Friday, March 4, 2011

Old San Francisco's Carville-by-the-Sea

A transit village isn't always a bunch of cubicle condos over a train station.

Local historian Woody LaBounty tells another kind of story in his new book, Carville-By-The-Sea: San Francisco's Streetcar Suburb. It's about the bohemian end-of-the-earth village that people once built out of discarded cable cars in the dunes at the oceanside edge of San Francisco's Outside Lands.

The Outside Lands are the old name for the sandy city blocks north and south of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, now paved over and developed as the mostly stodgy Richmond and Sunset Districts. The name may be most prominently used now for the annual Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park. I don't know if the festival folks explain the origin of the name. But as a lawyer I write deeds pretty often for that part of the city that still conclude with the magic phrase, "BEING A PART of Outside Lands Block No. ___." It always gives me a shiver.

Unlike most oceanside waterfronts, our Ocean Beach land isn't wildly valuable because it's foggy and far from everything, and the surf is always cold and rough. The last couple blocks before the ocean feel like a resort town in the off season. They never quite have an on season. Some people like it that way.

Anyhow, I was just looking over the Carville book in a store, and it's a lovely coffee-table production full of maps and personal stories and pictures of surprising things like cable car parts built right into people's attics. Much recommended if you like that kind of thing.

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