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What’s with that pole at 21st and Geary?

RichmondSFBlog reader Eric wrote in and asked:

Do you know anything about the new pole at 21st Avenue and Geary? At least I think it’s new. It’s very tall and has what looks like megaphones pointing in each of the cardinal directions.

After some research and help from my cub reporter David, I found out that it’s called an Outdoor Public Warning System (OPWS) siren. It is designed to alert residents and visitors of San Francisco about possible danger. According to the OPWS website, there are 86 sirens which are located on poles and on top of buildings throughout all neighborhoods in San Francisco, Treasure Island, and Yerba Buena.

There are several in the Richmond District along Fulton at 11th, 25th, 32nd and 39th, plus at California & Funston, 100 El Camino del Mar, 32nd & Anza, Balboa & Great Highway, Merrie Way & Point Lobos, and Beach Chalet. See the full city map of OPWS sirens.

The system is tested at noon every Tuesday for 15 seconds, and it sounds similar to an emergency vehicle siren. In the event of a disaster, the 15 second alert tone sounds repeatedly for 5 minutes. David tells me that the sirens can be triggered individually, in groups, or all at once depending on the emergency. For example the sirens on El Camino del Mar and along the Great Highway are in place specifically for coastal and tsunami dangers.

David also filled me on some interesting facts and history about the siren system:

There is a group of volunteer radio folks that listen each week and call in to a central spot to let the city know which ones are working and which ones aren’t . The new system was installed due to the activism of the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood association. They went to the city with a photo of the siren at the wharf leaning at an angle and kept up until the modern system we have became a reality.

In the 60’s of course they were for telling you time is up we are having a nuclear war. Before that, massive siren units sat on tops of buildings (some are still up there) driven by v8 auto engines. They put out so much energy that you of course would be deafened and materials within 5 feet of the speakers would catch fire.

Thanks to Eric for sending in the question and to David for all the info. Below is a very brief documentary about the system, sent in by Greg over at NJudah Chronicles.

Sarah B.

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 6:45 pm | Posted under Community, Safety | 8 comments

E-waste drop-off this Saturday at Ocean Beach

Time to gather up all those old electronics that are gathering dust…

This Saturday, March 20, sfcleancity.com will host a free electronic recycling drop-off at Ocean Beach. Drop off free of charge any of the following items:

– TVs and monitors
– Computers and laptops
– Scanners and printers
– Cell phones
– Fax machines
– Ethernet cables
– Telephones and telephone systems
– VCRs, DVD players
– All networking equipment (e.g. routers)

Note that no appliances or microwaves will be accepted.

Drop off your e-waste between 9am and 2pm on Saturday at the Ocean Beach parking lot across from the Beach Chalet restaurant near Fulton. You must have a valid California driver’s license or ID card.

If you miss this Saturday’s event, there will be another e-waste drop-off available on Saturday, March 27 at Lake Merced. More info here.

Sarah B.

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 6:19 pm | Posted under Green | Comments Off

“Remembering Playland” premieres to a sold out Balboa Theater

Tonight was the theatrical premiere of the new documentary, “Remembering Playland”, which looks back on the Playland At The Beach amusement park that sat on Ocean Beach from 1921 to 1972.

The Balboa Theater was packed; only the 9:15pm show on Wednesday still has tickets available (buy tickets). In the crowd were Playland attendees that had been interviewed for the documentary, which is full of great stories about the park best known by locals for its Fun House and cackling matron, Laffing Sal.

Many of those interviewed for the film are part of Playland-not-at-the-Beach, a “museum of fun” in El Cerrito, CA that was created to preserve and recreate the history of Playland. PNATB was also in the lobby displaying memorabilia from the park.

To top off a great night, the It’s It ice cream crew was on hand passing out free sandwiches to moviegoers. The original It’s It was created and sold exclusively at Playland for over four decades.

I came home with a DVD in hand ($15) so rest assured they’ll be available via mail order very soon.

Sarah B.

The crowd hits the lobby after the 7pm show

The It’s It truck parked outside the Balboa Theater

A replica of the Laffing Sal animated statue from Playland

A commemorative Playland poster

Handing out free It’s It ice cream sandwiches to moviegoers

Memorabilia on display from Playland-Not-At-The-Beach

Old Playland At The Beach tickets

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 9:15 pm | Posted under History | 5 comments

Alexandria Theater is now on the vacant building list

On the heels of today’s Examiner story, the Examiner updates us with news that the Department of Building Inspection visited the Alexandria property today and posted two notices.

The first notice alerts owners that they must register the Alexandria as a vacant building with the city. According to city law, this requires paying a $765 fee and continued maintenance to keep it in secure and good condition. The second notice was a violation for a broken window on the premises.

“The inspection did not confirm any of the exemptions provided in the (vacant building ordinance),” DBI spokesman William Strawn told the Examiner.

Kudos to SFAppeal and the Examiner for continuing to fan the flames on this issue.

Now, let’s hope the owners, who are rumored to live abroad, actually receive and act on these notices in a timely manner.

Sarah B.

Related stories:
Shuttered Alexandria Theater evades upkeep [SF Examiner]
More on the Alexandria Theater development from Supervisor Mar
New plans revealed for the Alexandria; possible supper club
More details on plans for the Alexandria
What to do with the Alexandria Theater?

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 3:43 pm | Posted under Real Estate | 3 comments

Indy visits the Richmond District

The California Academy of Sciences has a new exhibition coming up entitled “Extreme Mammals: the Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time”. The exhibition runs April 3 through September 12 and showcases some of our most intriguing evolutionary relatives, from the speedy to the sloth-like, the towering to the tiny, even the venomous and the armor-clad.

One towering figure in the show is “Indy”, short for Indricotherium, which is the largest land mammal ever discovered weighing in at 20 tons, or roughly the equivalent of 3 adult elephants. Since Indy arrived in the city, he (she?) has been making his way around to the various sights and in honor of that, the Academy is holding a fun Photoshop contest.

Of course I had to make sure that Indy visits some Richmond District sites; what better way for him to learn where he can venture to after the Academy closes?

If you want to contribute to Indy’s tour of San Francisco, click here to download a Photoshop file that lets you add Indy into your own images. Then post your photos on Flickr and tag them “indytourssf” and the Academy will include them in the Indy slideshow on the exhibition page.

Sarah B.

Fore! Indy takes in a few holes at the Lincoln Park Golf Course

Jonesing for his morning caffeine, Indy stops in at the Blue Danube on Clement

Indy takes in the view at Land’s End with a couple of friends

Indy takes a dip at Ocean Beach

Indy heads to Angelina’s for an Italian soda and turkey sandwich

Indy nibbles on some flowers at the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park

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 3:25 pm | Posted under Museums, Photos | 1 comment

Music man

An accordion player in front of Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery Store, 5540 Geary. Any requests? Photo by Seth Rosenblatt.

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 12:37 pm | Posted under Photos | 2 comments

The Cliff House Sky Tram

Will wonders never cease? Once again outsidelands.org delights me with another fascinating glimpse into what used to be in the Richmond District. This time it’s the Cliff House Sky Tram which ran from May 1955 until 1961. The photo below was taken by Erma Zimmerman July 1956. More photos of the sky tram here and here.

Here’s more information on the Sky Tram from outsidelands.org:

The Sky Tram opened on May 3, 1955. Up to 25 passengers, paying a quarter each, had a slow ride from just below the Cliff House across the Sutro Baths basin to a Point Lobos promontory that had been outfitted with a two manmade waterfalls. This was not a roller-coaster, but a very slow sight-seeing glide on a couple of steel cables a few hundred feet above the ground. The whole trip took four minutes and you had to walk back.

Fog, wind, and perhaps general boredom shut down the Sky Tram in 1961. For many years the former Cliff House Sky Tram “station” served as a Golden Gate National Recreation Area visitor’s center. That building was torn down during the 2000 renovation of the Cliff House.

And check out the video below of the sky tram, shot by Ron Biagini in 1960 (courtesy of outsidelands.org). The video includes footage of the installed double waterfall and broken windows of the Sutro Baths building.

Outsidelands.org is a website belonging to the Western Neighborhoods Project, which is a nonprofit organization formed in 1999 to preserve and share the history and culture of the neighborhoods in western San Francisco. Become a member today to support their efforts – you get a quarterly newsletter, special guided history walks, and other great historical information.

Sarah B.

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 8:56 am | Posted under History, Photos, Video | 9 comments

Circus Arts workshop for kids, March 20

This Saturday, the Richmond District branch of the SF Public Libary will hold a special Circus Arts Workshop for kids age 5 and older.

Introduce your kids to circus juggling, tumbling, hula hoops, trampoline and more. Clowns are encouraged to attend. :)

The workshop is free and runs from 3-4pm at the library, 351 9th Avenue.

Sarah B.

Photo by Kelly Sims

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 6:41 am | Posted under Events, Kids | Comments Off