to go, her hopes fading, when she heard the deadbolt snap.
Edwardian styling, no intricate woodwork, no turrets
View from on high
Mission District terrazzo
Terrazzo up close
Haight District terrazzo
An Edwardian bordering on Italianate style
Rumored super pricey renovation.
All Hallow’s eve in Pacific Heights.
“Tourist trap” is defined as a restaurant, shop, or hotel, that exploits tourists by overcharging. That definition isn’t exclusive to Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s renown waterfront tourist destination. One could argue the whole city has become a trap of sorts; it’s become so expensive to live there and visit there. But this hasn’t stopped tourists from flocking to the wharf to munch on crab rolls, sourdough bread bowls filled with chowder, take boat tours of Alcatraz Island, and stock up on made-in-China plastic tchotchkes. Who cares if it’s cheesy. Fisherman’s Wharf is a vital part of San Francisco’s history.
According to FishermansWharf.org the waterfront has been active for over 125 years. Generations upon generations of families have been hauling in their catch from the waters around the Bay Area. The prized and plentiful Dungeness crab came from the “… Straits of Carquinez on the inland reaches of San Francisco Bay to the sandy shorelines off Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda. Over the years, clams, the natural food of the crab, disappeared from the Bay. The best crab catches were then made just outside the Golden Gate. Today, the crabbers must drop their crab pots far out near the Farallon Islands in 18 to 35 fathoms of ocean water.”
Like most things in this world, too much of a good thing, overfishing, has caused a shortage. You’d never know that visiting the wharf. Crab and other seafood is still in abundance. But the lobster is flown in from Maine. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
At Fisherman’s Wharf, it was business as usual. Tourists in their uniforms of bright polo shirts, baggy shorts, and webbed sandals grumbled in long lines as they waited for the ferry to take them on the Alcatraz Island tour. Many gathered around steaming seafood stands, which sold clam chowder in crusty sourdough bread bowls. Moving through the crush, Hayden pushed past a German tourist whose face was pressed into a guidebook, then sidestepped a vendor hawking a cable-car bank in one hand and Coit Tower pepper mill in the other. Crowds annoyed him—except, of course, when they were packing a nightclub to see him play.
trinkets and more trinkets
chowder waiting to be dispensed in bread bowls
what every frig needs
Boudin bakery sourdough Giants fan
While every neighborhood in San Francisco appears to be undergoing a transformation, Haight-Ashbury seems stuck in either the “Summer of Love 1968” or 1989. I can never decide which. The district has retained its signature attractions and distractions: smoke shops, funky vintage boutiques, skate rats, drugged-out homeless and tie-dyed clothing. In the late 80s, when gentrification was attempting to make a foothold with some new condos, an activist group protesting the development—”Stop the Mall-ing of Haight Street”—quickly formed. Said condo development was then torched. Authorities never proved who was responsible but a clear message was sent to developers that Haight Street was not to be messed with. In 2004, Urban Outfitters unsuccessfully tried to move in and was met with similar opposition.
Recently, my friend Philip and I hit the Haight. We noticed a few changes. All You Knead Cafe—known for its massive, unwieldy menu and hangover-cure homefries—had shuttered after twenty plus years. The repertory movie house the Red Victorian had closed, too. More gastropubs had opened up along with smoke shops offering in-house doctors who could easily provide marijuana prescriptions. Thankfully, the restaurant Cha Cha Cha, at the park end of Haight Street, was still there. We dipped in for lunch and ordered our favorite Caribbean-influenced dishes: plantains and beans, jerk chicken, and warm spinach and mushroom salad. We both hadn’t been for many years; the flavors were exactly as we remembered them. No need to change with the times here. Some things are perfect exactly the way they are.
Later in the afternoon Hayden, Adam, and two new band members—the lead guitarist, a long-haired recent graduate of Julliard, and the bass player, a former roommate of Adam’s who came out of retirement because he was creatively unfulfilled as a dentist—performed an acoustic set at Amoeba Records in Haight-Ashbury.
stoners ‘r’ us
parklets create community but eat up parking spaces
the many sights
Queen Anne Victoria houses known as Painted Ladies
the go-to shop for fun party clothes and Halloween costumes
don’t mess with Shiva