Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Largent House

Any a-hole, even a monied one used to getting his way, should have figured that razing a house designed and built by an architect of some renown would not go well. For years now, property developers here in SF have acted with impunity with regard to building. Modest homes are routinely razed and replaced with McMansions & then sold for millions of dollars. Of course, one is supposed to have only permitted work be performed. Having toured open houses for the past three weekends, I have seen first-hand, that many home renovations have been done 'on the sly'. Unless a formal complaint is filed, no one at City Hall would have any inkling what's going on out here in the residential areas. 

The case of the Largent House is, on the face of it, a huge bummer, but there is a cherry on this shit cake. One of five San Francisco homes designed by architect, Richard Neutra, the Largent House stood atop Twin Peaks until the beginning of this year. Built in 1936, it was one of a handful of top-notch, modernist buildings in SF. I would imagine all the neighbors of the Largent House knew of its provenance. When one such neighbor returned from a week-long trip to find a pile of rubble where the house once stood, she filed a complaint with the local planning commission. As it turned out, the new owner, a property developer, had obtained permission to remodel a portion of the dowstairs of the home. What he did not have permission to do was demolish the 1,312 square foot home and replace it with one nearly 4,000 square feet in size. The developer had figured on an easy go-around: he had attempted to retroactively obtain approval for the demolition. Had the house he had razed not been designed by a man considered to be one of the most important modernist architects of the 20th century, the developer would have probably gotten away with his plan.

Instead, the case of the Largent House was heard before the planning commission. There was a 5-0 ruling against the knucklehead developer responsible for the demolition job. Not only must the developer have the house be rebuilt exactly as it was, but he must also have a plaque affixed to the house describing its fate. The SF planning commissioner has said that this case represents a 'line in the sand'. Property flippers/speculators need to know that they can't willy-nilly raze modest-sized homes and replace them with mega-homes that sell in the many millions. 

Viennese-American architect, Richard Neutra

The Largent House, Twin Peaks, SF

Purpose-built interior pool

Arial shot of the demolished home.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Holiday attacks

On Tuesday evening, Strassburg's Christmas market was hit by a radicalized local armed with both a gun and a knife. He did his worst before being 'neutralized' (ausgeschaltet in the German language press) by the police on Thursday evening. I've spent many-an hour in Strassburg particularly around this time of year. Attacks like these are heinous, but attacks in places I know fairly well feel more personal somehow. Radicalization, the idea of it, trips me out. Sadly, I can easily imagine an unhinged person taking up arms against Christmas visitors to downtown SF. In fact, it almost happened a couple of years ago. Truck driver and former US marine from the California Central Valley, Everitt Jameson, had made plans to kill people visiting Pier 39, a popular SF tourist spot, on Christmas day in 2016. He'd unwittingly been communicating with an undercover FBI informant which, fortunately, led to his being arrested before any damage was done. Jameson was brought up on charges this past autumn and sentenced to 15 years. 

I wonder if there are any sort of de-programming schemes set up in prison to deal with radicalized Americans? 

Jameson, self-professed ISIS supporter (left), and Jameson in his dress blues (right). 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Hope chest

Mine's full of old records and winter sweaters.

My mother was given a Lane cedar chest upon graduation from high school by her parents. When mom married and moved in with my dad four years later, the chest came with her. Inside the chest were mementos from her high school years & from her time working as a stewardess for American Airlines. As a little girl, I remember being enchanted with her hope chest and its contents. I loved the smell of cedar and how everything in the chest seemed to be infused with it. My ritual was thus: I'd fiddle with the tassle on her mortarboard before putting it on. Then I'd thumb to all the pictures of mom in her yearbook (she was cast as the battle-axe mother-in-law in her high school production of Bye, Bye, Birdie! and looked very funny in a wig and fur coat). I'd also play with all the charms on her charm bracelet as if they were Monopoly pieces. There were also bits of fabric and some tulle in the chest, but I never figured out what they were for. Mom kept a pair of pale-pink pumps in the chest that I would wear around the living room, while pretending to be a grown-up. I remember about ten years ago mom saying that she'd like to give me her hope chest. Her husband told her not to. That was fine with me as it didn't seem she should be done with it quite yet.  

Just today I found a Lane chest at a second-hand shop in fairly good nick and bought it. It even came with a key for its wee lock. Check out the key's envelope. If only I could put a quarter in the mail in the hopes of receiving a replacement key should mine go missing! 

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Here's me and my old school chum, Kat, at the top of Lombard St., SF in 2008. She'd come to town for a visit & I took her around to both old haunts & tourist spots. 

The other day, I'd mistakenly read that Ozzy Osbourne had died, but he'd actually turned 70. Kat loved Ozzy long after I'd sort of grown out of his oeuvre. Initially, I couldn't believe he'd died (well, I could given his penchant for drugs). Upon realizing my mistake, I couldn't believe he'd made it this long without dying. 

Thinking about Ozzy made me think about Kat. Her entire bedroom was covered in pics cut out of Creem and Hit Parader, extremely popular music mags from the 1970s-1980s. The faces of Ozzy, Randy Rhoads (Ozzy's band, Quiet Riot), Bruce Dickenson from Iron Maiden, Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Sabbath & Dio), the lads from AC/DC were all around. 

One time, we tripped on acid in her bedroom & I could have sworn Ozzy, face full of scary make-up, was coming out of a picture taped to the ceiling. -looked like he was going to fall on us. I also saw spiders in the shag rug that weren't there. Pretty freaky. 

Here's a pic of Kat in the 'acid trip' bedroom--

As only Junior High besties could do, we usually wore matching clothes. She had the tiger stripe shirt and I had the leopard print version. We would occasionally trade them back and forth. It was like having two for the price of one. We wore the hell out of those tops. 

I had to dig this pic up just to show you. The below pic is of me in my leopard print shirt. We were kinda like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. :D

Kat would have turned 49 in just a few days. Even if Ozzy hadn't hit the BIG 7-0, I'd still be thinking about her. 

Big hugs, bud.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Literal WC

We're probably out of our minds, but we think we might be able to afford buying property here in the city. The market, unfortunately, is still a seller's delight with contractors rapidly buying up fixers, making all manner of upgrades, then smacking a hefty price tag on the end result. And guess what? These babies sell right quick.

The more livable square footage, the higher the price. This mind-set seems to be leading some to make rather strange 'upgrades' to property before it going to market. 

The above pic shows some of the nuttiness we saw today. This house, a perfectly reasonable purpose built 2 bedroom/1 bath, was converted recently (the paint was still drying when we viewed) into a 3/2. If you look closely, you'll see that the bedroom closet was converted into a stall shower and toilet room. Mind you, the closets in homes from the 1920s until the late 1940s were all walk-in and fairly spacious. But just because there's room for a bathroom doesn't make putting in a bathroom a grand idea. Your bedroom now has no closet and you're sleeping next to a toilet. -hope the ceiling fan works well. 

One feature of SF architecture of the 1920-1930s that I really enjoy is the tile work. Inspired by Spanish-Moorish design, California architects sought to recreate a bit of the Old World here. Ceramic tiles adorning these homes were fashioned in Southern California. Two of the heavy hitters in California tile production were Catalina Tile Co. & Taylor Tilery.  One house we viewed today boasted a tiled external staircase. Below is one of the tiles. 

Part of a tiled stairway.

The color scheme of orange-green-black-yellow is a hallmark of Taylor Tilery. Catalina, by contrast, seems to have offered a broader range of color combos, many of which are a bit finer and somewhat muted. 

Here's a sort of blurry shot of the stairs--

The home was lovely as well. It did, however, have an illegal in-law unit on the ground level. I figure the current owners were probably making duckets as AirBnB hosts. We were cautioned that before inspections were to be made, potential buyers would have to make the in-law unit's kitchen look less like a kitchen. *sad trombone*

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Ben Eine, from what I've read, created a series of murals in Octavia St. as a sort of 'calling card' for his then upcoming show at a local gallery here in 2011. The only mural of his that I remember noticing and had the pleasure of photographing is the one above from 2013, when I was visiting home from abroad. Upon moving back in 2015, I found that the mural had been painted over. -shame, really. Also: Can you identify what this piece is called? 

When I was living in London, Eine's work seemed to be everywhere. -that or I was spending a lot of time in Shoreditch. The first piece I recognised as Eine's work was CHANGE. I took a photo of that one as well, but don't know where I've stashed it on the computer. Given that Eine has been fairly prolific, there are shed loads of images of his work on the net. 

Here is CHANGE--

I have just read that Eine's work is displayed in galleries & on buildings all over the world. I hadn't realised how successful he was. I suppose the person who had his mural painted over in San Francisco didn't know either. 

Tiny victories

A shot from this afternoon--blues skies after another bout of rain. The smattering of clouds around Sutro Tower looks cool.

I've been walking a bit outdoors. The weather is mild. Afternoon temps usually hover around 15C/59F. Yesterday, I walked around the entire block & it was a great triumph. The trek wasn't without some discomfort, but it was do-able. I have to remind myself periodically that foot injuries may take some time to heal & that every step should be regarded as progress. Being a bit of a pessimist, it takes effort to remain in the 'glass is half full' camp.