You are walking down Market near Castro- the hustle and the bustle, the open-air restaurant seating reminiscent of Parisian cafés, male couples walking hand-in-hand down the street, the hum and honk of cars speeding down one of San Francisco’s busiest thoroughfares, the noise, the exhaust. So many pairs of legs walking, rainbow flags flapping in the sparkling sunlight. You are in truly an urban area, where people and cultures intermingle, living their metropolitan lives.
And then you turn off Market onto Noe Street. After about a block, the scene changes- the road narrows and trees seem to sprout out of the ground right before your eyes. Noe suddenly becomes a tree tunnel, nestled in the leafy embrace. The street is lush and green, forested almost, the trees shading the sidewalks, hanging over the streets with their canopy, absorbing the noise and frantic frazzle of Market Street into their veined leaves. Grand Victorian houses line the streets, their turrets, rotundas, and finery bestow the street with grandeur and charm. Little mini parks appear on every block and the sidewalks swell to contain them- potted plants, little fountains, stone benches almost out of another era. A few businesses are nestled under the shade trees- Jumpin’ Java Coffee, Amasia Hide’s Sushi Bar on the corner, maybe another restaurant or two, but it is mostly just peaceful calm. Your heart rate slows as you breathe fresh oxygen deep into your lungs. You continue to walk contemplatively, strolling between the trees, enjoying their swaying calm and vivacious presence- a little haven amidst such urbanness. A true San Francisco treat- hidden from those except for nearby residents.
You stroll to the end of Noe, until you reach Duboce Park, a wide open expanse of green grass, a sloping hill, wide open skies, a dog park, exposed sun, a children’s playground painted pink to match the blossoming cherry trees. The N-line MUNI rumbles by periodically with people bound for downtown or the Inner Sunset. And bystanders briefly become participators as they ride the rails and enter the scene of the neighborhood experience of the intimate Duboce Triangle.
The park meanders, winding in and out of a small area really only created by the convergence of many strangely-angled streets. Pierce Street appears at the other side of the park, beginning as a cul-de-sac lined with cherry trees and welcoming benches. It moves forward into the Lower Haight, an expanse of fluffy trees and Victorian charm.
This area, truly one of San Francisco’s hidden gems, is sacred in its hidden community. The gently sloping grass is crowded with happy people wearing sunglasses- picnicking, playing, reading, singing, laughing. The tree lined streets that calm the blood are the definition of a healthy urban neighborhood. Young mingle with old, playing together and learning from each other in this vibrant gem of a community.