“Life in the Bay Area stood still”: A reporter’s recollection of the ’89 earthquake

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. As we look back over the 28 years since the temblor, Bay Area native Diana Gapuz walks San Francisco Diaries past the Battle of the Bay World Series, the ill-fated Cypress Structure, and a surreal commute in the aftermath to the KCBS newsroom in this firsthand account. We’ve all been supporting friends and family impacted by the fires in Northern California, and it’s reassuring to know that San Franciscans have always supported one another when disaster strikes. Here’s Diana:

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We were rushing to get out the door, to watch Game 3 of the A’s-Giants World Series with friends. Several sharp jolts stopped us in our tracks. My husband, Marc, picked up our 17-month old daughter Emma, and we stood in a door frame.

The ground stopped moving. After years in news radio, hyperconscious of time, I nailed the length of the quake — 15 seconds. I called into my station, KCBS, first on the air to describe what I felt on rock-solid Albany Hill. Maybe spoke for 15 seconds. Then the anchor moved on to a reporter in the field.

Time to get on the road. Emma and I were heading to Berkeley to hang out with my morning co-editor, Christina. Marc was meeting friends in Oakland. By the time we reached Christina’s house, we were slowly realizing this wasn’t your usual tremor. Reporters from across the Bay were describing frightening scenes and frightened people. Read more

Animal magnetism: The undeniable pull of underground SF

Sometimes opportunity knocks. Other times, you inadvertently stumble through its door. That’s what storyteller Steve Pepple discovered, when an unmarked door at a SoMa diner turned out to be a portal to a mysterious underground scene.

A designer at OpenGov, Steve works toward making cities (including our favorite one) more livable, whether he’s working on a budget or a bus. Podcast listeners, here’s Steve’s story:

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Since we expanded our storytelling lens in August, you’ve submitted amazing stories like a day in the life of a Nob Hill employee, the secret history behind the Transamerica building, and how a Bernal shopkeeper survived losing her lease. Remember to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode!

You can also catch Steve telling a new story live at Muni Diaries Live on Nov. 4; tickets are on sale now.

For your reading pleasure, here’s a transcript of Steve’s story: Read more

Heart-eyes for my hood: Upper Maltese Falcon


Photo from Tara’s IG profile @roopisonfire

Some thought my move from La Mision to downtown amounted to trading an interesting neighborhood for not a neighborhood at all.

Not quite.

An area I christened “Chinunionob” upon arrival, I found blocks of apartment buildings teeming with character. I became a regular at the oldest dim sum house in the city, and I learned just how happy the Tunnel Top bar makes people when I mention that it’s my local.

Dashiell Hammett’s universe from The Maltese Falcon is inextricably connected to this part of the world, exciting for history buffs, noir fanatics, or anyone, which is a lot of us, who is drawn to art that imitates life in San Francisco.

Burritt Street borders a store that sells “Shit, I need a tomato” tomatoes, last-minute runs for Haagen-Dazs Rocky Road, and bestickered bottles of wine, from which I’ve peeled many stubborn price tags en route to dinner. This same alley is where Hammett’s Miles Archer was “done in” by fictional femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

My trusty sedan occasionally sleeps on Dashiell Hammett Street, so named after a successful effort by City Lights Booksellers & Publishers owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti to honor San Francisco writers.

Considered through this historical Viewfinder, my life in Chinunionob sparkles a little brighter knowing that it moved one of the most celebrated noir storytellers of our time. More than an intersection of Chinatown, Union Square, and Nob Hill, it’s become a personal crossroads of inspiration, motivation, civic pride, and love.

Add Don Herron’s Maltese Falcon Tour, in its 40th year, to your to-do list. I certainly am.

Tara Ramroop is Hamster 1 of 2 keeping the San Francisco Diaries wheel in motion. She has hella heart-eyes emoji for SF, even when she’s walking up those pee-pee stairs on Stockton and Bush Streets. Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with your tale.

How one Bernal Heights shop survived the unexpected

Over the last few weeks, many of you already submitted San Francisco Diaries entries, ranging from a first job at the Nob Hill Theater to the secret history behind the Transamerica Pyramid. At San Francisco Diaries — home of Muni Diaries — we will still feature your Muni stories (after all, how can you talk about San Francisco without talking about Muni?) alongside stories about what makes San Francisco oh-so-SF.

Today’s San Francisco Diaries entry is from Eden Stein, who gives us an intimate look at what it’s like to nearly lose the business that you created, and how she survived nearly a decade as its owner.

Eden’s store, Secession Art & Design, is Bernal Heights’ neighborhood art gallery and indie artist collective, which recently, quietly, moved to a new location. You might have seen Eden out and about in the neighborhood, saying hello to the folks at Ichi Sushi or tending to her shop on Mission Street. Owning an independent gallery (or any small business, for that matter) in San Francisco is no easy feat, especially in these changing times.

In the summer of 2014, my heart dropped when I got a letter from my landlord saying that they decided not to renew my lease at the gallery I built, but gave me an option to stay by renting my storefront month to month. For any small business, this is the red flag: that you have no rent protection or rights. Secession Art & Design was just about to celebrate its 7th anniversary. After tears and some whisky, I realized I would have to walk away from what I had created. I picked myself up and started the quest for a new gallery and boutique location for myself and more than 60 independent artist and designers I represent.
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Unearthing hidden history underneath the Transamerica Pyramid

You’ve likely passed this spot a thousand times and probably never realized that, in its heyday, it was a one hell of a bohemian hot spot. In today’s San Francisco Diaries podcast episode, writer Hiya Swanhuyser shares how she found this piece of history and why she’s been obsessed with it ever since.

Hiya is working on a book about a lost piece of San Francisco history, the Montgomery Block building, which stood where the Transamerica Pyramid stands today. It was there for 107 years, and was a crucial gathering place for artists and writers, including Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and thinkers and political types such as Emma Goldman and Sun Yat-Sen, among many many others.

Listen to the episode:

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Here’s what the Montgomery Block building looked like in its glory days:
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Lessons from my first year in SF

If you’re not a San Francisco native, you’re, well, like a lot of people who currently call the city home. Though one of your Diaries editors entered this brave new world at the old Mount Zion Hospital on Divisadero, and the other has been here for two decades and counting, we are both constantly discovering gems — hidden, reimagined, or in plain view — of neighborhoods old and new. People and communities build a city, and we’re lucky to learn from each other, whether we’re standing shoulder to shoulder on Muni, in the protest line, or at the bar.

One thing is certain: we all learned tons during our first year in San Francisco. Take it from reader Andy W. and his wife, Katie, who moved here a year ago.

Being a new transplant these days can be controversial, but we think there’s no better time to explore what we want out of life in San Francisco, as well as what we can all bring back to it.

Today marks Katie and my one-year San Franciscoversary, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things about this complex but amazing city, beyond your basic “DON’T CALL IT SAN FRAN” citywide mandate.

1. People who live here mark the passage of time by commenting on all the restaurants that have closed, and the inferiority of what has replaced it.
2. Some parts of the city smell like pee. Some parts smell like flowers. Sometimes at the same time.
3. It only took me a year to compulsively carry a light jacket or hoodie with me where ever I go. No matter how hot it is. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.
4. If you wear a bright blue article of clothing, people assume you’re a huge Warriors fan and are suuuuper nice to you.
5. There are incredible breathtaking views at the end of so many streets.
6. Even for someone with as much privilege as I have, it takes an enormous amount of intention to live here. It takes a lot of energy to move around this tiny, 49 square-mile city among 850,000 of your neighbors.
7. It’s worth it. And I still have so much to learn.

Andy also runs a blog about pencils! You can find him at @woodclinched on Twitter.

So, what did you learn in your first years here? You too can add an entry to our collective journal. San Francisco Diaries is looking for your personal stories about what it means to live here, and what makes our city “so San Francisco.” Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox is always open!

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