Sunset district and it's demographics, economy, architecture, history and geography : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I want to know the demographics of population in the sunset district; the economy if the sunset district[ie. stores, factories, resturants.] The kind of architecture in the sunset district and it's geograhy of the sunset district in relations to the rest of San Francisco. I also would like to know the history of the sunset district. Overall, i would like to know as much as I can about the Sunset District mainly around Judah-Irvin streets.

-- Carol Liu (, February 27, 2002


The Sunset began itlife in the 1860's as part of the Outside lands (which included the Richmond). By the 1870s the surveyors had finished their work and The Richmond became the Outside Lands north of Golden Gate Park and The Sunset became the Outside Lands south of Golden gate Park.

What we know as Irving, Judah etc streets were I, J, K , etc Streets. The numbered streets never changed.

Nothing much happened in this relatively unihabitable area (think sand dunes like those about Ocean Beach) until the Municipal RR finished tunnelling througn the mountains around 1915.

Then the housing boom began.

Good luck in your research.

Kurt Iversen

-- Kurt Iversen (, February 28, 2002.

Best place to find Sunset District history is the Sunset branch of the Public Library. Ask for the local (or Sunset District)history folder.

-- Kurt Iversen (, February 28, 2002.

There's a very good website on the history of these Outside Lands at


-- John Martini (, February 28, 2002.

Let's see. What can I say about the Sunset. It was like a sand desert. It was a horrible place that you never wanted to be at on windy days because you couldn't even open your eyes with the incredible sand storms blowing. And of course anyone who knows San Francisco and beach weather knows that it is windy for 300 days a year with the worst month being in April. Early on there was no transportation to the business districts downtown so by horse it would take about 2 hours to get there. So the only people who would live out there were farmers like dairy or chicken farmers since you couldn't really farm crops in sand. Well, one such guy was a poor farmer by the name of Bretville who lived right near ocean beach. He raised a daughter with constant fairly tails about the rich, probably because the family was so poor they couldn't even afford an outhouse. They just used a pot hole. So this little Cinderalla in order to get some money took took up nude modeling to help pay her father's bills. The result was that with her big 6 foot body and accompany huge body parts, she caught the attention of a number of men one of whom she thought was wealthy and one of whom she expected marriage. When she didn't get marriage she sued him in a sensational trial for basically getting unjustly deflowered without marriage. The result was that this law suit was such a hit with the town that it caught the attention of even more men and she eventually ended up marrying a 50 year old multi-millionaire by the name of Adolph Spreckles whose huge mansion still exists today and is occupied by that fake writer whose assistant does all her writing. Yes, not even those walls surrounding that mansion can keep out the truth when you have the connections I do.-- The Sunset's development moved at a snail's pace until after world war two where for the next few years there began the biggest building boom that this city had ever seen since the Gold Rush. In fact, more than 90 percent of all houses in the Sunset were built after World War II and about 80 percent of those were approximately built between after the war and 1950. And all this time as long as there were open sandlots, there were sand storms and on windy days, there would still end up being tons of sand on the streets, on your driveway, stairs and windows and you had to close your eyes when walking down the street near such sand lots. A lot of people were very happy when most of the lots finally had houses on them by the early 60s since that stopped the sandstorms. Incredibly there are still a few dozen or so open lots that have not been built on and you have to wonder what that is all about.-- The other thing I remember is that the open lots that were around in the 50s and early 60s had plenty of bushes and weeds for cover that were used as youth gang hangouts and what happened at these hangouts was that all kinds of mischevious criminal activity was conducted there. That includes regular fights, knife fights, gang to gang fights, hideouts from police and arson. Arson was also a favorite activity and lots were constantly set on fire.-- Many of the lots had natural springs and those lots would be filled with salamanders which many of the kids used to bring home.-- Now the thing that is very interesting to me about the Sunset is that the further up the hill you get, the more expensive the houses become so that quite a number of the homes around the 14th avenue area are worth twice as much to a millions dollars as compared to those in the lower sunset. Yet, I have seen some of those houses up in the hills and there is no way that they are worth so much more. And you have to ask yourself if having a view and neighbors that are better off worth the extra $400,000 or more that it costs to live a mile or two higher up the hill. On top of that, yard space is very small on those hill homes as compared to those in the lower sunset. So that is how the lower sunset for many years became known as the "White Ghetto." It was crowned this name by the stupid hill dwellers above 19th avenue who thought their neighborhood was so much better and their homes were something special when actually they are worse.-- Now notice how the lower Sunset was called the White Ghetto and not the Chinese Ghetto or anything else. That was simply because you would rarely find any other races in the Sunset due to the Sunset Development Association which restricted the sales of property to only white people. A lot of people don't know that and it is rarely talked about but that is exactly what happened. Later, this was stopped by Federal laws of Equal Opportunity Housing.-- Many of the whites who moved out to the Sunset were first time home buyers and after awhile they realized what a miserable place it was with cold foggy summers and constant afternoon blistering winds and as soon as they were able to raise enough money they got out. Those white people wanted warm weather and country clubs and so they moved out to the suburbs to popular places like Lafayette, Moraga, Mill Valley and San Mateo and other places. With the race restrictions dropped for to home buyers, this gave the Chinese a chance to branch out from Chinatown but still remain close to their roots with strong support from the Chinese community. And this gave other racial groups a chance to move in as well and so you now have a completely different group of people living there today than you had in the 50s and 60s.

-- Harry Murphy (*), February 28, 2002.

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