Random header image... Refresh for more!

The Richmond District’s place in aviation history

My nephews are in town this week so we took them to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. While there, I stumbled onto a fascinating piece of aviation history that occured right here in the Richmond District.

Back in 1912, two 15-year old twin brothers, Willy and Arthur Gonzales, flew their homemade biplane glider right here in the Richmond District. They had spent the previous two years building it in their backyard at 435 16th Avenue with help from older brother Eddie.

Known as the “Gonzales No. 1 Tractor Biplane”, the plane was constructed primarily of pine and small amounts of spruce, with wing support wires attached with bicycle spokes and spoke adjusters.

They based its design on photographs and drawings of other early airplanes they had seen in the area. Their aircraft was one of the first tractor propeller designs in Northern California. It was powered by a 35 horsepower, four cylinder air-cooled Kemp in-line engine.

As you’ll see in the photo below, children would come out to stand among the dunes and watch the brothers work with the plane. And with the ideal updrafts coming off the coast, it would take flight over the many dunes that still covered the outer Richmond District.

Courtesy of Lorri Ungaretti’s San Francisco’s Richmond District and the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Eventually, the city of San Francisco passed a noise ordinance which prevented flying machines from operating within city limits. As a result, the brothers crated up the plane and moved it back and forth by train to Woodland, CA near Travis Air Force Base where they would camp and spend time working on their plane. The plane could be dismantled and put back together in 8 hours.

In 1915, the Gonzales brothers moved to Los Angeles and took the biplane with them, where it remained in the Gonzales family for the next 70 years. In the late 1970s, Bob Gonzales donated the original plane and many of the twins’ writings and drawings to The Travis Air Force Museum.

Once at the museum, the center section of the fuselage was rebuilt from the original plans. All other parts of the airplane on display are original, including the Kemp engine which is still operable.

The “Gonzales No. 1 Tractor Biplane” is currently on loan to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. So the next time you’re headed down the peninsula, stop in and see this great piece of aviation and Richmond District history.

Sarah B.

Information and photos for this article were gathered from San Francisco’s Richmond District by Lorri Ungaretti (thank you Lorri!), Hiller Aviation Museum, and Travis Air Museum.

The Gonzales brothers’ biplane in the backyard of their home at 435 16th Avenue.
Courtesy of Lorri Ungaretti’s San Francisco’s Richmond District and the Hiller Aviation Museum.

As the wind blows in from the Pacific Ocean, the Richmond District offers updrafts that are ideal for flying. However the Gonzales biplane flying over the neighborhood was still an unusual sight. Courtesy of Lorri Ungaretti’s San Francisco’s Richmond District and the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Arthur Gonzales drew this sketch of himself in flight. Note the typo in their rubber stamp (BORS instead of BROS). Courtesy of Lorri Ungaretti’s San Francisco’s Richmond District and the Hiller Aviation Museum.

The Gonzales brothers operated a flying school and aircraft manufacturing business from the ground floor of their home. Here’s a sign they used to advertise. Courtesy of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

A blade from the original 1911 Gonzales propeller. Courtesy of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

The “Gonzales No. 1 Tractor Biplane” on display at the Hiller Aviation Museum.

A look at the “Gonzales No. 1 Tractor Biplane” from the back of its display in the Hiller Aviation Museum.

One of the Gonzales brothers prepares the propeller for transport to Woodland, CA. Courtesy of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

One of the Gonzales twins in front of their plane. Courtesy of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

The plane on the dunes of the Richmond District. Courtesy of Lorri Ungaretti and the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Bookmark and Share
 6:37 am | Posted under History | 8 comments

Sunday Streets is back!

This Sunday, April 11, come out to Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway to enjoy some car-free playtime with your friends and family. It’s part of Sunday Streets, a city-wide program that closes down select streets to traffic on Sundays in Spring and Summer. Why? For fun, of course.

The fun runs from 10am to 3pm through Golden Gate Park and along the Great Highway from Fulton Street down to Sloat Boulevard (see map). Our Sunday Streets is also part of World Health Day’s 1000 Cities, 1000 Lives campaign, where people in 1,000 cities around the world will open up portions of streets to the people to promote health activities.

We’ll get another Sunday Streets on August 22, so mark your calendar. See you out there! In the meantime, check out the videos below from last year’s Sunday Streets to get you ready.

Sarah B.

Bookmark and Share
 9:15 am | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park | 1 comment

Police Blotter – April 5, 2010

[Reprinted from The Richmond Police Station Newsletter of April 5, 2010. To be added to the station’s mailing list, email sfpd.richmond.station@sfgov.org.]

We continue to receive reports of bicycles stolen from the apartment building garages. I mention this topic again because the financial losses can be substantial and the likelihood of recovering a stolen bicycle is low. Please visit the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s website at www.sfbike.org for more information about theft prevention. Please visit San Francisco SAFE’s website (www.sfsafe.org) for burglary prevention tips.

On Saturday, April 03, 2010, the San Francisco Park and Recreation Department held its first annual “Rib Cook-Off” at Sigmund Stern Grove. The Police Department was represented by teams from Bayview, Mission, Northern, Park and Richmond Stations. Our team served nearly 350 meals over the course of several hours and raised many thousands of dollars for children’s recreation programs. Twenty judges rated the food prepared by each team and, at the end of the day; Richmond’s team took top honors with a first place trophy for barbequed ribs. I appreciate the work of our team and am delighted that we participated and did so well.

Please attend the next Community/Police Forum on April 20, 2010 at 1:00pm at the Richmond Recreation Center, which is located at 251 18th Avenue. Our guest speaker will be a representative from the Department of Emergency Management. The speaker will be able to answer your questions about police and fire dispatching and emergency preparedness.

On 03/26/10 at 9:50pm the victim was traveling east on Fulton Street with her three children in a car when she noticed a vehicle turning in front of her from 25th Avenue onto Fulton Street. The victim saw that the driver of this vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, abruptly passing other cars and straddling the two lanes. When the suspect got stuck behind a MUNI bus the victim passed in an attempt to distance herself from this dangerous driver. At Park Presidio and Fulton the victim stopped at a red light at which time her vehicle was struck in the rear by the suspect’s vehicle. The victim exited her car and approached the suspect, who wouldn’t acknowledge her. The victim went back to her car to call 911 and heard the suspect revving her vehicle’s engine. The victim felt the suspect’s vehicle pushing on the rear of her (the victim’s) car. The victim applied both her vehicle’s brake and emergency brake to avoid being pushed out into the middle of the intersection. Officers arrived on scene and determined that the suspect was under the influence. The 56 year old female was charged with aggravated assault, child endangerment and driving under the influence.

On 03/27/10 at 11:11pm officers were sent to a call of a fight at the intersection of Turk and Kittredge. Officers were informed that a suspect was threatening to kill the caller. Also a witness saw the suspect doing a “karate kick” to the side view mirror of a Volvo, damaging it. When the officers arrived on scene they saw the suspect standing on the passenger side of a pick up truck. The suspect was pulling on the side view mirror of the truck almost completely ripping it off. As the officers approached the suspect he took off running and was detained after a short foot pursuit. The suspect continued to struggle and swore at the officers, threatening to kill them. The 18 year old male was charged with criminal threats, vandalism and threats to the officers in performance of duty.

Between 03/24/10 at 9:00pm and 03/27/10 at 4:30pm on the 600 block of Arguello, a suspect entered an apartment garage and took items from a vehicle parked inside. There were no signs of forced entry.

Between 03/25/10 at 6:30pm and 03/28/10 at 7:30pm on the 2800 block of Sacramento, a suspect entered an apartment, possibly by scaling a drainpipe affixed to the building. The suspect then took a flat screen TV and a ring. While at the scene Officers learned that on 03/26/10 at 10:30am a neighbor saw a suspicious male standing at the building’s open tradesman door but didn’t contact the police.

On 03/26/10 at 12:00am, a victim was walking on 3rd Avenue just south of Anza Street. The victim was being followed by two females who eventually caught up to her and asked if she had any money. When she said no, one of the suspects grabbed the victim’s hair and pulled her to the ground. One suspect then took the victim’s purse and fled north on 3rd Avenue, stopping momentarily to rifle through the stolen purse. The suspect then took the victims cell phone and credit card from the purse then threw the purse to the ground. The suspects were described as females in their 20’s one wearing a khaki jacket and both in blue jeans.

On 03/27/10 at 6:00am a victim was in the area of Fulton and Great Highway and was approached by a suspect. The suspect had his hand in his pocket and was simulating a weapon. He told the victim to give up everything in his pocket. When the victim showed him that all he had was his drivers license and keys, the suspect ran off.

On 03/28/10, between 2:00pm and 8:45pm, on the 4900 block of Fulton, a suspect entered an apartment by prying open the front door. The suspect took a laptop and a Play Station 3.

Bookmark and Share
 3:22 pm | Posted under Crime | Comments Off

Reviews for Nibs Bakery, Brother’s Korean

Recently, outer Richmond resident Brian McGowan decided to forego his usual stop at Simply Pleasures Cafe on Balboa and instead tried Nibs Bakery & Cafe, located a few blocks down at 3717 Balboa (near 38th).

Brian writes that Nibs “has excellent scones, pastries, and coffee” and that “the scones are usually fresh and warm right out of the oven.”

He also praised the coffee, which is from a local artisan roastery. “The coffee that they sell is from Due Torri Coffee. They have 4-5 different flavours (blends, whatever) from which to choose. I had the Ethiopian today. It is a medium-roast, but was actually very strong and full of flavour.”

Brian says that Nibs is also dog-friendly but you’ll have to catch their tasty scones in the AM only. Nibs is only open for breakfast seven days a week.

Last Wednesday night, SFWeekly was wet from the rain and in the mood for Korean BBQ, so they headed to Brother’s Korean at 4014 Geary near 5th Avenue. They passed on the grill-it-yourself options and instead ordered up a variety of menu items.

“…short ribs, or kalbi ($23.95), spicy crab soup with tofu and glass noodles ($11.95), and rice sizzled in a stone pot with beef, vegetables, and raw egg ($17.95). Between lettuce-wrapped morsels of grilled beef, alternately chewy and tender, we sucked down nibbles from the eagerly anticipated banchan array ? including kimchi of cucumbers, cabbage, and radish, miso paste, tiny dried fish, seaweed, and limp fried tofu.”

But the evening’s topper was an entrée of seared squid with green onion spears, mushrooms, and zucchini half-circles slicked with a robust red sauce heavy on chile paste and sesame, which the reviewer says “was sweet, slightly smoky, with just enough bite.”

Sarah B.

Bookmark and Share
 6:30 am | Posted under Food | 4 comments

Upcoming meetings on Beach Chalet soccer field renovations

Two public meetings are coming up to discuss the proposed renovation of Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet soccer fields.

The Beach Chalet renovation project calls for major facility improvements including converting the fields to synthetic turf, installing lights for night play, new restrooms, parking lot improvements, better walkways and lighting, and the addition of a designated spectator area.

Since the public learned of the renovation plans in late 2009, there has been concern over the environmental impact that the new fields will have on the park, its residents and neighbors. One particular point of contention is the proposed 60 foot lighting towers. Recently, it was announced that the project would not require an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and this has opponents concerned.

On Wednesday, April 7, the Historic Preservation Commission will discuss the historic characteristics of the western end of Golden Gate Park and the potential impact of the soccer complex on those characteristics. The meeting will take place at City Hall, Room 400 at 12:30pm.

The following week, on Thursday, April 15, Sometime later in April (date TBD), the Recreation and Park Commission will hold a hearing on the soccer fields renovation. Watch this sfgov page for more details.

Sarah B.

Bookmark and Share
 10:56 am | Posted under Golden Gate Park | 3 comments

Iconic Louis’ Diner fighting to stay open after 73 years

Inside the Outside Lands blog delivered the troubling news today that the venerable Louis’ Diner here in the Richmond District is facing an uphill battle.

Louis’ is located just up the hill from another legend, the Cliff House. Generations of San Franciscans and tourists love this little diner that is perched on the cliff overlooking the ruins of Sutro Baths.

The diner, which has been owned and run by the Hontalas family for 73 years, is currently on a year to year lease with the National Park Service (the diner technically sits on federal land).

The restaurant needs maintenance work and upgrades to be in compliance with accessibility laws, but the family understandably doesn’t want to invest in the repairs with only a year-to-year lease on the property.

Federal law also requires that the restaurant space be put up for bid, and apparently a couple of prospects already toured the place on March 24. Inside the Outside Lands says that “most of the park service personnel out here who know Louis’ want it to stay with the Hontalas family”, but point out that those making the decision will be members of a federal committee that won’t know much about Louis’ histroy and standing in the community.

So that’s where you can help. Show your support for the Hontalas family to continue operating Louis’ Diner by signing the online petition, or emailing a story, memory (even a sentence!) to louisrestaurant1937@gmail.com. If you prefer, mail in your words of support to: Louis’ Restaurant, 902 Point Lobos Road, San Francisco, CA 94121.

And mark you calendars – Louis’ will host a community event on April 17th from 10am–2pm. Come out with your family and friends to show your support – there will be free hot dogs!

Sarah B.

The corner booth at Louis Diner. Photo by roddh

Bookmark and Share
 12:00 pm | Posted under Business, History | 15 comments

The Haight is that a way

Photo by bagelradio, who tells us “No side door in sight, naturally.”

Bookmark and Share
 10:49 am | Posted under Photos | Comments Off

Hakka wows SFWeekly

A few weeks ago, the newly opened Hakka Restaurant at Cabrillo and 45th got high marks from the Examiner. This week, SFWeekly food critic Jonathan Kauffman filed his own review, “Hakka Restaurant: Inexpensive Chinese done right”.

Despite “floors decorated by Carpet Outlet and an “Opening special: 10% off” sign in the window”, Kauffman says Hakka chef Jin Hua Li is doing a lot of things right. Li is “bringing out simple, transparent flavors” and “using formal culinary technique to refine peasant food while staying true to the dish.”

Kauffman was particularly enthused about a stir-fry vegetable dish (“captured all the vegetables at their brightest”) and the house special braised pork belly dish. “A solid block of pork belly had been braised in a sweet soy sauce for a few hours — half a day at least — until the lean layers barely held together, the fat softened to the texture of whipped frosting, and the porous skin swelled with braising liquid.”

He also sampled Hakka’s pumpkin strips which are dipped “in a saffron-hued batter made with egg yolk and fried until puffed and crisped”. Chef Li doesn’t take shortcuts according to Kauffman, who offers a mouthwatering description of Li’s signature salt-baked chicken dish: “rubbing the bird in wine and seasonings, covering it in hot rock salt, and roasting it slowly. The method drives all the chicken’s juices back into the meat, until it tastes like chicken squared; chicken cubed, even, if you swab a piece of the golden-skinned meat through the grainy brown dipping sauce Li sends out alongside, a blend of meat drippings and sesame oil.”

Kauffman’s review is long and full of tantalizing descriptions that will make you want to add Hakka to your “must try” list. You’re bound to find something you like, as Kauffman reports, “Hakka Restaurant has one of the largest, most varied selections of authentic dishes I’ve yet seen.”

Hakka Restaurant is located at 4401-A Cabrillo Street at 45th Avenue (876-6898) and are open 11am-9:30pm Monday through Thursday, and 11am-10pm Friday through Sunday.

Sarah B.

Bookmark and Share
 10:39 am | Posted under Food | Comments Off