Western Neighborhoods Project is dedicated to the history of San Francisco's Richmond, Sunset, OMI and West of Twin Peaks districts.   read more ...

Streetwise: Stormy Weather in the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
March 2023

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
January of 2023 was certainly not the first time that the Western Neighborhoods have been hit with heavy rain storms and subsequent damage. The WNP photo archive contains many examples of wet weather and some serious problems that resulted from past downpours.

16th Avenue at Presidio wall, January 3, 1916 - Photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Runoff from heavy rains in January of 1916 caused serious damage to the first block of 16th Avenue near the Presidio wall in the Richmond District.

Collapsed roadway on the west side of Lone Mountain, December 26, 1935 - Photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
A Christmas-time rainfall in December of 1935 caused the collapse of a roadway on the campus of San Francisco College for Women (later the Lone Mountain College and now a part of the University of San Francisco). See another 23 images of Lone Mountain.

SS Ohioan shipwreck on Point Lobos just north of the Cliff House. View southwest; North Seal Rock in background, May 28, 1938 - Photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
The freighter Ohioan ran aground on the rocks just north of Sutro Baths on October 7, 1936 while trying to enter the Golden Gate in heavy fog. Cranes were brought in to remove and salvage the ship’s cargo at that time. In February of 1938, the wreckage of the ship was broken apart by wave action, leaving these pieces underwater and largely invisible by 1939. Hear more about local shipwrecks in Outside Lands Podcast #123.

Flooded intersection of 15th Avenue and Wawona Street after 18 days of rain, February 14, 1938 - San Francisco Examiner.
The intersection of 15th Avenue & Wawona in the Parkside/West Portal neighborhood was susceptible to flooding when the homes were first built in the 1930s, and it remains so today. Rainstorms over the past ten years from 2013-2023 have produced similar results at this intersection, according to local news reports. After flooding in 2019, the City & County of San Francisco confirmed that a project would be undertaken to correct the issue at this location, though there was again notable flooding here in January of 2023.

Storm waves breaking against Great Highway, January 1939 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Storm waves breaking over the seawall at Great Highway & Taraval in January of 1939. The beach entry of the Taraval pedestrian tunnel was damaged at the time of this storm.

Cars driving through a flooded Great Highway between Irving and Judah, around 1940 - Courtesy of Phil Millhollon.
Roadway flooding was a periodic problem along the Lower Great Highway, as shown here between Irving & Judah Streets in the 1940s.

View south on Foerster from near Los Palmos of landslide and collapsed houses, February 7, 1942 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Heavy rains brought about tragic consequences with the Foerster Street slide in February of 1942. Read more about the Foerster Street slide.

View uphill from Laguna Honda and Clarendon of a collapsed house, December 3, 1951 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Heavy rains in December of 1951 caused the collapse of a house situated above Laguna Honda Boulevard near Clarendon Avenue.

View northwest across the flooded intersection of 46th Avenue and Irving, November 1952 - SF News Call Bulletin / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
The flooded intersection at 46th Avenue & Irving Street is shown here in November of 1952.

Golden Gate Park, Park-Presidio Bypass flooded with rainwater, November 1960 - Photo by Howard Robbins, SF News Call Bulletin / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Park-Presidio Bypass in Golden Gate Park, shown here during heavy rains in 1960, connects 19th Avenue & Lincoln Way to Park-Presidio Boulevard & Fulton Street.

Storm-damaged tree fallen against bathroom, near Stanyan & Page, Golden Gate Park, circa 1980s - Photo by Greg Gaar / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Heavy rains often cause old trees to fall, including this one in Golden Gate Park in the 1980s.

Site of collapsed house on El Camino Del Mar near 25th Avenue in Sea Cliff, due to ruptured sewer, December 1995 - Richmond Review Newspaper Collection / Courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review.
Runoff from heavy rains in December of 1995 overwhelmed an aging sewer line, rupturing it and causing the collapse of one Sea Cliff home and damage to others.

Contribute your own stories about western neighborhoods places!

More by Frank Dunnigan
Related Content
  • Carzonia Apartments

    A whole neighborhood of streetcar homes existed in the inner Richmond after the 1906 earthquake. ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • 1913 Article on Sunset Home Building

    News of a burgeoning construction activity in the sand dunes ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Jack Coll

    Memories of the Richmond in the 40's ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Doggie Diner Head

    A Landmark Dachshund ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Fernando Nelson

    Builder of West Portal, Parkway Terrace, and Merced Manor ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Parkside District

    The Parkside Realty Company made a neighborhood in terra incognita. ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Parkside Branch Library

    Architects Appleton and Wolfard designed eight modern libraries in the 1950s and '60s for the San Francisco Public Library. ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Parkside School

    History of the (now demolished) John Reid-designed school ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Polly Ann Ice Cream Parlor

    A Sunset District institution since 1955. ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Podcast # 443: Santa Claus Association

    Unlike today's SantaCon, Mabel Hawkin's Santa Claus Association does not involve scores of drunken Kris Kringles. Instead, the Association was a charity group that distributed thousands of gifts to San Francisco's children. This week, Nicole and Michael provide the inspiring story behind this groundbreaking endeavor. (Outside Lands San Francisco Podcast Dec 25, 2021)

Save SF History