The 38 Geary bus line calls this place home, trekking from downtown Market Street through Union Square up Cathedral Hill past Japan Town and onto my ‘hood, ultimately spending the night at what I call the Muni Hotel one block up and one block over from where I live. Besides the 38, I’m not sure many others can lay claim to this bustling area in the heart of San Francisco. To the north is Pacific Heights, to the west Laurel Heights, to the south Western Addition, and to the east Japan Town.
Primarily, there’s the question of what to call it. My real estate agent emphasized before I bought my one-bedroom, one-car garage condo on the corner of Geary Boulevard and Baker Street, “You won’t find a better deal than this in Pacific Heights,” as if she was trying to convince herself as well. Exclamation marks loitered in the air. She hailed from Pacific Union Real Estate in the Marina. Tall, thin, blonde, and blue-eyed, she was my polar opposite and this wasn’t her territory of expertise. I scoffed, “The projects are a block away.”
Bold signs proclaim PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING along the complete block of two story projects. I take it the signs are for the hearing impaired who are spared the loud screaming which seems to be normal conversation. Compared to the typical din of nightly discussion, rap music plays melodiously in the background. Teetering on the edge of Western Addition and Pacific Heights, this neighborhood lacks a consistent identity. There’s no sense of belonging–only transition. Victorian homes are interspersed throughout like the few trees that dot the sidewalks. Those living in the projects must believe that their habitat is one of transition to another place, another home.
This can’t be more true than for the sick, comprising the largest slice of the pie graph of neighborhood residents. I have an obstructed front view of the Kaiser Hospital Geary Campus right in front of my condo building. The Emergency Room with its fire-engine red lettering is around back behind the massive hospital building. There’s an ambulance out front ready for dispatch. Kaiser also has a Medical Clinic down the block across from which is the Health Education Center. A sign attached to a street light reads, ‘If they were more convenient, we’d have to call them fast food. Farmer’s Market Every Wednesday 10am to 2pm Geary Campus.’ It’s part of Kaiser’s Thrive campaign, promoting a healthier lifestyle. As a Kaiser member, maybe this is the neighborhood for me.
I don’t belong in the Marina with its penchant for fancy cars. I belong here with the Hondas and Hyundais and trucks with no name. Nor am I the typical Noe Valley resident with baby stroller in tow. There are no babies here, only a handful of school children walking hand in hand with a parent.
The air is surprisingly fresh, not salty like the Avenues. Crisp brown maple leaves crinkle on the road as the wind gusts intermittently. It’s always sweater weather here. Never hot like Potrero Hill, never cold like Ocean Beach.