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SPUR Urban Cartography Exhibit

October 24, 2014
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If you are downtown near Mission and 3rd between 11 and 5 before January, you should go stop by the SPUR Urban Center at 654 Mission St. where you can see a few maps made by me and my friends.

SPUR was kind enough to display the 200′ Sea Level Rise map that I made with Brian Stokle.


The 200′ maps are available for sale on Zazzle, and Brian is selling his 25′ maps as well.


Many other excellent maps there by Eric Fischer, Stamen, Andreas Viglakis, Jenny Odell and others. Also: awesome 3D model of San Francisco!

So stop by SPUR during your lunch break!

Remotely related song:

Bangkok Burritos Are Surprisingly Good. Also, A Dark Burrito Future

October 17, 2014

Long time readers will remember the proto-Burrito Justice report on burritos in Berlin. @cappstreetcrap continues this noble tradition – she and her husband were on vacation in Thailand and discovered some surprisingly good burritos in a mall in Bangkok. Most importantly she took the time to notify me immediately via the EBINT (Emergency Burrito International Notification Twitter):

The verdict? Not cheap, but surprisingly good!

Alas, chip technology has yet to make the jump across the Pacific.

This got me to wondering what would happen if California were destroyed in the earthquake and the only burritos remaining on Earth were these culinary outposts.

Signs They Are A-Changing

October 15, 2014



Please leave your pupusa recommendations in the comments.

Burrito Theory

October 14, 2014

Tomorrow at 1 PM I’ll be hosting a panel at Culture Collide on Burrito Theory.


burrito theory

Many fine Burritologists will be present, including Allan Hough from Mission Mission, Broke-ass Stuart, Alan of Culture Collide, and Dawson Ludwig of Noise Pop. We will be discussing many BRT (Burrito Related Topics) such as

  • the proper PSI for a burrito
  • the dangers of completely defoiling a burrito before consumption
  • what to do if you see someone using a fork and knife on a burrito
  • should people on the East Coast be allowed to buy burritos while in the Bay Area?
  • the state of tortilla chips in San Francisco taquerias
  • will burritos of the future come wrapped in transparent aluminum? foil

If you can’t make it to West of Pecos, we will be broadcasting the summit live on!

UPDATE: the archive of the panelis now available!

Click to listen — we’re on at the 60 minute mark of the part 1 stream, right after the El Farolito Saved My Soul song by Hickey which is awesome.

Here’s a picture of me during the panel. The knife is to vivisect 538 if they come by.

Did Jack London once live in Bernal?

October 1, 2014

While doing some research for our new and improved Bikes to Books map (24″ x 36″! Bike Ride Oct 11! And map talk Oct 8!), I came across an interesting tidbit about Jack London on FoundSF:

Shortly after Jack was born, his family moved to Bernal Heights…

And in Irving Stone’s 1903 biography of Jack London, Sailor on Horseback:

Upon advice of their doctor the London family moved from town to Bernal Heights, a district of farms, where Flora advertised for a wet nurse. Mrs. Jenny Prentiss, a negress who lived across the road and who had just lost her own baby, became Jack’s wet nurse, foster mother and lifelong friend.

The Book of Jack London (1921):

When the baby was returned to his family they had moved to a cottage on Bernal Heights. And now upon the maternal Eliza devolved most of the rearing of her half-brother, indoors and out, in the energetic year spent in the cottage. The perambulator containing the baby boy, wheeled by a no less azure-eyed girl-child, became a familiar object of an afternoon on the hilly streets.

Welcome to Bernal, Jack!

jack london bernal

This is totally not a surprise given the scriberial supremacy consistently shown by the Greater Bernalian Litosphere. It was only for a year, but the time spent in Bernal as a one year old clearly rubbed off on Jack.

But where in Bernal? Jack London was born on January 12, 1876, and John London married his mother either in September 1876 or February 1877.

The 1878 SF city directory gives a potential answer:

1878 John London Precita

Remember that the directory information was at least a year out of date, so this most likely refers to 1877, not 1878.

Jack’s adopted father was John London, a Union veteran who married Jack’s mother Flora after Jack’s birth. But there are two John Londons! Which one? Also, how does 27th meet up with Harrison? And where is Gunnison Ave and Precita? And how does 28th have anything to do with Precita?

The 1876 and 1877 directories don’t help much in clearing up which John was which, and unfortunately the 1878 directory doesn’t give a middle initial to either John.

1876 1877 John London

John London was once a farmer, but worked a series of odd jobs after moving to California, one of which was a carpenter. He also worked for the Singer Sewing Machine company, which makes me wonder about the 1877 Victor Sewing canvasser, though the address makes no sense, nor does F. B. Taylor. He did work for Martin Flavin’s IXL Auction House:

john london book of jack london IXL

1877 Flavin IXL Auction House

So the carpenter <-> contractor makes sense, though it’s hard to say how quickly the Langley directory staff noted changes in occupation. (The story behind them and how they made the directories would be a hell of a post in its own right…)

Anyway, back to the mystery of Gunnison. It turns out that it is that bit of Harrison on the other side of Precita, renamed in that typical Bernalian “I do not give a damn about contiguous streets” methodology. Thanks to @NAParish for tracking it down:

Here we can see Gunnison on the 1886 Sanborn map:

1886 Precita and Gunnison

zoom, and rotate north:

1886 Sanborn Precita and Gunnison north

And @NAParish also notes that Gunnison is visible in the epic “every other street is named California” map of Bernal!

1889 Bernal Gunnison crop

Zoom and Enhance:

1889 Bernal Gunnison zoom

Applying BURRITOVISION filter:

1886 Whitaker & Kelley + 1886 Sanborn

Not entirely sure how to reconcile the lots and streets from 1889 property map vs the houses shown on the 1886 map. (Given it still references Dale and Grove instead of 29th and 30th, I have to wonder if it’s mis-dated.)

And then there’s the mystery of 27th and 28th streets extending Precitaward. I have seen this in a number of directory entries of that era (remember Graham’s Groceries, which was just around the corner, and the Bad Characters of Bernal Heights?)

I can only assume that people were using 27th and 28th as handy reference points for those who didn’t know that part of the city very well, almost like a line of latitude?

27th and 28th St extended

That’s the best explanation I have. Let me know what you think.

27th and 28th St extended crop

According to the 1886 Sanborn map, there were no buildings on either side of Harrison on the north side of Precita Park. Given how close they are together, could the two John London entries be duplicates? If so, zooming and enhancing on the Sanborn, one of these could very well have been the house that Jack London crawled around in.

1886 Precita Place & Gunnison Jack London Sanborn

After playing in Precita Place, perhaps his sister Eliza preambulated Jack over to Graham’s Groceries on Alabama and “27th St”! And perhaps they were able to “comically gaze upon” the throngs of San Franciscans crossing Precita Creek over “the romantic Folsom St bridge” the Great Bernal Gold Rush of May 1876.

1876 May Daily Alta California Gold Bernal Headline

1876 May Daily Alta California Gold Bernal

Anyway, we in the rebellious colonies salute Bernal (well, Precitaville, actually) and their latest historo-literary acquisition, Jack London.


I may have found the address of Thomas Prentiss, the husband of Jenny Prentiss, Jack’s “wet nurse, foster mother and lifelong friend…” Jenny Prentiss’ husband worked with John London, and there is a Thomas Prentice listed in the 1878 directory as a carpenter, one street over from Gunnison (now Harrison) on Columbia (now Alabama) between Precita and Parker (now Montcalm).

1878 Thomas Prentiss

So somewhere in this block? Is the “W s” mean “west side”? Oh for the love of street addresses… If that’s the case, then perhaps the “E s” means the east side of Gunnison, meaning the Prentiss and London families were back door neighbors? The only house I see in the rear are the ones are at the top of the block. If anyone knows of more specific records, please let me know in the comments.

1886 Sanborn Gunnison Columbia Jack London Prentiss

Bikes to Books, Part II

September 24, 2014

Bikes to Books season is upon us once again! On October 8, join me and Nicole at a Shaping SF talk.

Wednesday, October 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m.: Shaping SF public talk, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Making History by Making Maps panel discussion at Shaping San Francisco’s Public Talks series, with Dick Walker co-author of  The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era.

Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia, SF

We’ll be talking up our collaborative map project from concept to creation, fielding questions, and unveiling our expanded poster version, on the one-year anniversary of its publication, and the 26-year anniversary of the street-naming that inspired the project.

Event is free. Maps will be available for purchase.

And come ride with us on October 11th!

Saturday, Oct 11, 12:45-4:00 p.m.: Bikes to Book bicycle tour, co-hosted by Litquake:

Meet at 12:45 p.m. at Jack London Street (at South Park in San Francisco)
Ride will commence at 1:00 p.m. sharp
Ride will end at approximately 4:00 p.m. in North Beach, outside City Lights Books
Bring bikes with gears, snacks, and enthusiasm

Event is free. Maps will be available for purchase.

Combining San Francisco history, art, literature, cycling, and urban exploration,  “Bikes to Books” began as an bike ride homage to the 1988 street-naming project spearheaded by City Lights founder and former San Francisco Poet Laureate, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in which twelve San Francisco streets were renamed for famous artists and authors who had once made San Francisco their home. First published in 2013 in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and later in partnership with City Lights Books, the physical map can be found in many of San Francisco’s finest book emporiums, and is appropriate for use as a navigational tool, a history lesson, and a unique work of art in its own right.

Fire the Fourth

September 18, 2014

Yesterday on, @brockwinstead and I spoke of many things, including the fire of September 17, 1850, one of the six fires that hit San Francisco in the space of a year and a half.

1850 sept 17 fire headline

Side note: good news! You can now subscribe to Burrito Justice Radio via RSS!

Burrito Justice Radio RSS

Here’s a rough map of the affected area today.

1850 Sept 17 fire 2014

Here’s a GIF of the 1853 Survey Map (more on that over at Pastmapper) — caveat emptor, this was surveyed in 1851-1852, after another TWO fires had taken place..

1850 Sept 17 fire

The fire burned up to the brick walls of the Daily Alta itself.

1850 sept 17 fire daily alta building

Here’s the famous shot from Portsmouth Square in 1851, looking across Washington St. at that survivor, the Daily Alta building.


I’ve started making a rough map of what burned over on Mapbox. Red is what burned, blue is what survived, and yellow is what got torn down.

1850 sept 17 fire

It’s a work in progress. The map doesn’t have the granularity or metadata I need to realistically keep track of what was where. Also, they didn’t exactly record the street address numbers with any great gusto. (I get the impression not all streets had actual numbered addresss at this point.)

1850 sf directory alta

Also, people are not exactly listed in alphabetic order within letters.

1850 sf directory M

Anyway, during the fire some of these people were a little too focused on rescuing their goods, in this case gunpowder:

1850 fire gunpowder

And in addition to the play by play of the fire’s path, the Daily Alta also published fascinating list of all the businesses lost. Here’s just a sample:

1850 sept 17 fire sf business lost

One of these days I’ll get this info embedded in a slippy map.

If this fourth fire was too much for you and you wanted to get out of San Francisco before it burned down twice more, here were some of your options:

1850 cost of passage panama nyc

A first class fare to NYC, adjusted for inflation, was about $10,000. If you wanted to slum it in steerage, you’d only have to shell out $5,000. Getting to Portland would have run you $1200. More on ocean transportation of that era over here.


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