The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour of neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, San Francisco celebrities, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome SFist editor Jay Barmann, who lives directly on the border of Alamo Square and the Fillmore. Let's see what he has to say about his part of town.
How long have you lived in your neighborhood?
Three and a half years.
Do you need a car to get around?
No. I have never owned a car in San Francisco, though I used to live much closer to BART and the Muni Metro, and these days I do a lot more walking and bus-riding. Alamo Square is practically the geographic center of the city, but it’s not as close to fast transit as I’d like.
Most reliable public transit:
The 5-Fulton, and the newer 5R, are pretty reliable and gets me from Fillmore to mid-Market in about 10 to 15 minutes depending on Gough/Civic Center traffic, and from there I can hop on BART or the Muni underground.
The 22-Fillmore is what I use to get to the Mission, and that’s 15 minutes (I could also walk to Dolores Park in about 20). And I’ll go to and from the Castro sometimes on the 24, but that requires a hike home, so I’ll also just walk.
Nearest grocery store (and why you like it)
The Fillmore/Webster Safeway, near Geary, is pretty reliable and fairly clean. When I’m feeling rich or coming home on the 24 (or buying produce, generally), I’ll go to Bi-Rite, though.
Good for kids?
There are actually a number of kids in my neighborhood, but don’t ask me where they go to school. Some of the people in the multi-million-dollar homes that ring Alamo Square have school-age children, but for all I know they ship them out of state to boarding school and I don’t see them all the time.
Notable residents (aside from yourself):
Local cookbook author Heidi Swanson is a nearby neighbor (and a friend), and allegedly author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) lived in one of the famed Painted Ladies in the mid-1990s.
Best place to get a coffee:
If you want to keep it real, Alamo Square Cafe will do you right with basic drip coffee and a cappuccino — and their bagel sandwiches are delicious. You can also walk down to the new Wise Sons Bagel on Fillmore, where they’re serving Intelligentsia coffee. And then, of course, there’s The Mill.
There’s only one, really. Alamo Square.
Your favorite neighborhood joint:
Does my neighborhood have a joint? This is a fair question. I can go get a fancy cocktail at The Progress or some wine at Fat Angel, but all the dives and hangout bars are over on Divis, or up and over in the Lower Haight or Castro. So, like I said, I do a lot of walking.
Best-kept secret in your hood?
Alamo Square Seafood Grill has been around for almost 20 years, and is still a solid, simple, weeknight meal spot. They do filets of fish however you like, with a choice of sauces ($16), and they do a nightly prix fixe with three courses for $14.50 and that is not a joke. Also, it’s actually not impossible to get into State Bird Provisions anymore, and The Progress is just as good, food-wise, without the dim-sum cart.
Around the Square and over to McAllister and Golden Gate there’s a pretty SF-cliched mix of young professional renters, nouveau-riche owners of newly renovated properties, and older tenants and property owners who’ve been here since the ’70s or '80s when everything around here was run down and cheap — like my neighbors who bought their flat for a song in 1987.
Most common sight:
Dogs. Lots of dogs, all in and around the park. And camera-wielding tourists of all stripes and nationalities asking where the Full House house is. (Hint: It isn’t here.)
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Where are the best places to chill and/or experience the outdoors?
My backyard. The little waterfall in the center of the Fillmore Center complex. The top of Alamo Square where you can see both the city and the sunset.
Who wouldn't be happy here?
People who dislike walking or hills. The dog-averse.
Piece of neighborhood lore:
Because of its proximity to the Haight, and the common trait of being home to many old buildings that by the 60s were run down and offered cheap rent, the area was once heavily populated with hippies and counterculture figures. Simon LeVay, founder of the Church of Satan, once briefly lived in the Westerfield House (the big brown and gold mansion at the corner of Scott and Fulton), and so did Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil . More here.
Describe your neighborhood in one sentence:
What do people not know about your neighborhood?
Most don’t seem to know that while the opening-credits shot of Full House showed the Painted Ladies/Postcard Row and the city skyline, the house they used for the exterior b-roll shot was not that near here — it’s at 1709 Broderick.
The former Archbishop’s Mansion, now a lovely event space, was featured in the 1978 Chevy Chase-Goldie Hawn vehicle Foul Play.
And also, the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers heavily featured Alamo Square and one of the houses along Steiner.
Alamo Square [Curbed SF]
The Fillmore [Curbed SF]