To be published in 2017:
SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY
FROM SAND DUNES TO STREETCARS
This book traces the changes in San Francisco’s landscape from the days of the Ohlone to the present. What native species were present when only Native Americans lived here? What animal grazed, flew or swam here? In the wild countryside what natural waterways supported life? What trees, fruits, and flowering plants would the Ohlone have known and used? And…what happened to all that after the Europeans arrived? It’s a dramatic cascade of changes, filled with disappearance and devastation, ruin, restoration and rebirth. As the centuries passed and the cityscape developed and changed, so has the natural landscape and the creatures in it, including us–humans, whose values and actions have altered and shaped everything.
In spite of what amounts to obliteration of the old natural environment, many native species survive and even thrive in the modern city. “Life” here includes wildlife. Contemporary restoration projects mover forward. Brown Pelicans and coyotes have been joined by new immigrants like collared-doves and eastern gray squirrels. Forests of introduced trees today host Red-shouldered Hawks and Hooded Orioles. And yet, there is not stasis and never has been. Now comes climate change. All is flux.
Through this book, I hope to help provide knowledge and perspective on what has gone before, but also what we now face. To protect and preserve this peninsula, this beautiful piece of our planet, the decisions we humans must make are not just cosmetic, they are matters of life and death. People must understand what’s happened and what;s happening in order to avoid repeating devastating mistakes of the past, and in order to proceed wisely and humanely into the future. From open space to micro-plastic pollution, the decisions rest with us.
The Ohlone managed the landscape through use of fire:
Ohlone village sites:
Beechey’s map from 1826-7:
First United States map of San Francisco, before Gold Rush.
1849, Gold Rush boomtown and bay fill
1851 and the ships abandoned by crews
Ocean Beach around 1890Plowing the dunes in preparing to create Golden Gate Park, 1870s:Living with sand after earthquake:Theodore Wores’ painting of dunes looking across to Lake Merced in early 1900s, lupine in bloom where houses now stand:Cutting through sand hill to make Second Street near Rincon Point, before 1900.Sunset District just after WW2: