First, a simple question: looking through the opening in the footpath to see the City of San Francisco, California, can you spot Peralta Avenue?
Having trouble? Try again. Look closely.
Apologies to all, it was a trick question. That footpath is Peralta Avenue.
Visitors know about Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world.” Natives know about Vermont Street, “the crookedest street in San Francisco.” Believe it or not, both statements are true: there are two ways to measure crookedness; by one measure, Lombard is the most crooked with eight hairpin turns in a single block, by the other, Vermont is the most crooked for having greater “sinuosity” between 20th and 22nd Streets. However, for sheer bizarre wackiness, Peralta Avenue might have both of them beat, and both visitors and natives who love photography will find much to love here. Even better, they won’t find tacky souvenirs and trinkets. There is a spot of controversy here as to whether the footpath that connects the two separated parts of Peralta Avenue should be considered part of the avenue. I prefer to call it part of the avenue because after all, that’s just so San Francisco.
Finding addresses on Peralta can be almost impossible: Here are two of the better solutions I found:
Peralta runs along the north-northeast side of Bernal Heights like a mountain path/hiking trail/animal run. Perhaps it originated as such. Transforming the original path/trail/run into a two-lane street suitable for automobiles presented enormous challenges for the folks who designed and paved the avenue, and judging from the solutions they devised, someone in the crew mastered the art of combining imagination with compromise, or might have discovered imagination within compromise. The architects who came later to build houses along Peralta needed to master the same talents and artistry in their design and construction. Presenting for your enjoyment and possibly your mild astonishment, a collection of the not-so-bad shots from this weekend’s photography expedition.
One final point: I visited Peralta during The Magic Hour, that period of roughly sixty minutes in the late afternoon/early evening when photographers love the light and what it does to most scenery. However, shooting Peralta during that time of day turned out to pose enormous challenges for my limited technical skills. Almost every shot included sections that were much too brightly lit and sections that were much too dark. Paradoxically, that’s why I recommend Peralta Avenue to all photographers, regardless of skill level: this street poses serious technical challenges that will teach something new to almost every shutterbug, whether it’s camera technique or photo editing skills. This was perhaps my only good shot of my expedition, and obviously, I did a lot of work with editing software:
Bernal Heights, because of the steep hils and lack of parking, has almost no businesses on many of its slopes. It really feels more like a small very hill town than part of a city of population 800,000. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal. Perhaps the views are part of the appeal:
Sam’s was the closest store I found heading downhill from Peralta.
And in conclusion, a few shots of a decent San Francisco sunset, plus one last look back at Bernal Heights.
I hope you enjoyed this little journey down one of San Francisco’s least-known neighborhoods.
Vonn Scott Bair