For all the tech companies, high rise construction and ever-changing food scenes in San Francisco – there is still sweet, quiet Glen Park. A tiny corner of the city that is a cross between a hobbit shire and a 1930s movie set. Generally bound by 30th Street on the north, San Jose Avenue on the east, Bosworth on the south and Diamond/Elk on the west, it is relatively hidden while still very accessible via the #24 bus, J Church street car, route 280 and the BART station.
Like most neighborhoods in this part of the city it was developed on former Swiss-owned dairy land, and some street names reflect this understated heritage. The local history is just lively enough to give residents fodder to entertain their guests with stories of Nobel’s (yes, as in “the prize”) dynamite factory, the San Francisco-San Mateo railroad, the Mission Zoo and post-earth quake expansion.
To me it is the charming messiness of it all. It’s organized chaos, like an English garden. I love how the forested cottages and narrow streets twist up the hill away from the village center. Other houses are neatly lined up in curving, pastel rows that stretch between Noe Valley and Glen Canyon. The sunny village center has everything you need: a hardware store, neighborhood gym, hair salons, places to eat and drink, gift stores, a cheese shop, a new library and even urgent care.
And the best way to see it – is noodling.
There is so much to cover in this small area and it requires a good set of hiking legs to traverse the steps and narrow hillside sidewalks if you really want to get a sense of place. Working your way north-to-south in a loose looping fashion from 30th Street, walk along Laidley to the Harry steps opposite Harper and Noe streets. One of my all-time favorite places in SF is about ¾ of the way to the top of Harry steps where the views of downtown are usually clear, especially in winter. Just drink it in *sigh* and mentally thank the residents for being such great stewards of this gift.
At the top turn left on to Beacon Street and wander down to Chenery and turn right toward the village center [see Noodling Necessities for tips on restrooms and snacks]. Once refreshed head up Diamond and find both Penny and Poppy lanes tucked on the right. There are a number of decorated steep private steps along the way on both sides of Diamond until you reach Moffitt. Make a sharp left onto Moffitt and either zigzag along to Elk or turn down Swiss Avenue to Surrey and back to Chenery. Allow plenty of time and energy to loop about. Turn left onto Chenery toward the village center for refreshment part II.
Glen Park has somehow managed to retain its charm without being too precious and manicured. It is a neighborhood worth discovering and tending. Go slowly enough to notice the subtle details of tile work, quirky architecture, and yard sculptures. Take in the surrounding hills and hidden places. Be patient with yourself if you need to stop and catch your breath. There’s no rushing a garden, or Glen Park. Thank goodness.
Canyon Market for healthy snacks and fresh salad bar; Buddies Market for snacks, Band-aids, aspirin; Cheese Boutique for the best cheeses; Higher Grounds for coffee and restroom; other restaurants for sit down meals and restrooms