West of Twin Peaks


West of Twin Peaks

St. Francis Wood Gate

How much difference would 20 minutes make in your commute to work?

How about four million dollars?

The Twin Peaks tunnel opened on February 3, 1918, cutting the trolley time commute by 20 minutes from Sloat Boulevard to Kearny Street downtown. Westward went the masses, developing the Balboa Terrace, Forest Hill, West Portal, St. Francis Wood, and Westwood Park neighborhoods.

By 1924 the assessed valuation of the West of Twin Peaks area had risen by $4,000,000.

Mostly part of the Rancho San Miguel, the West of Twin Peaks area consisted of some of the last parts of San Francisco open to development. It took the promise of the Twin Peaks tunnel and the final resolution of land owner Adolph Sutro's estate (decades in probate!) to open the door. (Read more about it in Richard Brandi's article.)

Noted architects and planners such as Mark Daniels, the Olmsted Brothers, Henry Gutterson and Joseph Leonard turned away from San Francisco's grid-style street design and created "residence parks" or "residential parks," with wide, curving boulevards elegantly landscaped.

To these subdivisions moved families from the Mission District and other parts of San Francisco, trying to find a suburban feel within city limits. Eventually the neighborhoods housed some of the city's wealthiest and most powerful citizens: politicians, baseball players, and corporate heads.

Strong neighborhood associations helped maintain the beauty and architectural integrity of these parks, while limiting the diversity of the residents with racist housing covenants.

Around the edges of the artistic Forest Hill and St. Francis Wood, less high-minded developers like Fernando Nelson & Sons put up smaller family homes, and the Meyer Brothers began work on Miraloma Park. Before these neighborhoods got started, Behrend Joost on the east side of Sutro's Forest started the working-class Sunnyside neighborhood.

Balboa Terrace, August 2001

Images: 1) St. Francis Wood fountain (WNP photo - Aug 2001), 2) Balboa Terrace (WNP photo - Aug 2001)


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Page updated 9 May 2006.