Garden Neighborhoods of San Francisco: The Development of Residence Parks, 1905-1924 | Mechanics' Institute

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Garden Neighborhoods of San Francisco: The Development of Residence Parks, 1905-1924
with author Richard Brandi

San Francisco is not known for having picturesque streets, landscaping, detached houses, and setbacks to convey the feeling of living in a park. But between 1905 and 1924, at least 36 residence parks such as St. Francis Wood and Seacliff were planned with that in mind. Most were built in the Richmond, Sunset, around West Portal but they were also envisioned on Twin Peaks, the Marina, the Outer Mission, Lake Merced, and even Visitation Valley.

Lot sales came with deed restrictions that limited how owners could use their land in order to maintain the park-like feeling, i.e. setbacks, and no commercial or multiple family uses. The deeds also excluded Blacks and Asians. That was not unique to residence parks but was widespread in San Francisco, the rest of California, and much of the nation.

Despite the disruptions caused by WWI, a recession, inflation of the early 1920s, and the Depression of 1930s many distinctive neighborhoods were built containing about 7,500 houses, almost all designed by architects, unusual then and now, when most houses are designed by contractors or builders.

Richard Brandi is a historic preservation consultant, author of three books, president of the Northern California Chapter of Society of Architectural Historian, and was a board member of the Western Neighborhoods Project for 20 years.

 

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