I grew up in what people have, once again, started calling the Outside Lands. Its official name is the Sunset District. On the day we were all out there the Great Highway, the road that has physically separated the neighborhood from the shore line for decades, was closed to traffic for Sunday Streets.
This road was the terror of the neighborhood when I was growing up. Six lanes of unregulated, high speed traffic with zero areas for people to cross on foot to reach the beach. In 1983 most of the road and the adjacent sand dunes were destroyed by massive waves that crested over the road (20 feet above above and 30 feet in from the high water line) and the whole thing had to be rebuilt and reinforced. It is a constant battle, to the tune of millions of dollars, to keep this road safe for car traffic. The whole road is built on sand dunes (most of which are a protected bird sanctuary)! I am not sure why anyone thought that was a good idea and every year we are reminded it wasn't.
At that time the road was redesigned with traffic control and crossover points at every street. Pedestrian paths were created along the sides of the highway and we all thought it was great! It never occurred to us to want more. The whole Outer Sunset was in the throws of deep decline and anything we got seemed like manna from heaven. Now, I think there are many, many people who not only dream but work toward shutting this highway down and turning it into open public space. I think they will succeed and I look forward to that day.
Today, when it isn't closed to traffic, bicyclists have to share the side path with joggers and dogs and walkers. It is a beautiful path but it isn't enough. The whole coast should be open to people to roam freely, to ride a bicycle or fly along on their skates or teach their children how to kite board. I don't say this because I hate all cars, I say it because I have lived with this road and its impact on the neighborhood for 40 years. The Outer Sunset deserves better.
In the meantime, there is always the beach. Miles and miles of beach to love and live on and be a part of.
So while I left the Sunset happily in 1984 to live in the Mission District, there is always a part of me that lives there. There is always a part of me that misses the salt air and the fog horns and the never ending barrage of sand blowing into my home even with the windows closed. I miss the kites flying above and the crazy surfers who head out daily to freeze in the violent surf and the pot smokers and the teenagers having bonfires as the sun goes down.
A little video of a regular day on the Great Highway.