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A guide to San Francisco’s Westwood Park

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The micro-neighborhood tucked between Sunnyside, Monterey Heights, and Mt. Davidson Manor

Although the Ocean Avenue entrance gates no longer exist, the gates at Monterey Boulevard remain intact, restored by the Westwood Park Association in 2003.
Photos by Bruce Welch

The People's Guide examines the Bay Area's many neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite writers, and other notables of Curbed’s choosing. Have something to say about your neighborhood? We'll be happy to give you a voice.

This time around, we welcome Kathleen Beitiks, a 36-year resident of Westwood Park—a small slice of San Francisco tucked between Sunnyside, Monterey Heights, and Mt. Davidson Manor. Beitiks is part of the Westwood Park Neighborhood Association, as well as a local historian on her neighborhood, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017.

How long have you lived in Westwood Park?

I have lived in Westwood Park almost 36 years.

What brought you to the neighborhood?

In the 1980s, my husband and I had three small children and were living in a rental in the Mt. Davidson area. We were getting squished in a small home and decided to take the big step and buy a house. We initially looked on the Peninsula and in the East Bay. But my husband needed his car for work in the city and he just couldn’t deal with the prospect having to cross a bridge or drive 20 miles to work every day. Since we liked the Mt. Davidson area, we talked to a neighbor who was a realtor and asked him to let us know if something came up that we could afford in the western part of San Francisco.

What kept you here?

We liked the idea that, although we lived in a big city, our little neighborhood was like a mini-suburb. And the neighbors are wonderful. Prior to moving to the Bay Area, we lived in a small central coast town. We met more of our neighbors the first year in this neighborhood than we did in the five years we lived in that little town. It’s also pretty convenient to public transportation (15 minutes to downtown via BART) and freeway access.

“Listed as the architect of this early bungalow is George Kelham, who came to San Francisco from New York to rebuild the Palace Hotel after the 1906 earthquake. Kelham is also the architect of the Shell Building, the Russ Building and the Old Main Library.”

No neighborhood is perfect. What could be improved?

Early (circa 1917) photos of Westwood Park show streets practically empty of automobiles—now there are cars everywhere—especially in the southern part of the neighborhood. Because we are adjacent to City College (built after Westwood Park), the streets of our neighborhood and the Sunnyside neighborhood have become an auxiliary student parking lot.

And now, with a proposal to build 1,000 units of housing in the old Balboa Reservoir, residents are concerned the neighborhood will lose its original “residence park” ambiance and become a congested extension of downtown.

(Also, I wish that Karl the Fog would bypass our neighborhood in the summer. After Karl visits the Sunset and Richmond, he seems to hang around Westwood Park a little too long.)

What's the neighborhood housing stock like?

The homes are fabulous! There are more than 650 single family, detached homes with front and backyards, and garages. Built as a 1920s-era bungalow neighborhood, it was designed as a residence park for middle class San Franciscans. Early lot buyers received a brochure with the not-so-catchy-title, “Attractive Bungalows for Moderate Cost for Westwood Park in Sutro Forest San Francisco.”

The neighborhood as a whole has a uniform look, but each home has unique architectural details. There are modified versions of styles such as Craftsman, Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial, American Colonial, English Cottage, Tudor, Storybook, and Dutch Colonial.

Better for buyers or renters?

Today, the monthly rents amount to what the homes sold for 100 years ago—$4,000 to $5,000. I would be happy here either as a renter or owner. However, like all of San Francisco, Westwood Park home prices have soared to the point where longtime residents lament the fact they can’t afford to buy their own home nowadays.

“The first bungalow completed in Westwood Park was designed by A.W. Smith, an Oakland architect and builder.”
Ida F. McCain, a rare woman architect of the era, designed this bungalow.”

Do you need a car to get around?

You can usually manage without a car—and plenty of time. There are three bus lines along Monterey Boulevard (the northern boundary of Westwood Park) and street car lines along the southern boundary on Ocean Avenue. One of my neighbors was born in his home in 1941; he says that back in those days, dads took the streetcar to work and only brought the car out of the garage for Sunday drives.

Most reliable public transit?

The Muni streetcars (on Ocean Avenue) and BART. In a pinch, you can walk to either the Glen Park BART or the Balboa Park BART stations. Both are about a mile from the neighborhood. The #23 Monterey Boulevard bus goes from the Zoo to the Bayview and stops at the Glen Park BART, while the #43 stops at the Balboa Park BART. My pet peeve about the #23 is its infrequency during non-commute hours. I’m not sure if MUNI doesn’t run more buses because fewer people use them during those times or fewer people use them because there aren’t as many buses scheduled. The #43 swings through City College, but it can sometimes take up to 15 minutes to crawl along Phelan Avenue when school is in session.

Nearest grocery store?

There is a “soon-to-be-remodeled-or-so-they-say” Safeway on Monterey Boulevard and now a Whole Foods on Ocean Avenue.

Good for kids?

Longtime residents will tell you that there are not as many kids as there used to be, but we are noticing a bit of an upward cycle lately, with more little tykes moving in. Having backyards makes the neighborhood attractive to families.

Best place to get a coffee?

Java on Ocean, The Railroad Express on Monterey Boulevard (which is technically in Sunnyside). There is also a new Philz Coffee on Ocean Avenue near the Fire Station and Unity Plaza.

“Native San Franciscan Charles F. Strothoff was the architect of about 500 homes in Westwood Park, including this Dutch Colonial Revival. In 1941, Jack Henning, a well-known labor leader with a large family, moved into this home. He later went on to become the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand.”

Best park?

The closest nearby parks are the Sunnyside Playground on Foerster Avenue, Balboa Park, and Aptos Park. None of those are especially convenient for Westwood Park parents, grandparents, and caregivers. However, we do have small common areas such as the Plymouth Green and the Faxon Green, where the Westwood Park Association holds its annual meeting. City planners tell us there will be a small park in the proposed development of the nearby Balboa Reservoir.

Beloved neighborhood joint?

The north side of Ocean Avenue, between Faxon and Plymouth is officially in Westwood Park. That being said, all of Ocean Avenue is in the middle of a “renaissance” and new businesses keep popping up. Ocean Avenue Ale House is a great place for a beer and a burger. Our family loves Beep’s Burgers and its classic 1962 neon satellite sign. And Champa Garden has great Laotian/Thai food.

We loved Big Joe’s Cafe on Monterey Boulevard when we moved here 30 plus years ago (a block outside of the Westwood Park boundaries). You could get a complete breakfast for $2.99 and there were always a bunch of old guys hanging out at the counter, gossiping and swilling coffee. A couple of young folks took it over a few years ago. The food is a little pricier, but good (pecan pancakes!). Also, on the weekends, there is always a line out the door—a great sign!

Best-kept secret?

The existence of Westwood Park is the best-kept secret! I can’t count the number of native San Franciscans I have met who say “What? Where the heck is Westwood Park?” Pretty amazing considering it’s a neighborhood that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017.

Stereotypical residents?

Lots of families and older residents, but with a diversity that seems to reflect most of the rest of the city.

“Brothers Hans and Martin Nelson built many homes in Westwood Park. Hans and his wife Esther lived in this home while the neighborhood was under construction.”
“In partnership with the San Francisco Chronicle, Westwood Park’s developers awarded this prize home (valued at $12,500) the winner of a 1920s newspaper subscription contest.”

Who wouldn’t be happy here?

Twentysomethings or anyone who prefers the life of a hipster. Too quiet and probably not enough action for them.

Most common sight?

Lots of dog walkers—and those folks are a great source of up-to-date info on happenings in the neighborhood.

Final word?

Westwood Park feels very solid and stable because of its cozy homes and many longtime residents. The fact that our homes are around 100-years-old and loaded with history gives us all a sense of belonging to and a commitment to San Francisco. I would venture to say that my neighbors think we are pretty lucky to live in Westwood Park.