San Francisco Favorite Tips by SteveOSF
San Francisco Favorites: 601 reviews and 687 photos
Raccoons are rulers of the night
Favorite thing: Although San Francisco is a compact and well developed, an assortment of wildlife roam the City. Most wild animals in the City tend to be nocturnal. Enough open space and hideaways exist for these creatures to find refuge during the day. Whether you will see any will depend where you are, when you are there, and how hard you look. For the most part, these animals are harmless if given the proper respect. If you keep your distance, they should not present a problem should you encounter any of them.
Raccoons rule the night. I've seen them in about every neighborhood, even Fisherman's Wharf. They can get quite large, for a raccoon. These city slickers can be on the aggressive side. They will attack dogs if provoked and in certain circumstances, may even charge towards people. They can be found both alone or in small family groups. If you see any, it is best to give them a wide berth.
Skunks are another common creature of the night in the City. These also can be found throughout the City and can ruin your evening if you happen to get too close to one. Opossums are more illusive, but can occasionally be seen.
Seals have occupied the Bay long before the founding of San Francisco. Some of them decided to regain some lost turf and took over some boat slips at Pier 39. These intruders have since become a tourist attraction.
At dusk, bats can be seen and heard in some locations like Mount Davidson. These rare creatures are fairly harmless. Although some may find them a bit creepy.
Coyotes recently re-inhabited the City. Keep your distance from these guys or scare them away with a lot of noise if they approach. Under no circumstances should you attempt to feed them. They have been sited in the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Twin Peaks, on the bluffs above Ocean Beach, and even in the Potrero Hill district. It is unknown if they ventured up the beach and associated bluffs from San Mateo County or traversed the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin (without paying the toll). Either way they are there. They usually come out at night and are rarely seen. This illusive animal is the only critter on this list that I have not yet seen within the City. In the summer of 2007, two coyotes in Golden Gate Park became too aggressive and were destroyed by state wildlife officials.
Grey Fox are very rare. I have only seen them in the late afternoon on the bluffs above Ocean Beach near the San Francisco and Daly City boarder. They are sometimes seen in the Presidio.
Birds are abundant in San Francisco. You can see seagulls, pigeons, robins, hummingbirds, crows, parrots (yes the flock of parrots does exist), ducks, snowy plovers, heron, and occasional birds of prey like hawks. Alcatraz Island in the Bay is a major breeding ground for seagulls.
Some reptiles may crawl under a rock here. A garter snake is a rare find and is also pretty harmless. Lizards can be found in some open space areas.
In San Francisco you can find squirrels where you can find trees. Gofers burrow under manicured lawns, while field mice and other rodents scurry about. For a well developed City, quite a few wild creatures are about.
A glass of Hetch Hetchy water
Favorite thing: San Francisco enjoys one of the purest municipal water systems in the United States. Originating as snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the precious liquid begins to flow as snowmelt and is collected in Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. As a result of its pure origins, the City's water contains an extremely low amount of suspended particles.
In 2008, an executive order issued by the Mayor of San Francisco took effect that forbids City offices from purchasing bottled water. The purity of San Francisco's domestic water, combined with the various environmental considerations, especially in regard to the transportation of bottled water, was cited as his reasons for the action.
When in San Francisco, consider saving the world from manufacturing another plastic bottle and try the tap. Now if you are in a building with old lead pipes, let the water run for a few minutes or all bets are off. :)
Fondest memory: After most of the City burned following the 1906 Earthquake, San Francisco recognized the importance of securing a reliable source of water. Under the leadership of visionary City Engineer, Michael O'Shaughnessy, water rights were secured, a dam was designed, and the structure that eventually bore his name was constructed. Political opposition to the project existed, led by no other than the famed environmentalist John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club. However, the City prevailed in the political and legal struggle and the dam was completed in 1923.
The O'Shaughnessy Dam blocked the Tuolumne River and flooded scenic Hetch Hetchy Valley. Hetch Hetchy valley was a beautiful valley formed by glacierial action. Now this valley lies beneath Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
The reservoir provides excellent quality water to 2.4 million Californians in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Alameda Counties, as well as some communities in the San Joaquin Valley. The dam also generates electricity for San Francisco. San Francisco benefits greatly form this source of electrical power. In addition to providing energy for many Californians, this hydroelectric source of power also propels the City's electric transit vehicles and lights the streets of the City.
However, a controversial political movement exists that desires to remove the dam and restore Hetch Hetchy Valley back to its original condition.
Fresh Air over the Marina
Favorite thing: Due to the breeze from the Pacific and the region's natural air conditioner, San Francisco enjoys cleaner air than most cities. Its nearby neighbors are not so lucky. So when you see a fresh blanket of fog, breath in, and be thankful it is not smog.
The San Francisco Armory
Favorite thing: San Francisco is home to many unusual looking buildings. One such structure is the former armory. This historic brick building resembles a medieval fortress, complete with towers and battlements. Many of its windows are mere slits, resembling the olden openings of castles designed for firing arrows. A number of bricks protrude from the face of the building giving an illusion that the walls can be scaled.
The building has been retired as an armory for several years. A developer purchased the property with the intent of converting it to housing. This met with strong neighborhood opposition. A seconded planned use was during the dot com bubble where it was proposed that the old building be converted for use by internet business. Again the neighborhood mobilized to stop another use deemed to be unacceptable by them.
The frustrated developer recently sold the property quietly. It was purchased by a company specializing in adult films that are distributed over the internet. The purchase price exceeded fourteen million dollars. The new owner, although complying with the City's planning codes, minimized public input. When the new owners announced their plans to move from a warehouse a few blocks away into the building, the neighborhood was outraged. However, as all was legal and it was now unrelated to the government's transfer of the property, no means existed for the neighborhood to block the occupancy.
The new owners have occupied the buildings and apparently are giving the old armory some long needed deferred maintenance. They are apparently slowly acclimating into their new surroundings. Their announced intent is to convert the building into general use sound stages for use by more mainstream film companies.
Fondest memory: The pirate flag flying over the armory and the body hanging from the flagpole are Halloween decorations. I did a double take when I first saw them. Typically the U.S. or California state flag can be seen flying over the armory.
The building is located at Mission and 14th Streets. It nearly occupies an entire city block. There is no public access.
The fog rolls in over Mt. Davidson
Favorite thing: The City can experience more than its fair share of fog. This is especially true in the summer when the inland areas across the Bay heat up and Mother Nature decides to turn on the air conditioning. Some neighborhoods have the best of it, or the worst of it depending on your perspective, as for many locals fog is an acquired taste. The Sunset District, the Richmond District, Ocean Beach, the Presidio, the Marina, and Downtown can get socked in most often. Locations east of Mt. Davidson and Twin Peaks, like the Mission and Noe Valley, receive less fog. Keep the fog in mind when heading out to photograph a potentially obscured cityscape. When in doubt, bring a coat.
A Clear Day at the Marina District
Favorite thing: If I had to pick a time to visit San Francisco, it would be mid September through early October during the so called "Indian Summer." Often, the best weather of the year occurs at that time. The fog lifts, clear skies emerge, and the wind calms. This may be nature's unkind joke upon countless children from the western regions of the City, who after enduring a summer of fog, return to school to stare out the windows upon the sunlight shining beyond the reaches of the classroom.
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