Best of the Gazette: 44 things we love about the Bay Area

There are myriad reasons to love living here. We’ve rounded up 44 of them — one for each year that the Gazette has been around, and has had the honor of covering San Francisco and its neighboring areas. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, in addition to some of your own favorites, perhaps you’ll discover new gems in the pages that follow.

Contributors: John K. Abendroth, James Ambroff-Tahan, Mandy Behbehani, Catherine Bigelow, Brian Douglas, Trevor Felch, Marcia Gagliardi, Laura Hilgers, Carolyn Jung, Anh-Minh Le, David Nash, Jennifer Massoni Pardini, Al Saracevic, Benjamin Schneider, Carly Schwartz

Photo courtesy of James Ewing

1 “The Bay Lights”

Thirty-five years after Journey sang about the lights in the City, artist Leo Villareal gave us another radiant reason to wax poetic about San Francisco: His 2013 installation on the western span of the Bay Bridge, “The Bay Lights,” measuring 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high, is the largest light sculpture in the world. From dusk to midnight, it’s a brilliant display of 25,000 white LED lights, programmed to never repeat. Originally intended to run for two years, it is now a permanent fixture.

— Anh-Minh Le

Photo courtesy of Stern Grove

2 Stern Grove Festival

Celebrating its 85th season, June 12 to August 14, the Stern Grove Festival is the oldest festival in San Francisco and is set in a natural, arboreal amphitheater with acoustics to match. The festival’s giant stands of eucalyptus, redwood and fir have been hosting an array of performing arts groups since Rosalie M. Stern purchased it as a gift to the City in 1931 in memory of her husband, Sigmund, who was a prominent civic leader.

Indeed, Stern Grove is a treasured gift to San Francisco and to thousands of attendees from around the world, many with food and beverages in tow, who flock there to see new and established artists perform — especially because all concerts are free to reserved ticket holders.

Despite a water-main break that flooded the grounds and forced cancellation of the festival in August 2021, Stern Grove’s newly renovated concert meadow is now immersing attendees’ senses anew with 10 concerts this season, which started with Oakland’s own half-century-old soul-funk- R&B band Tower of Power (shown here) and West Coast rap pioneer Too $hort. Other upcoming festival highlights include the lush sonority of the San Francisco Symphony, which will perform classical to contemporary works on July 31, followed the next week by Berkeley-based multi-instrumentalist Taj Mahal, who gives voice to numerous inspirations for the blues.

The 2022 festival concludes with The Big Picnic, Stern Grove’s traditional concert and benefit with an available catered luncheon, which will be headlined by rock band Phil Lesh & Friends, whose Berkeley native namesake was the bassist for the Grateful Dead. Like the other performances, the finale can be enjoyed from specially reserved and priced picnic tables.

— James Ambroff-Tahan

Photo courtesy of Marcia Gagliardi

3 Our Local History of Culinary Trailblazing Continues

San Francisco has long held a reputation for being at the forefront of presenting different cultures through food, neighborhood by neighborhood. Food tourists map out multiple stops around the City: the Mission for classic burritos (see No. 21 on this list), Fisherman’s Wharf for cioppino, and when Slanted Door opened on Valencia Street in 1995, there was nothing like it in the country.

Our Chinatown — the largest outside of Asia — became a culinary destination not long after it began in 1848. While chop suey and fortune cookies are uniquely San Franciscan inventions, Chinatown is also the home of America’s oldest dim sum parlor. Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House, tucked on Pagoda Place, celebrated its 100th birthday in 2020. Sadly, the pandemic prevented a proper celebration, so it’s up to us to help usher them into the next century. There are layers of different decades in the eclectic decor and unpretentious dining room, with a mix of locals and visitors drinking jasmine tea over steamer baskets of affordable and delicious dumplings. Favorites include their fluffy barbecue pork buns and hefty shu mai, plus their unique purse dumpling can’t be missed — a ruffled glutinous wrapper contains pork, shrimp, peanuts, cilantro, pickled turnip, jicama and Chinese celery, with an unexpected kick of chili. (Bring home a jar of that fantastic chili oil, and pick up another for a friend.)

What’s our next first? How about the world’s first Ohlone restaurant? Just across the Bay, Cafe Ohlone is expected to be fully open next month in the courtyard of UC Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The experience will highlight traditional Ohlone food and ingredients, cultural education and nature as well as provide a gathering and healing space. It’s in great company: Crystal Wahpepah, a Native American chef and member of the Kickapoo nation of Oklahoma, recently opened Wahpepah’s Kitchen in Oakland, one of the few Indigenous restaurants in the nation.

— Marcia Gagliardi

Leslie Sbrocco hosts Check, Please! Bay Area, which first aired in 2005 on KQED. | Photo courtesy of Leslie Sbrocco

4 Check, Please! Bay Area

It is Bay Area appointment-TV, the longest-running show produced by KQED, which draws viewers from grade-schoolers to grandparents, who tune in voraciously to see guests dish on everything from Michelin-starred landmarks to hole-in-the-wall ethnic gems to sub sandwich joints worth a trip pronto.

Now marking its 17th season, the Emmy- and James Beard Award–winning Check, Please! Bay Area has shined a prominent spotlight on nearly 800 local restaurants in that time. It’s also given voice to a like number of amateur food critics from all walks of life. On each episode, three guests — from doctors and lawyers to disc jockeys and drag queens — nominate their favorite restaurant that the two other guests then go check out and report back on, making for engaging discourse.

It has endured remarkably, surviving the pandemic last year by pivoting to filming via Zoom before returning this year to its San Francisco studio with COVID testing all around. It even outlasted the original Check, Please! that launched in 2001 on Chicago public television and went on to spawn offshoots in other cities, including Miami, Seattle and Philadelphia.

With the abrupt cancellation of the Chicago show last year, Check, Please! Bay Area catapulted to the most long-standing in the franchise. Such is its popularity that this spin-off even begot its own spin-off. In 2018, Check, Please! Bay Area Kids debuted with a cast of precocious youngsters, some of whom needed the assist of milk crates to sit in studio chairs, weighing the merits of places like Burmatown in Corte Madera and Perle Wine Bar in Oakland. At the latter, palates were sated by the French onion dip Angus burger and caviar service (!).

“It shows that the show works here,” says wine educator Leslie Sbrocco, host of the Bay Area show since day one. “We’ve got an audience that loves food. We have fantastic restaurants, and we have wonderful guests. It’s the perfect trifecta.”

Pavel Sirotin, owner of Bevri in Palo Alto, one of the first Georgian restaurants in the Bay Area, couldn’t be more indebted to the exposure the show brought. The restaurant, which just opened a second location in Los Altos, was featured on Check Please! Bay Area Kids in July 2020, just after transitioning from takeout-only in the pandemic to outdoor dining.

“It helped a lot then, as we really needed guests,” Sirotin says. “We were so grateful for all the new customers who came in after watching the show.”

Guests on the show dine anonymously and receive a $150 stipend to help defray meal costs. Molly Goldman wasn’t an avid watcher, but she applied on a lark after seeing the April 2019 episode featuring Madcap in San Anselmo. That Michelin-starred restaurant is owned by her in-laws, Kimberly and Ron Siegel, who notice a bump in reservations whenever their episode repeats.

Goldman, a dog-walker who appeared in a September 2020 episode with her pick of San Francisco’s Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company, was admittedly nervous before filming. But she settled in after meeting the crew — and sipping a glass of wine (not a prop but a real vintage chosen by Sbrocco). “After that, I didn’t feel the heat of the lights and camera,” she recalls. “It felt like a conversation among friends.”

Sbrocco marvels at the show’s longevity. “That’s a hell of a lot of shows,” she says. “I’m proud that people have embraced it so much that it’s become a real institution.”

— Carolyn Jung

5 Japantown

San Francisco’s Japantown is the oldest and largest of the three remaining in the U.S. No need to wait until next month’s 48th Annual Nihonmachi Street Fair (August 6 and 7) to explore this vibrant neighborhood. Come marvel at the five-tiered Peace Pagoda, which debuted in 1968. During the same decade, Naka and Masayasu Ashizawa relocated their Soko Hardware across the street. The store, filled with basics as well as beautiful imports, has been owned by the same family since its founding in 1925. Prepare to be just as delighted by Kinokuniya Bookstore, where one level is devoted to anime and manga, while another brims with publications (in Japanese and English), gifts and stationery goods.

Hungry? Stop by Matcha Cafe Maiko for soft serve in distinct and seasonal flavors, like matcha (natch), yuzu and black sesame. Pick up snacks or prepared foods at Nijiya Market or Super Mira. Slurp noodles at Marufuku Ramen or Hinodeya. Opt for an omakase experience at the eight-seat sushi counter Oma San Francisco Station or An Japanese Restaurant. Hit up On the Bridge, a favorite of punk rock icon Patti Smith. For non-Japanese cuisine, try Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup (the popular Korean spot is worth the wait) or Nari (chef-owner Pim Techamuanvivit’s follow-up to her Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, Kin Khao).

— A.L.

Photo courtesy of Lost Art Salon

6 The Gallery Known for Unknowns

Anyone who enjoys antique hunting and estate sales knows the thrill of the find, the deal, the score. But for Lost Art Salon founders (and artists) Rob Delamater and Gaétan Caron, they’re forever on a quest for the unknown and the undiscovered. Whether it’s visiting a storage locker full of paintings by someone’s deceased great-uncle or assessing a canvas rolled up in the back of an attic, they have managed to curate, research and restore a staggering collection of historically significant artwork from the late 19th century through the present. Their roster includes Calvin Anderson, a prolific Bay Area painter, printmaker and designer; it’s wonderful to track the evolution of his style, from his watercolors in the 1940s to Modernist monotypes. Delamater and Caron’s Mission showroom is a goldmine for designers like Kelly Wearstler, who accessed their trove to outfit the San Francisco Proper Hotel. Tom Ford, Charlize Theron and Demi Moore are past customers as well. The gallery, which turns 20 next year, is also an ideal place for first-time art buyers to quickly become collectors.

— M.G.

Photo courtesy of Golden Gate National Parks

7 Baker Beach

Three-quarters of San Francisco is surrounded by coastline. But our notorious atmospherics and mercurial riptides negate our city as an archetypal beach town. Yet Baker Beach, nestled below jagged cliffs in a northwest nook of the Presidio national park, is beloved by locals, tourists and “Burners” who first took to the relative isolation and primitiveness of Baker Beach during summer solstice in 1986 and gave birth to the inaugural Burning Man.

Larry Harvey, who led it along with free-thinking pals from the Cacophony Society, was determined to shake the funk of a failed romance. From copious driftwood that dots the beach, they built an 8-foot-tall effigy of a man, doused it with gasoline and lit a flame — burning away Harvey’s sorrow in a spontaneous act, now codified in the arts organization’s 10 principles of “radical self expression.”

On a clear day, the mile-long, sandy shoreline is still the best spot to take in a sweeping panorama of the Pacific Ocean, Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Bridge — in a single view. For picnickers, there are tables and grills, as well as restrooms in the oft-crowded parking lot, while the beach’s northernmost tip is a haven for clothing-optional sun worshippers. The tides, however, remain too radical for swimming.

— Catherine Bigelow

Photographer Michael Jang wheatpasted one of his images, adding new touches, onto a storefront at Vallejo and Powell streets in San Francisco. | Phott courtesy of Michael Jang

8 Michael Jang

Amid our dreary pandemic era, San Francisco photographer Michael Jang returned to his punk rock roots. Independently, he adorned boarded-up businesses in his Inner Richmond neighborhood with delightful wheatpaste prints of his original images. Augmented with graffiti and clever remixes, Jang plastered locales from Chinatown to the Great Highway.

“I posted those photos on Instagram,” explains Jang. “Then people took photos of my compositions, tagged me, then I reposted their images in a connected loop.”

His imagery encapsulates more than four decades of freelance documentation of San Francisco street scenes and subcultures — including punk rockers, skateboarders and Beat poets. But Jang, a CalArts grad with a San Francisco Art Institute master’s, who made a living as a commercial photographer, finally hit it big in the art world at age 68.

At the time, in 2019, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts hosted a retrospective, Michael Jang’s California, and book signing for his first monograph, Who Is Michael Jang? Published by Atelier Éditions, the hardback tome features photos of celebrity events — accessed by Jang with a fake press pass — as well as his family, who playfully posed for him. In a flash, Jang’s body of work instantly attracted global acclaim.

Yet he had received early support from Sandra Phillips, now SFMOMA’s curator emerita of photography. In 2001, the museum held a public submission for local photographers and was entranced by Jang’s quirky and raw “man-on-the-street” photos — evocative of such photographers as Diane Arbus or Weegee. Some of Jang’s images now reside in permanent collections at SFMOMA and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In early 2021, as online enthusiasm for Jang’s new, in-the-wild series grew, he dreamed up an Instagram treasure hunt — with clues — of free art drops around the City. He initially pasted his prints to a pile of pallets found next to a dumpster. The first was such a success, Jang continued to surprise his fans.

“During the pandemic many of us were craving something more than a virtual connection to the outside world. Yet my process still involved being online,” notes Jang. “I have a 50-year history of making my photographs available for next to nothing. But with the treasure hunt, seeing people’s excitement as they videoed themselves locating a work makes it worthwhile for me.”

Along with his personal Instagram (@michaeljangsf), Jang created a second account (@walkingwithjang) to document his 70-plus drops. Though he’s slowed down in recent months, Jang remains committed to this joyous endeavor — provided that it remains meaningful for him and appreciated by treasure hunters.

Jang describes this process as an evolution of his college homework. From his extensive body of work, he developed alternative ways and places to present them. Last month, he designed a skateboard deck series, for sale online or at Supreme on Market Street. But Jang also dropped some freebie decks in his Instagram hunt.

“I don’t overthink the choice of images. My method: an open mind with the goal of surprising myself and measuring my growth as a creative,” says Jang. “It wasn’t until later that I realized I’m testing the saying, ‘The more you give, the more you receive.’ But my original intention with the drops was simply to make it fun for everyone.”

— C.B.

Photo courtesy of Marcia Gagliardi

9 Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant

While tourists head to other well-known seafood spots around town, the true SF insider has their booth at Sam’s. The fifth-oldest restaurant in the U.S., Sam’s opened in 1867 and moved to its current downtown location in 1946 — and the white-jacketed servers haven’t changed their attire since. In this venue famous for its private dining cubicles, deals are discussed over crusty sourdough bread, bay shrimp and crab Louie salads, baked clams Elizabeth, fresh petrale sole, cioppino, Hangtown fry and martinis. At lunchtime, the main dining room’s wooden bistro chairs are full of Financial District regulars — former Mayor Willie Brown has a standing reservation at his table four days a week, his white tablecloth desk.

— M.G.

Courtesy of Gary Yost

10 Mount Tam

With its 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific, miles of trails and age-old forests, Mount Tamalpais is a beloved symbol of the Bay Area.

The majestic Marin County peak, rising to 2,574 feet, is different things to different people: spiritual home, creative muse, a hiker’s paradise, the place where mountain biking originated, a sacred site (for the Coast Miwok), a theater venue, a movie-making location, and a place of peace and refuge in which to commune with the gods.

For all of us, however, the mountain is a guardian of magical beauty standing sentinel over a unique territory.

For Emmy-nominated Mill Valley filmmaker Gary Yost, the connection with the mountain is deep and everlasting. He dreamt about it as a child on the East Coast without knowing it was Mount Tam, and now often sleeps on its peak.

Yost has made several documentaries about Mount Tam, including 2014’s The Invisible Peak, a film examining how in 1950, during the Cold War, the military sheared off the highest peak of the mountain for the construction of barracks and defense machinery, disfiguring the top and leaving a toxic mess. Local actor and author Peter Coyote narrates the film.

“When I am there, I can visualize myself being there eternally,” says Yost. “It literally allows me to re-create myself through a connection to the eternal spirit of creation. I get born and reborn over and over. It will be where my molecules go when I die. I will live there forever.”

— Mandy Behbehani

Photo courtesy of Instagram/Klay Thompson

11 Boat Klay

Congrats to the Golden State Warriors on their NBA Championship title! Let’s hope the off season brings more clips of self-dubbed “Sea Captain” Klay Thompson (aka Boat Klay) on his Axopar. “I’m an Aquarius, so I just have always loved the water my whole life,” he said in a post-game presser last month. “It really is my happy place, besides the hardwood.”

During the back-to-back seasons he was injured, the Warriors guard acquired and customized his 37-foot vessel. He took to Instagram Live, posting videos of himself out on the Bay to his millions of followers. Fans may not have seen him on the court for a while, but they saw plenty of him on his boat fishing; commuting to Chase Center; relaxing with his dog, Rocco; rapping and singing while at the helm. Earlier this year, at the annual Warriors Community Foundation Charity Poker Tournament, an auction item that included a boat ride with Thompson, as well as dinner at Tyler Florence’s Miller & Lux and floor seats for a Warriors game, sold twice ($250,000 each).

— A.L.

12 Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater × Sf Arts And Culture

First opened in 1937, with a renovation completed in 2019, the alfresco venue Frost Amphitheater is bringing some of San Francisco’s finest cultural institutions to the Peninsula this summer. Catch productions by SF Symphony (Night in Bohemia, Time for Three and Rapture & Reverie), SFJAZZ (a celebration of Linda Ronstadt as well as concerts with esperanza spalding; Eddie Palmieri and Arturo Sandoval; and Pink Martini) and SF Ballet (Star Dust: From Bach to Bowie, co-presented with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, plus Starry Nights). Consider a VIP table, which includes seating for four and priority entry, along with food and beverage service.

— A.L.

Minister John Brett at the Castro Drag Street Eucharist. | Photo by Sam R. Ladue, courtesy San Francisco Night Ministry.

13 San Francisco Night Ministry

At around 10p.m. each night he works, Johnny Leggett, a Baptist minister and director of san Francisco Night Ministry sevices leaves his office on Cathedral Hill and walks to the Tenderloin. After strolling through the neighborhood, he veers south to the Civic Center BART station, where he distributes hygiene kits at an unhoused encampment and then visits several gay bars, including Aunt Charlie’s Lounge and the Cinch Saloon, to pass out cards with the Ministry’s Care Line number. He wears a collar and walks slowly, so people who are unhoused or addicted or struggling feel free to approach.

Leggett is one of five or six religious leaders who make up the ministry, started in 1964 by a group of Protestant churches. The churches were concerned that there was no one available to help people on the streets after dark, other than emergency services. A ministry chaplain has walked San Francisco’s streets every night since (that’s more than 20,500 nights in a row). Now, the organization is more of an independent interfaith and multifaith nonprofit, but its mission has never changed: serving those on the streets and those in pain.

Rev. Johnny Leggett conducting a community night walk. | Photo by Sam R. Ladue, courtesy San Francisco Night Ministry

“We practice a ‘ministry of presence,’” says Trent Thornley, an ordained Buddhist and executive director of the ministry. “We are a consciousness-raising and calming presence out in the streets, letting people touch into whatever is sacred and meaningful for them.”

When someone approaches a minister, Leggett says, “we listen to them. We allow them to vent and discuss their trauma. We try to be nonjudgmental. We are noncondemning, and we simply allow people to express their pain to us.”

Even those who are housed can benefit from the ministry, which offers a Care Line (844-HOPE- 4-SF) each night from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Staffed by ordained clergy and trained volunteers, the phone line is open to anyone, and callers include people from all over the United States, including college students stressed about social media and elderly people grieving a loss.

Rev. Nancy Pennekamp washing feet at Open Cathedral, a twice weekly outdoor service. | Photo by Sam R. Ladue, courtesy San Francisco Night Ministry.

Worship is also an important part of the ministry. On Thursday evenings at the 16th Street Mission BART station and Sunday afternoons at U.N. Plaza, its ministers celebrate Open Cathedral, a nondenominational Christian worship service, followed by a meal. For other faiths, there are popup Shabbat and Ramadan services, and meditation groups — all of which the ministry hopes to make regularly scheduled events soon.

But among the ministry’s most compelling programs, in light of San Francisco’s gaping income inequality, are their Community Walks, in which housed people accompany chaplains on their nightly walks. Church youth groups and Zen Buddhists have gone on these walks, and KQED is planning one this summer. Thornley would love for local politicians or members of the tech community to join the walks, too. “When our housed neighbors meet our unhoused neighbors,” Thornley says, “there’s a chance people will find that common humanity, and something in their hearts will shift, rippling out in a small — or even big — way in terms of how we’re dealing with what’s rapidly becoming two San Franciscos. We are trying to heal that and create change.”

— Laura Hilgers

14 A Rare Frank Lloyd Wright Retail Project

When Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop came to town six years ago, it set up temporary shop in the sole Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building in San Francisco, whose interior was designated a landmark by the City later that year (the exterior had already received such status in 1975). The renowned architect was enlisted in 1948 for a remodel of the V.C. Morris Gift Shop at 140 Maiden Lane, one of only two extant Wright retail projects (the other is Beverly Hills’ Anderton Court Shops). Since 2017, Italian luxury menswear brand Isaia Napoli has operated out of the Union Square space. From the outside, marvel at the windowless brick façade and arched entryway. Inside the double-height, circular venue, the spiral ramp was the prototype for New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

— A.L.

Photo courtesy of Aileen Barr

15 Aileen Barr

The 1970s TV show may have made the streets of San Francisco famous, but those who live here know that it’s the stairs that are the real stars — and not just for the views they offer (looking at you, Filbert Street Steps). If you’re a fan of the tiled stairways around town, you should know the name Aileen Barr — the ceramic artist who had a major hand in a number of them. After she moved to San Francisco from Ireland 20 years ago, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps on Moraga Street (shown below) was her first large-scale endeavor here. For the community beautification project, started by Golden Gate Heights neighborhood residents Jessie Audette and Alice Yee Xavier, Barr and artist Colette Crutcher were tapped to design the 163 mosaic panels making up each riser.

In the beginning, the creative duo had “quite different designs — mine was a sea to sky theme with all handmade tiles and hers was a spiral design using mosaic,” recalls Barr. “We overlaid the designs and they worked even better together! At that time, Colette hadn’t any experience making tile and I hadn’t used mosaic in my work, so we were able to teach each other new skills.” According to Barr, it took about three years from initial concept to completion, with community workshops held, allowing the public to see the artwork as it was created and help with some of the mosaic.

Since the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps debuted in 2005, Barr and Crutcher have collaborated on the City’s Arelious Walker Stairway, Hidden Garden Steps and Dragon Tale Staircase. The Lincoln Park Steps, featuring only handmade tiles, was a solo effort by Barr. Those mosaic murals on the platforms along Muni’s L-Taraval line? That’s Barr, too. She has done seating, planter areas and sculptural pieces for parks and schools as well.

While Barr accepts private commissions, her community-initiated projects are particularly rewarding. “In addition to having the opportunity to create these artworks, I also get to meet and work with the incredible people behind the scenes that make them happen,” she says, noting that many are volunteers. Then there’s the day-to-day impact. “Working in the public art arena appeals to me as it takes art out of museums and galleries and makes it accessible to everyone. … I think art should be a part of our daily lives.”

— A.L.

16 Mechanics’ Institute & Chess Club

Aside from its designation as #134 among San Francisco Landmarks, the Mechanics’ Institute — a glorious Beaux Arts building at 57 Post Street, designed by architect Albert Pissis — is also a lively literary hub and home to the nation’s oldest, continually operating chess club.

The mission of the institute, founded in 1854 (the original building was decimated in the 1906 earthquake and the current one opened four years later), was to re-educate out-of-work gold miners and serve as a haven of vocational training, classes, technical books, industrial exhibitions — and camaraderie in the game of chess. The library — adorned with deep, leather reading chairs — and separate chess room are designated as “members-only,” which currently number about 2,945. The annual fee, for all comers, is $120.

Every week, the Mechanics’ Chess Club hosts scholastic programming, a Tuesday Night Marathon ($50 entry fee) for players of all levels and lectures by Grandmaster in Residence Nick de Firmian. The group also regularly holds tournaments for U.S. Chess Federation members, with the Bagby Memorial Championship and the Pafnutieff Memorial Championship slated for July 16 and July 30, respectively.

— C.B.

Illustration by Olivia Wise

17 From the local to the national political stage

When it comes to prominent female political leaders, the Bay Area has an embarrassment of riches. Two San Francisco women rank near the top of the chain of command, with Vice President Kamala Harris first in line behind President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, second.

If we were simply talking about these two women, their list of “firsts” would be impressive: Harris is the first woman, first Black American and first South Asian to become vice president of the United States. Pelosi is the first woman to lead a political party in Congress and serve as speaker of the House.

But our Democratic women are like a baseball team so loaded with talent that even the bench brims with sluggers. Since 1987, when Pelosi was elected to the House, the Bay Area has sent numerous talented women to D.C., including Senators Dianne Feinstein (first woman elected senator of California) and Barbara Boxer, and Representatives Barbara Lee (East Bay), Jackie Speier (Peninsula) and Anna Eshoo (Silicon Valley). That list doesn’t even include Libby Schaaf, who in 2018 became the first Oakland mayor to win a second term since Jerry Brown, or London Breed, the first Black woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco.

Why such an abundance of leaders from our region? The most significant reason may be the Bay Area’s long embrace of progressive ideals. “You have a concentration of highly educated women in the Bay Area,” says Bruce Cain, professor of political science at Stanford University, “and a progressive/ liberal Democratic culture that’s always believed women shouldn’t be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

Most of these women were elected in the roughly 30-year period following Pelosi’s election and, says Mary Hughes, political strategist and founder of Close the Gap California, “they captured the zeitgeist of what happened here in that period.” The Bay Area has long been a hotbed of technology, innovation and the “new.” Three decades ago, sending women to powerful positions in D.C. was nothing if not new.

According to Cain, women also tend to have more grassroots experience and be better fundraisers, which helps them in national campaigns. Pelosi, a legendary fundraiser, worked her way up the ranks, starting as a California Democratic Party National Committee member. Boxer was a Marin County supervisor, while Eshoo served on San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors. Lee began her political career as a civil rights activist.

They also benefited from the mentorship of several powerful men. That included the late congressman Phil Burton (and his wife, Sala Burton), who encouraged Pelosi to run for office. Phil’s brother, congressman John Burton, nudged Boxer. Meanwhile, former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown mentored Breed and Harris. Cain remarks that the men “understood talent when they saw it.”

More than anything, though, the women helped each other. They worked together. They co-sponsored legislation. They attended each other’s events. “These were sophisticated, well-prepared women who understood what they could accomplish collectively when they worked together,” Hughes says.

She adds that it’s not surprising our bench is so deep. “Yes, you can say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is remarkable,’” Hughes says, “but when you dig around a bit, you see that the seeds were all here.”

— L.H.

Photo courtesy of Justin Lewis

18 Nick’s Cove

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been especially grateful for the myriad staycation choices within an hour or two’s drive — that many people travel hundreds, even thousands, of miles to enjoy. Case in point: Nick’s Cove in Marshall. Its 12 charming cottages, all of which are waterfront or have water views, were recently updated. Pop into the on-site restaurant for oysters locally harvested from Tomales Bay and Drake’s Bay. Partake in a game of bocce at The Croft, the property’s farm and garden situated on the other side of Highway 1. With Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay State Park nearby, outdoor activities abound, including biking, boating, kayaking, fishing and hiking. Another perk: Pets are welcome in seven of the cottages.

— A.L.

19 Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability

The Farm is tackling the challenges facing our planet. In May, Stanford announced that its first new school in 70 years — launching in September, with a focus on earth, climate and society — now has a name. In addition to a $1.1 billion commitment from Ann and John Doerr, the largest gift to the university to date, lead donors include Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, plus Angela and David Filo. The inaugural dean is Dr. Arun Majumdar, an expert in sustainable energy solutions and policy, who has worked in the industry, government and academia. According to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, “The school will build fundamental knowledge of the Earth and its systems, accelerate the development of solutions to the climate crisis at the scale that is needed, and educate tomorrow’s problem solvers and change makers in this urgent area.”

— A.L.

Photo courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography

20 The power of Dagmar Dolby

“I’ve only been involved for the last 30 years,” Dagmar Dolby says in May, as a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive health care hangs in the balance. The last time this country knew such a reality — 1973 — Dolby was living in London. “Even though abortion was [previously] illegal there as it was in Germany, where I grew up, it was not made a political issue. That’s the huge difference.”

Fortunately for San Francisco, where she moved a few years later, Dolby did become involved, founding NARAL’s Power of Choice fundraising luncheon in 1995 to help the prochoice organization grow its West Coast support and serving on NARAL’s national board for 11 years. That first year Dolby held less of a luncheon and more of a briefing for 250. By the next, 500 attended at the Fairmont, with increasing numbers from there. “All these years we’ve been telling people this is what they’re gearing up for, this is what’s happening,” Dolby says of the wave of anti-choice state legislation leading to the precipice the country now stands on.

At 80, the mother of two sons and grandmother of five young granddaughters is here to meet the moment. “I am passionate about San Francisco and certainly want to do what I can in my community,” says Dolby, who marched along Market Street on May 14 with an estimated 10,000 other pro-choice supporters and remains involved with the Power of Choice Leadership Council she started, now chaired by good friend Nonie Greene (shown here, on the right, with Dolby). “I couldn’t think of a better successor,” Dolby says. “She’s done it longer now than I have. She is just as passionate.”

And at the 2022 luncheon in March, after two years of virtual gatherings, Dolby returned to the Gold Room at the Fairmont — where that early lunch was held over 25 years ago — to hear from new NARAL President Mini Timmaraju, appointed last November and who Dolby calls “fabulous and a real dynamo,” and California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, among others. Each of these last three years, Dolby says, the luncheon alone has raised more than $1 million for NARAL, toward its work around reproductive rights, access to birth control, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and paid family leave.

— Jennifer Massoni Pardini

21 Burritos at El Farolito

The search for the City’s definitive Missionstyle burrito ends at the original location of 40-year-old stalwart El Farolito, right by the 24th Street BART station. This enduring icon is perpetually bustling from late morning to the blurry early morning hours. An El Farolito burrito sports a precise ratio of rice-to-beansto- meat, like tender carne asada nubs or crispy-yet-juicy carnitas, all wrapped snugly in a lightly griddled flour, wheat or spinach tortilla. Opt for the super burrito, possibly the best deal in town: An extra dollar — bringing the total to about $10 — adds refreshing avocado (yes, actual chunks of avocado), sour cream and a salsa jolt to the already terrific, hearty ensemble. Keep in mind, it’s a cash-only establishment!

— Trevor Felch

Photo courtesy of Fishshapes

22 Dear San Francisco

For many, tickets to Beach Blanket Babylon, which ran at North Beach’s Club Fugazi for half a century, granted entry to a cultural rite of passage in the City. It was hard to imagine that another act could follow such festooned headpieces. Then came Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story, which took to the air instead for a love letter in motion imagined by the Bay Area’s Gypsy Snider and Shana Carroll. In addition to being co-artistic directors of the show and two of the seven cofounders of The 7 Fingers artist collective who bring San Francisco history and heritage to acrobatic life onstage, the visionary veterans are rich in local legacies. (Snider’s mother, Peggy Snider, cofounded the Pickle Family Circus, while Carroll’s father is former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll.)

When the show premiered last October, performers leapt from planks, scaled up Chinese poles (and one another) and dove through hoops while reciting lines by Diane di Prima and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Everyone went home with a flower for their hair — and the realization that they had witnessed both the return and the debut of city magic at Club Fugazi. Tickets for the show, now billed as Dear San Francisco: The Intimate Cirque Experience, are currently on sale through December 30 for guests “ages 5 to 105.”

— J.M

Photo courtesy of Craig Lee

23 Mavericks, we’ve missed you

It’s been six years without a competition at the Half Moon Bay break half a mile offshore and named for a local German shepherd fond of swimming out with surfers back in the early 1960s. Since 1999, Mavericks’ electrifying yet sporadic big-wave competition has seen 60-foot swells ridden by the likes of Santa Cruz’s Peter Mel and the Peninsula’s Jeff Clark, considered the first to dare to tame the liquid giants in 1975 at just 17. When the contest is next called — traditionally anytime between October and March when ideal winter conditions align — it will be under the stewardship of San Francisco’s Elizabeth Cresson. She founded Mavericks Ventures LLC to bring consistency and coordination to the event, last run by World Surf League (Cresson purchased the rights back in 2019, when she was just 20). She may not chase waves herself, but she sure is chasing equity, with a goal to host an even number of men and women going forward, a big-wave competitive first.

— J.M.P.

24 Willie Mays

Why do we love Willie Mays? What’s there not to love? The “Say Hey Kid” patrolled centerfield for the Giants for 20 years, 14 of them in the windy confines of Candlestick Point. Over that time, he amassed 660 home runs and established himself as one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. But it went beyond the field and the numbers. Mays exuded a love for the game that was infectious, his hat flying off his head as he turned on the jets and rounded second base. He made San Francisco his home, fighting through racism to purchase a home in St. Francis Wood. To this day, you can find Mays hanging around the Giants’ clubhouse, imparting wisdom to the latest generation wearing orange and black. There’s a reason why a statue of Mays adorns the corner of Third and King streets. He is the greatest Giant of all time. And for that, my dear readers, we love him dearly.

— Al Saracevic

25 A Heartwarming Work of Staggering Volunteerism

Twenty years ago, author Dave Eggers and teacher Nínive Calegari were on the hunt for a space to launch a tutoring program that would help underprivileged youth improve their writing skills. School facilities and church basements had already turned them down when they discovered an empty storefront on the 800 block of Valencia Street. City ordinances at the time required all businesses along Valencia to be either retail or catering. So rather than get discouraged, Eggers and Calegari opened a pirate store.

Today, the eye patches and treasure chests sold at the Pirate Supply Store help fund 826 Valencia, the flagship program in what has ballooned into a national tutoring phenomenon with several international copycats. Each writing center has its own whimsical storefront attached — 826 Los Angeles sells time-traveling goods and 826 New York hawks superhero supplies — and over 1,400 volunteers have donated their time to the San Francisco initiative alone. It attracts big names, too: One of the early members of a strategic communications committee for 826 National, the umbrella organization that connects all the outposts, was a young up-and-coming poet from Los Angeles named Amanda Gorman.

In the past decade, 826 Valencia has expanded to two more San Francisco locations, in the Tenderloin and Mission Bay. The latter, built pro bono by renowned architecture firm WRNS Studio, is noteworthy because it’s specifically designed to serve a neighborhood that historically had no residents — a beacon of light in a growing community that until recently was composed of industrial lots. And as for its storefront? An outfitter for woodland creatures, naturally.

— Carly Schwartz

26 Health Care Oasis

Here in the Bay Area, most of us are well within a 40-mile radius of a globally renowned health care facility or provider, from UCSF to Stanford to any number of the Sutter Health– or CommonSpirit–affiliated options in our midst. As Paul King, president and CEO of Stanford Children’s Health, puts it: “The Bay Area is known across the globe as the hub of technological innovation; and the health care systems that are headquartered here all share part of that DNA.” So, while California’s climate change challenges or dwindling affordable housing make national headlines as reasons to bid adieu to the Golden State, many would never forgo this proximity to cutting-edge care.

In April, for the 15th consecutive year, for instance, UCSF Health was named the LGBTQ+ Health Equality Leader by the Human Rights campaign (and UCSF Health now includes the newly launched Center for Climate, Health and Equity as well as the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Neurology Clinic). Meanwhile, its Center for Next-Gen Precision Diagnostics and new Bakar Precision Cancer Medicine Building reflect an institution-wide effort and ethos.

“Precision medicine employs advanced computing to aggregate, integrate and analyze data from basic science, clinical, personal, environmental and population health settings,” explains Dr. Keith Yamamoto, UCSF’s vice chancellor for science policy and strategy. “This enables understanding of biological processes and disease mechanisms, and most importantly, the potential to deliver diagnosis, therapy and disease prevention measures specific for each individual.” The Precision Medicine Platform Committee of research leaders and computation experts is creating a “‘knowledge network’ that integrates discoveries across fields, and managers of a wide range of topical programs,” Yamamoto says.

Meanwhile, notes King, “data is also allowing patients to engage more directly with their care. For example, in diabetes care, patients can use technologies like continuous glucose monitors that can upload data directly to a portal or to their electronic medical records. We learned that this information then gives providers insight into which patients need additional support, or where educational resources can be most effective, leading to healthier outcomes.” And a recent $100 million gift from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation will soon expand the capacity of Stanford’s obstetric and neonatal facilities with new private rooms for before, during and after labor as well as in the NICU.

Places like Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame are also innovating when it comes to how emergency care is administered. Its Mobile Stroke Unit — with a physician, CT scanner, CT tech, nurse and EMT all on board — was the second in the state to dispatch the service. “Using advanced technology, our Mobile Stroke Unit can bring acute stroke care to the patient in the field, saving valuable minutes that might otherwise be lost transporting,” says CEO Janet Wagner. “Every second counts in strokes, and we can now start treating the patient before even getting to the emergency room.” For this program, MPMC was part of a research study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last September, which concluded that disability outcomes at 90 days after an acute ischemic stroke were better for eligible patients.

— J.M.P.

Photo courtesy of Alex Stack

27 The next EV gauntlet

There’s little question that today’s major push in the electric vehicle market began 18 years ago with Elon Musk’s investment in and ultimate control of Tesla Motors, then a small EV fabricator in San Carlos. Now we are finally seeing competition from legacy automakers, with EV brand and model choices expanding daily.

Although Musk recently moved Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters, along with his personal residence, to Texas in a fanfare of notoriety, that was hardly the end of the Bay Area’s role in EV innovation. The latest to garner much buzz: Lucid Motors, which has grown from an advanced electric motor and battery system, developed by two former Oracle executives, into a fully integrated automaker producing a luxury sedan that captured the 2022 MotorTrend Car of the Year award. If that magazine tribute sounds familiar, Musk took home the same trophy in 2013 for his original Model S.

The new Lucid Air, shown here with its sleek design and spacious interior, as well as class-leading performance and 512-mile range, sprang from the leadership of Peter Rawlinson, the former Model S engineer who assembled a talented team, including many Tesla alumni. The Newark-headquartered company has its new manufacturing plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, along with an aggressive rollout of sales and service facilities, including three in the Bay Area.

Another manufacturer attracting attention these days, Rivian, is based in Irvine, yet clearly recognized the importance of Silicon Valley for sales: The maker of all-electric trucks and SUVs is expanding its facility in South San Francisco — which will total nearly 45,000 square feet — to meet local demand for vehicle service and delivery.

Although California has led the nation in EV adoption, our state has struggled with consistent supply of electricity. Even for homes with solar panels, when the utility power shuts down thanks to rolling blackouts or weather events, most owners are stranded. Until now, the solution has been a backup generator or battery system with an isolation switch to prevent feedback to the electric grid.

While the environmentally elegant solution to the next blackout is a battery backup like Tesla’s Powerwall, a robust version of that energy source may already be parked in your garage. Ford has made headlines with its F-150 Lightning electric pickup providing household backup power, and other makers, including Lucid and Rivian, are also developing solutions. Two-way power delivery isn’t simple, since hardware and software may need to be included in the host vehicle to convert the power back to AC from DC. But a relatively new player, Wallbox, claims its Quasar 2 system will handle the task for most any EV.

How big a deal is bidirectional charging technology? PG&E recently announced plans for three new pilot programs, launching as early as this summer, that will test the ability for EVs to send power to the grid and curtail outages. And that’s powerful news for everyone.

— Brian Douglas

Composer Nia Imani Franklin will debut a world premiere of her new choral work at this year’s festival. | Photo courtesy of Vince Piombo

28 Festival Napa Valley

Way back in 2006, Festival Napa Valley — cofounded by arts impresario Rick Walker with three board members and formerly titled Festival del Sole — hosted a mere 1,000 guests for seven concerts. Its “house band,” the Russian National Orchestra, set the stage for artists such as violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Renée Fleming and bass-baritone Samuel Ramey.

Today, Festival Napa Valley is a multievent behemoth, billed as “The 10 Best Days of Summer.” From July 15 through 24, patrons and ticketholders will traverse the valley amid a cultural marathon encompassing events that marry the sunny bounty of the region’s cuisine and primo vino with world-class symphonic concerts, opera, dance, chamber music, jazz, specialty dinners at exquisite wineries and even free concerts for young children.

Now in its 16th season — with a theme of “The Sounds of America” — the festival also produces more than 70 concerts year-round and has developed a music academy and artist residencies. This year’s Arts for All Gala on July 17, starring country music star Trisha Yearwood, will yield big bucks to provide music scholarships and free music education for Napa Valley students, veterans and seniors.

— C.B.

Photo courtesy of Mike James

29 Filoli House and Garden

Lurline Matson Roth’s onetime Woodside residence draws admirers far and wide. In the 1980s, Filoli’s 54,000-square-foot Georgian Revival–style mansion was used as Carrington manor on the prime-time soap opera Dynasty, and earlier this year, its 16 acres of English Renaissance gardens served as the backdrop for British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s cover shoot with Tatler.

The 1917 country estate was donated by Roth to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and opened to the public in 1977. Filoli is in bloom year round, thanks to its 14 full-time horticulturists, with summer bringing roses, lavender and hydrangeas. Now through November 7, the property hosts the exhibit Blue Gold: The Power & Privilege of Water — which will include experiences inside the Willis Polk–designed house and a stunning succulents display in the Sunken Garden — while Art Walk, showcasing local artists, takes place on the grounds July 30 and 31. Plus, Filoli’s Summer Nights program continues until September 2, with live music and drinks at the Bluebird Bar on Thursdays.

— A.L.

30 Pedal Power

The Bay Area is a haven for road and mountain biking. Mount Tamalpais is regarded as the birthplace of the latter, and longtime Marin County resident Gary Fisher has been described as the “Founding Father of Mountain Bikes” by Smithsonian magazine. (San Rafael’s China Camp is another popular mountain-biking spot in Marin.) Among fitness app Strava’s top local routes is the Headlands Loop, a road ride that starts in the City, then takes you across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Marin Headlands (including Hawk Hill) and back. And while the Peninsula has its share of off-road trails, too — like those at 2,908-acre El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve (aka Skeggs Point) — on Sundays, a 3.8-mile stretch of Cañada Road is closed to cars, drawing serious and casual bicyclists alike, as well as walkers, joggers, skaters and hikers.

— A.L.

31 TPC Harding Park Golf Course

TPC Harding Park joins our list as a highly ranked municipal golf course that is fun to play with fabulous history over its nearly 100 years. San Franciscans with a resident card can enjoy Harding and other city-owned courses at an attractive rate. The Fleming Nine, adjacent to Harding, is a wonderful short course as well. Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi, both World Golf Hall of Fame members, grew up playing Harding Park and the 105-year-old San Francisco City Golf Championship that is still mostly held there. Harding has also hosted professional championships such as the PGA Championship in 2020, won by Cal alum Collin Morikawa.

— John K. Abendroth, PGA

32 The First Partner, an SF Native, is a Force

When Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel tied the knot in July 2008, there were inklings of their future as California’s premier power couple. By then, another wedding had already put him in the national spotlight: As mayor of San Francisco, he issued the country’s first same-sex marriage license, allowing Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin to wed on February 12, 2004. And in 2007, Siebel — an SF native who was recruited to play soccer as an undergrad at Stanford and later pursued an MBA there, as well as studied at American Conservatory Theater — founded Miss Representation, a platform that fights against sexism through films, education and activism.

Since Newsom’s 2019 gubernatorial win, Siebel Newsom, first partner of California, has further taken flight on her own. “Making my first film, Miss Representation (2011), sparked a true passion — not just for gender and racial equity, but for documentary filmmaking,” she shares in an email to the Gazette. “All my documentaries investigate different aspects and outcomes of gender and racial hierarchies, work that I’ve carried over to the Office of First Partner.”

As first partner, and mother to her and Newsom’s four children, Siebel Newsom has developed numerous initiatives — including California for ALL Kids, championing children’s mental and physical health; California for ALL Women, which strives for equal workplace representation for working mothers; and the California Partners Project to increase female representation on corporate boards. Earlier this year, the state signed on to her Equal Pay Pledge, an effort to counterbalance the gender pay gap. Currently, she is engaged in legislation to codify an explicit state constitutional right to safe abortions and access to contraceptives.

And last month, Siebel Newsom, in partnership with the California State Library, launched the second season of her Summer Book Club, a 10-week series that promotes literacy, via books she curates, to engage children and teens in diversity, self-love and acceptance. “California is a state of dreamers and doers, and diversity is our strength,” she enthuses. “California is exemplary of what happens when collaboration, innovation and care anchor our shared cultural ethos.”

— C.B.

Photo courtesy of Craig Lee

33 Sanctuaries for the soul — and eye

Grace Cathedral is arguably the Bay Area’s most famous house of worship, but there’s no shortage of others well worth a visit. Here are just a few:

St. Ignatius

650 Parker Avenue, San Francisco

This 1914 Italian Renaissance and Baroque structure, shown above and known as the “Beacon on the Hill,” stands 230 feet tall. The Jesuit church, designed by architect Charles Devlin, features arched masonry, twin spires and a copper-clad dome. Stained-glass windows were introduced in 1937, including circular windows, 4 feet in diameter, and 17-foot-high clerestory windows. For an article that recently ran in the Examiner (our sister publication), staff writer Al Saracevic climbed the 170 steps of its spiral staircase and observed from the bell tower: “I saw the heavens above. The Salesforce Tower below. And everything in between. It’s the kind of view you don’t forget.” The congregation’s OWLS (Older, Wiser, Livelier Seniors) lead tours of the church; check online for future dates (

Stanford Memorial Church

450 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford University

Stanford was founded by Jane and Leland Stanford in honor of their late son, Leland Jr., and the Romanesque-style church on the Main Quad was built by Jane as a memorial to her husband. Completed in 1903, “MemChu” features carved sandstone arches, stained-glass windows and mosaic works. Pope Leo XIII gave Venetian tilemaker Salviati permission for a mosaic reproduction of “Last Supper,” Cosimo Rosselli’s Sistine Chapel fresco. An enormous 84-foot-wide mosaic by Salviati also graces the exterior. After the 1906 earthquake, the heavily damaged structure was reconstructed, minus its original bell tower, which was replaced by a domed skylight. Although the church is currently closed for tours and visits, ecumenical services are held on Sundays, and a calendar of events, such as the Sacred Summer Music Series, is online (

Chapel of the Chimes

4499 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

In 1928, Julia Morgan, the first woman licensed as an architect in California, completed a redesign and expansion of Chapel of the Chimes, which was founded nearly two decades earlier as a crematory and columbarium. Its Moorish-Gothic interior is a vast labyrinth with indoor gardens, stained-glass ceilings, mosaic fl oors, trickling fountains and small chapels. A curved balustrade brought over from Europe was initially intended for another Morgan project, Hearst Castle, but was reportedly rejected by William Randolph Hearst. Floor-to-ceiling niches hold urns — thousands of them, including those of musician John Lee Hooker and Raiders owner Al Davis — many resembling books. The chapel is open daily to the public, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maps are available, and starting this month, free docent-guided tours will be offered quarterly (sign up online:

— A.L.

Photo courtesy of Maximillian Tortoriello Photography

34 Modern Appealing Clothing

For 42 years, Modern Appealing Clothing — MAC to its friends — has been the City’s one-stop shop for avant-garde style. Owned and operated since 1980 by superchic siblings Ben and Chris Ospital, along with their mother, Jeri, and supported by a crack team of associates, the boutique carries the best of Dries Van Noten, Sophie D’Hoore, Comme des Garçons, Engineered Garments, Junya Watanabe, Nooy and Walter Van Beirendonck, as well as local designers like Lemon Twist. Clients including John Waters, Frances McDormand, David Sedaris, the late style icon Dodie Rosekrans, Ricky Serbin and yours truly have culled the shop — which has occupied the same Hayes Valley spot the past 18 years — for pieces from the latest collections that have been cherry-picked by this first family of fashion. In a 2018 Gazette profile, Ben joked, “We always say we sold Fred and Wilma Flintstone their wedding outfits … because we’ve been around so long.”

— David Nash

Photo courtesy of ©Alden Corrigan Media

35 Menlo Charity Horse Show

While Menlo Charity Horse Show’s 50th anniversary was yet another 2020 milestone deferred, the return to the fields at Menlo Circus Club (and Vendor Row!) may be all the sweeter when one of the few charity shows still around takes place August 9 to 14. What began as a one-day horse show in 1970 has evolved into six days of show events under the stewardship of founder Betsy Glikbarg, Nan Chapman, Nancy Parker, Jane Yates and Nancy Robinson, raising over $7 million to date for Palo Alto–based Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, MCHS’ beneficiary since 1973.

“Menlo is truly a jewel,” says MCHS Executive Director Suzanne Rischman. “We are so lucky to have such a diverse group of sponsors who are responsible for making this a premiere horse show each year. Without them, it would be impossible to have this event.” This year, you can catch favorites like the $2,000 Windy Hill Equestrian in Memory of Larry Mayfield on August 10 and the 50th Anniversary Gala on August 13, following the $40,000 Stephen Silver Grand Prix at 6 p.m.

— J.M.P.

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Kevin Parisi

36 Opera Soprano Breanna Sinclairé

Over the past decade, Breanna Sinclairé has broken barrier after barrier as the first transgender person to pursue a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s opera program (she earned her master’s in 2014); perform the national anthem at a pro sporting event (a 2015 Oakland A’s game); and sing alongside the SF Symphony orchestra (for New Year’s Eve 2018). “I hope my voice in song will be the gateway to audiences and production companies alike giving trans people a chance to join in the diverse canon of storytellers that have occupied the annals of our human history,” says Sinclairé.

In 2021, she appeared on an episode of W. Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America. Earlier this year, Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre released Bound, an opera film that showcases her singing, and just last month, the PBS special True Colors: LGBTQ+ Our Stories, Our Songs debuted, featuring Sinclairé as well. The San Franciscan will soon head overseas for her turn as Gertrude in the Berlin Opera Academy’s September production of Hänsel und Gretel.

A recording of her performance during Expansive, a recent show in the City presented by The Transgender District and Opera Paralléle, is on the latter’s website ( OP’s founder, conductor and artistic director Nicole Paiement initially took notice of Sinclairé’s aptitude when she was a student at the SFCM. “I always knew that she would be very successful,” says Paiement. “She had not only the talent, but also the vision and the interior strength to really become the powerful performer that she has become. … She’s a San Francisco star.”

— A.L.

37 Bay to Breakers is Back

After three years without bungee-roped centipedes, upstream salmon or a fair number of birthday suits, the 2022 rendition celebrated a return to running and revelry on a seven-mile stretch of San Francisco, from Main and Howard streets out to the Great Highway. While May 15’s Bay to Breakers, organized by Capstone Event Group, marked 108 years of what’s become a feel-good 12K, the costume tradition really picked up the pace in 1982 under former race director Terri Robbins Tiffany, who was tasked with adding excitement — and more running feet — to the event.

“We grew the race to over 100,000 runners from around the globe, and it became the certified Guinness Book of Records Largest Participatory Sporting Event in the World in 1986,” Tiffany says of the achievement, held until 2010. “Larry Baer, then at KPIX, and I traveled all over the country together selling sponsorships. We had a blast moving 100,000 people from one side of the City to the other.”

This year, some 14,000 runners registered for the foot fun, with thousands more joining in along the way. “It was so exciting to be back on the ground and take in all the wackiness, excitement, entertainment and spectacle of Bay to Breakers in person after celebrating virtually the past two years,” says Capstone Event Group CEO Charlie Mercer. “Looking back on memories and photos of the event made it difficult to forget the energy it has, but nothing matches being there on the day.”

— J.M.P.

Photo courtesy of ©2022, California State Parks

38 Ferry Tale

Plan a day on the Bay: Board the Golden Gate Ferry in San Francisco and arrive in Tiburon 30 minutes later for lunch at a waterfront restaurant — from long-standing spots such as Sam’s Anchor Cafe to newcomers like chef Michael Mina’s The Bungalow Kitchen. Next, take the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry over to the island/state park for a hike and a history lesson. Then on the Golden Gate Ferry ride back to the City, sit back and reflect, while admiring the scenery that includes Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

If it’s been a minute since you last set foot on Angel Island State Park, a new museum provides a great reason to go again (or for the first time). A little background: The island’s early inhabitants included the Coast Miwok tribe. During the 1800s and 1900s, it served various military purposes. And between 1910 and 1940, its immigration station processed an estimated 500,000 immigrants from 80 countries (hence, Angel Island is referred to as “the Ellis Island of the West”).

In 2004, Dale Ching, an immigration station docent, spoke with KQED-FM about his detainment there more than six decades earlier. Ching, who passed away in 2012, arrived alone at the island in 1937 as a 16-year-old, about 22 days after boarding a ferry in Hong Kong. He spent 3 ½ months in the station — some detainees were held for years — until immigration officials deemed his papers were real. “Many, many years, I didn’t want to go back. … A bad memory to go back,” he said of Angel Island. Finally, at his grandchildren’s urging, he returned. He encountered a group of kids on a field trip who expressed disinterest in learning about the island’s past, which pained Ching. So he decided to become a docent in 1991. “If I’m not going to tell the history,” he explained, “it’s going to be gone forever.”

The immigration station, where poignant poetry carved on the walls in Chinese calligraphy has been preserved, is about 1.2 miles from the ferry dock at Ayala Cove (a shuttle is available). Visitors can explore the Detention Barracks Museum & World War II Mess Hall and the Angel Island Immigration Museum, which opened in January in a former hospital, to better understand the experiences of those who arrived here a century ago.

— A.L.

According to co-owner Christopher Gaither, Ungrafted has over 1,000 bottles in its cellar, with an emphasis on Champagne, Burgundy and “exquisite” German riesling. | Photo courtesy of Zhazha Liang

39 Ungrafted

The wine world has gotten a rep for having a stiff personality. But sommelier Christopher Gaither is trying to change that. A fine-dining veteran whose résumé includes The French Laundry, Gary Danko and Spruce, Gaither knows there’s a time and place for pomp and circumstance — and he’s also a bit tired of it.

Gaither and his wife, fellow sommelier Rebecca Fineman, opened Ungrafted in Dogpatch in 2018 with the goal of making wine more approachable and fun. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or don’t know where Burgundy is, the staff will, as he puts it, “meet guests where they are.” His classes and blind tastings are designed to make wine entertaining and easier to understand.

For the couple, who have two young children, creating a family-friendly neighborhood spot was a priority. Gaither also notes that he and Fineman both had to work extra hard at proving themselves in a white male–dominated industry, so they know firsthand how intimidating the formal nature of wine can be — and the importance of providing a welcoming environment. “Rebecca and I have worked in places where people have been made to feel like they’re supposed to know everything about wine,” he says, “which is going against our own personal beliefs about it.”

— T.F.

Photo courtesy of Alpine Inn

40 Alpine Inn, Where the First-ever Email Originated

You know you’ve arrived at Portola Valley’s Alpine Inn when you see the packed parking lot adjacent to Rossotti soccer field. Signage for the eatery also includes Rossotti’s in its name — and locals still refer to it as Zotts, even though Enrico Rossotti stopped running the place in the 1950s. The establishment has had multiple monikers over the years, dating back to its opening in 1852 as Casa de Tableta. It is not only California’s second-oldest continually operating tavern, but also the site where the first email was sent: In 1976, a team of SRI International scientists set up a mobile radio with a computer on a picnic table in the beer garden and successfully transmitted an electronic message to their Menlo Park office and then on to Boston. Several years ago, three local families purchased Zotts, freshened up the place — including parking an old-timey truck outfitted with a wood-fired pizza oven out back — and reopened with a new menu. (Save room for the banana pudding!)

— A.L.

41 Bright Lights, Big City

The Valencia Corridor is the Champs-Élysées of San Francisco. The businesses lining the Mission thoroughfare peddle some of the best of everything: best cup of hot chocolate (Dandelion), best electric bicycle (VanMoof), best slice of matcha-flavored pie (Stonemill), best snarky stationery (Serendipity), best Laotian street food (Hawker Fare). On weekends and certain evenings, it feels even more like a bustling European boulevard: Several blocks are closed off to cars, and patrons wander or dance through the streets to the tune of live jazz or mariachi. And Valencia has a bright future — bright and twinkling, for that matter. String lights were recently installed along the liveliest stretch, making the street not only more attractive, but safer during later hours. It’s a welcome example of urban beautification, and an effort other corridors are poised to follow.

— C.S.

Courtesy of SFMTA Photo

42 Streetcars of our desire

For rail fans, San Francisco’s legendary cable cars aren’t the only show in town. The City’s international collection of historic streetcars, serving the F-Market line, are another transit treasure. Despite their tourist-friendly route — going from the Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf via Market Street and the Embarcadero — they can be ridden for the regular Muni fare of $3, not the special $8 cable car fare.

In fact, the fleet came to be in order to sate tourists’ demand for vintage trains while the cable cars were out of service. In 1982, as the Muni Metro subway was finishing up construction and the cable cars were undergoing an extensive renovation, Rick Laubscher, a public relations executive at the engineering firm Bechtel, and John Jacobs, head of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, pitched Mayor Dianne Feinstein on an idea: Why not reactivate the dormant Market Street surface tracks with Muni’s oldest streetcars as a “substitute attraction” during the summer tourist season?

Feinstein replied, “All right, I’ll do it. But I don’t want to see any junk out there,” Laubscher recently recalls in an interview with the Gazette. Thus began the first in a series of San Francisco Historic Trolley Festivals, held during the summer months in the 1980s. These events proved so popular that they laid the groundwork for permanent F-Line service, which started in 1995. In 2000, the line was extended to Fisherman’s Wharf along the path of the demolished Embarcadero Freeway.

All the while, Muni leaders and rail boosters have stayed true to Feinstein’s directive. The initial fleet included Muni’s oldest streetcars, including one manufactured in 1896. The cable car lookalike is the oldest electric streetcar still in operation in the U.S.

Over time, the fleet grew to 50 cars with acquisitions from across the world. In the ’80s, Laubscher used his connections at Bechtel to arrange for the transportation of cable cars from Australia and England, which were donated to the City for free. The latter vehicle, the open-air “boat tram” from the seaside city of Blackpool, has become a particular fan favorite.

The bulk of the fleet is made up of streetcars from around the U.S., says Laubscher, now the president of Market Street Railway. The nonprofit supports the continued operation of the historic streetcars and runs the San Francisco Railway Museum, located at the Don Chee Way and Steuart St. F-Line stop.

These PCC-style streamline moderne trams, with rounded bodies and smiley face fronts, are today painted in the original colors from the cities in which they first operated. “I can’t tell you how many calls we’ve gotten over the years saying, ‘I can’t believe I saw the streetcar I rode as a boy (or girl) on your main street,’” Laubscher says. “‘It took me right back to Kansas City!’”

— Benjamin Schneider

43 Litquake

It’s been two decades since local writers Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware introduced their two-week literary festival, which actually got its start a few years prior as a one-day event. “In 1999 San Francisco,” recalls Boulware, “you saw the dot-com invasion everywhere. Billboards, tech-logo clothing, cars were covered in ads. The City was awash in new money. Nobody was really paying attention to books and writing.” So he and Ganahl, part of a “loose group of writers and journalists,” as he puts it, hatched the idea for a literary event at Golden Gate Park. About 400 people showed up, with writers — 22 of them — given 10 minutes each to read from their work.

The next year, it was held at Yerba Buena Gardens. “But in 2001, the dot-com crash happened, the economy tanked and everybody left the City in U-Haul trailers,” Boulware says. “So we thought that was it. It was nice, it was fun, we did it two years.” After people kept asking about its return, they once again gathered at Edinburgh Castle pub in the Tenderloin, where the event was initially conceived. In 2002, it was relaunched as Litquake.

The lineup has ranged from conversations and panels with authors to film screenings to poetry readings, at venues such as the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Grace Cathedral, Vesuvio Cafe and Saint Joseph’s Arts Society. In 2019, the last year it was held fully in person — it took place via Zoom in 2020, while last year’s was a hybrid format — 860 authors participated in its 217 events, attended by 20,000 people. Lit Crawl, its one-night pub crawl in the Mission, featured 104 events and nearly 500 authors — totaling four hours of free literary fun.

This year, Litquake’s 20th edition is slated for October 6 through 22. While programming is still in the works, during opening weekend, there will be a large two-day mini-conference for young and aspiring writers. Litquake continues to be billed as “the largest indie lit festival on the West Coast,” and Boulware adds that, “unlike other festivals, we were founded by writers, in a bar.”

— A.L.

Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Exploratorium

44 “The Wave Organ”

On a jetty in the Marina, built with material such as granite and marble from a relocated cemetery, the sound of the sea hits different — thanks to 25 PVC and concrete pipes installed at varying elevations. “The Wave Organ” is a collaboration between Peter Richards and George Gonzalez, who were artists in residence at the Exploratorium. The museum’s founding director, Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, was instrumental in bringing the acoustic sculpture to fruition. Since he passed away before its completion, upon its debut in 1986, it was dedicated to his memory. The waves crashing against the pipe ends, along with the water flowing in and out of the pipes, create a unique sonic experience that is best at high tide. The site, near the Golden Gate Yacht Club, also boasts spectacular views (hello, Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge).

— A.L.

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