To call this an urban hike makes it sound more strenuous than it is, really. It’s still a fantastic walk, though, especially from the perspective of the plantings! Duboce Triangle is a remarkable little slice of San Francisco that’s a great demonstration of how trees and plants can completely change the feel of a neighborhood.
Duboce Triangle is literally a triangle of streets in SF, bounded by Market St. from the south to the east, Castro on the west, and Waller on the north. It’s bounded by the Castro, Buena Vista, and Lower Haight neighborhoods, and is one of the lesser-acknowledged neighborhoods in the City, often being lumped in with the Castro. Topographically, it’s mostly a flat and leisurely walk, with tree- and garden-lined streets and Duboce Park right in the middle of it all. The park is a popular dog park for the area, and besides a rec center it hosts a playground, basketball
courts, and a labyrinth. The N Judah streetcar has a stop right at the park at Noe Street (rhymes with Joey), before tunneling through to the western half of the City. There was a Will Smith movie a couple of years ago where he came running out of a BART station and across a lawn. That BART station was a fake, built right there in the park. It was crazy. Took out trees, put in a staircase that dead-ended at the bottom, shot the scene, pulled out the staircase, and put the trees back.
In the 1960’s much of what is called the Western Addition (so named because it was the westernmost addition on to SF at the time it was developed in the Victorian era) was being torn down. Gentrified. “Cleaned up.” Just like we still do with neighborhoods today. The Victorians were out, and cinder-block Projects were in. A few pockets were saved. The redevelopment dollars were used in the Duboce Triangle to renovate homes and beautify streets. The rest of Noe is a wide street, with parallel parking on one side and 90-degree spaces on the other. Here they widened sidewalks, narrowed the street to slow traffic, and made mini plazas at every intersection with benches and trees.
Now, all the trees have matured beautifully. Most of the built-in benches have been removed to take away the temptation for homeless encampments. The concrete plugs that anchored the benches remain, and themselves provide seating. And many, many planters have sprung up along the way, also providing more seating.
Individual homes have taken on additions to their own segments of sidewalk. Many have little garden plots right against the house, but others make use of pots and built-ins along the sidewalks. There’s sort of a disjointed unity to the whole stretch of Noe St, in particular, with a continuous flow of planters and benches
for the six blocks from Duboce Park to Cafe Flore at Market St. Little cafes and restaurants around the Triangle have set up the mini plazas in front as quiet retreats where patrons can sit outside with coffee and rest among the flora. It’s really quite a meditative area to walk!
The walk through Duboce Triangle becomes a leisurely one, even if you weren’t planning a casual walk. The sheer variety of plants and styles along the way is enough to make you stop and gaze and ponder and appreciate. There are ordinary Pelargoniums (Geraniums) potted with Sweet Alyssum and Lavender, and there are potted specimens of delicate mosses encrusting giant bowls of rocks and a bonsai tree. The most notable thing is that it seems not a single house is left behind in the green efforts out front. The cafes, restaurants, markets, even the dry cleaner all have plantings of their own. It’s such a beautiful place to stroll along on a sunny day, with the speckled light coming through the canopy of the trees, high overhead…
The best part of the Urban Hike experience is seeing what different neighborhoods have to offer. You can grab an coffee at a few places in Duboce Triangle and stroll about, or sit in the shade with an organic soft-serve ice cream from just around the corner on Market St. The Victorian architecture is great and
classic here, with high stoops and pocket front gardens. If you zigzag up and down the cross streets as far as Castro and down to Sanchez, you’ll see many true Painted Ladies, in all their colorful glory. With many people passing through from the Muni line at the park to the Castro, or Castro to park with their dogs, the Triangle offers endless people-watching all day long. It’s an easy-access walk that anyone can enjoy.