Lombard Street (Get ready to jump...)

Lombard Street

 Lombard Street, San Francisco. Get ready to jump...

Thank goodness it doesn't snow in San Francisco, because if it did the town would literally have to shut down until everything melted.  We have some pretty steep streets here, (shocking, I know), and it's hard enough trying to navigate them on a sunny day let alone having to throw inclement weather into the mix.   If you can't spot an 'out-of-towner' by the camera their clutching, then you can certainly smell their burning clutches as they attempt to adjust and negotiate their position amidst a line of cars along a steep up-slope with a stop sign!  My first car in the City was a manual 5-speed 320i, and it was work.  That got old really fast.  Let's just say I'm quite content with my automatic transmission these days. 

According to SFTravel.com, "Lombard Street in San Francisco is one of America's crookedest streets. What does this mean? The steep, hilly street was created with sharp curves to switchback down the one-way hill past beautiful Victorian mansions. Well...I dont' know if I'd refer to all of them as 'mansions', but there ARE some really lovely homes along that stretch of Lombard, and I don't recall ever seeing one for sale (at least in recent memory). The street is paved with bricks and is an amazing site to see...If not for the byzantine curves, easing out this treacherous slope, people would be killed rolling down. For an idea of how steep this street really is, go two blocks up, to Filbert Street and peer down over the ridge. Lombard is even steeper."  Again...a little dramatic perhaps?  Although there's a sign at the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite that bluntly states: "IF YOU SLIP AND GO OVER THE WATERFALL YOU WILL DIE.", and  THAT HAS been proven.  No deaths from falling down SF streets yet, that I'm aware of.  ;-)

Lombard street construction


According to Susan Saperstein in an article written for SF City Guides, "The block of Lombard between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets began as a straight, cobblestone street with a 27% grade. In the 1920s the people living on this street wanted cars, but the street was too steep for vehicles. Since the Lombard Street lots were inaccessible by autos, the property values were not as high as on neighboring streets. The landowners approached city engineer Clyde Healy, who came up with the street design."  Interesting how concern for 'property values' found its way into taking some action.


2 Interesting facts:

* The brilliantly-colored block became known by people living in the neighborhood, but was not a tourist destination until, in the late 1950s, a photograph showing the hydrangeas in bloom was published, and in 1961 was printed on a postcard. Soon thousands of tourists were driving down the street.

* Lombard is NOT the crookedest street is San Francisco.  Vermont Street (between 20th and 22nd Street) in Potrero Hill is indeed more crooked (with a sinuosity of 1.56 versus 1.2 for Lombard Street).  It's just not as glamorous.

Lombard Street video

And, for those who are curious...

The Steepest Streets in the City
1. Filbert between Leavenworth and Hyde (31.5% grade)
2. 22nd between Church and Vicksburg (31.5% grade)
3. Jones between Union and Filbert (29% grade)
4. Duboce between Buena Vista and Alpine (27.9% grade)
5. Jones between Green and Union (26% grade)
6. Webster between Vallejo and Broadway 26% grade)
7. Duboce between Alpine and Divisadero (25% grade)
8. Jones between Pine and California (24.8 grade)
9. Fillmore between Vallejo and Broadway (24% grade)
(Source: "San Francisco Almanac")



  David Ames 

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Comment balloon 23 commentsDavid Ames • May 20 2011 06:15PM
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