Growing by the Bay

Month: March 2008

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria, California

Mr. Vista is relaxing in Cambria on the Central California Coast — as well as I can considering the frigid weather.

Cambria is best known for the nearby Hearst Castle at San Simeon, and also for its cutesy downtown, but it has some nice natural areas as well. The Fiscalini Ranch preserve is a coastal area of 430 acres that was formerly a cattle ranch and dairy. The ranch was sold in 1993, and housing was planned, but a local group, working with the American Land Conservancy and other organizations, raised the money to preserve the space for public use. The preserve is managed by the Cambria Community Services District, which created number of wheelchair-accesible paths along the bluff overlooking the shore.

cambria coast

Cormorants nest on rocks offshore.

cormorants on rock at cambria coast

At this time of year the the Cambria Morning Glory (Calystegia subacaulis) blooms in the bluff meadows. Also known as Hill Morning Glory or Fall Bindweed, this low-growing herb is found nowhere but the California coast.

cambria morning glory

More to come. Stay tuned . . .


Victor Arnautoff, Bay Area depression era muralist

city life by victor arnautoff, at san francisco's coit tower

Victor Arnautoff studied at the California School of Fine Arts before going to Mexico, where he worked as an assistant to muralist Diego Rivera; his subsequent work shows a strong Rivera influence. He created several murals in the Bay Area during the 1930s. Above is City Alive, which is located at the base of Coit Tower. Arnautoff was influential in developing the art program for the San Francisco landmark. A close look at his contribution shows the Daily Worker and other leftist papers on the newsrack — but no Chronicle.

Arnautoff also did several paintings for the Roth Building in Palo Alto. Commissioned by a co-founder of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, the paintings celebrate medical progress. “The Exam,” below is said to have caused traffic accidents when unveiled. Other locations of works by Arnautoff in the Bay Area include the chapel in the Presidio and the library of the San Francisco Art Institute. Arnautoff taught at Stanford University from 1939 until 1963 and then returned to Russia.

the exam by victor arnuatoff, in palo alto's historic center


Source of images: landaz’s photostream and


American Soil and Stone: Local Hero

 american soil and stone

Mr. Vista has finally finished filling in his old swimming pool, which was built in the 1950s. He topped up the job with some local hero veggie mix from American Soil and Stone.

Dirt, as Jon Carroll has observed, is hardly dirt cheap. I think local hero runs around $35 a cubic yard. But it’s a good mix for the typical bay area garden. The base is a sandy loam, which is amply amended with organic compost, chicken manure, rice hulls, grape compost, fir bark, and cocoa bean hulls.

American Soil and Stone — I won’t use their acronym — has branches in Richmond and San Rafael. Where we live they delivered a truckload (10 cubic yards) for $55. They got the address mixed up though (fortunately the mailman was passing by and straightened them out), and they dumped the load in the street rather than the driveway as requested. So I recommend being at home to accept the delivery (we were having lunch at Chez Panisse when they came by).

Protest of Olympic torch in San Francisco

The following is an AP news story. The role of politics has dogged the Olympics almost since its founding. The 1936 games in Berlin, the 1968 games in Mexico City, and the 1972 games in Munich are a few notable instances.

SAN FRANCISCO — Tibetan immigrants protesting Chinese control of the Himalayan region vowed on March 10 to make San Francisco, the only U.S. city to host the Olympic torch relay, the focal point of American demonstrations against the Beijing Games.

The protesters chanting “Olympics in China, Torture in Tibet” and “Truth is our only weapon,” and some wiping away tears while singing the Tibet national anthem, also called on Mayor Gavin Newsom to reject the April 9 torch run and urged city officials to pass a resolution calling on China to improve conditions for Tibetans in their homeland.

Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Ballard, said the mayor was deeply concerned about human rights in Tibet, but believed the Olympics was not the forum to address political issues.“It’s important to remember that the Olympic spirit is one of international harmony and goodwill, and it transcends politics,” Ballard said. “In this spirit, San Francisco is proud to be the only North American city to host the Olympic torch relay.”


Thirteenth annual Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair

anarchist book fair

Frisco Vista received the following e-mail from Ken Knabb of the Bureau of Public Secrets.

The 13th annual Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair is happening this coming weekend at the San Francisco County Fair Building (Golden Gate Park near Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way).

Due to popular demand and continually increasing turnout (last year there were over 5000 people), the bookfair now runs for two days:

–Saturday (March 22), 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
–Sunday (March 23), 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Admission is free.

Ken Knabb (Bureau of Public Secrets) will have a table there, as will approximately 60 other booksellers, distributors, independent presses and radical groups from around the country. There will also be speakers, panel discussions, films, exhibits, kids/family space, and cafe lunches. For more information see

It’s always lots of fun — hope to see you there!

Jay Xu named new director of Asian Art Museum

jay xu, director of the asian art museumThe Asian announced today that Jay Xu will succeed Emily Sano, who retired in January, as director of the museum. Xu comes to the museum from the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was Prtizker Chairman, Department of Asian and Ancient Art. Previously, he held positions at the Seattle Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Great water

Despite reports to the contrary, a testing service claims that San Francisco tap water is the purest it has ever seen. The Chronicle is among those who have the story.

To me East Bay water tastes better.


A pile of dirt

a pile of dirt

Yep, that’s what it is. Some guy was widening his driveway. I’m using the dirt to fill in my swimming pool, which will now be a garden. It will require about ten piles like this one.

Photo Friday

Bubbles and balloons in Golden Gate Park, from brokenchopstick’s photostream.

bubbles and balloons in golden gate park

A street-level view of the city’s neighborhoods

san francisco homeless map
map by Chronicle Graphics

I missed this article when it appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle back in December. It presents several of the city’s neighborhoods from the perspective of the homeless.

I work in neighborhood no. 2, the “service/crack sector.” Chronicle staff writer Kevin Fagan describes it pretty accurately:

During the day, soup kitchens such as St. Anthony’s and other programs for the poor reach out to the homeless, turning the Tenderloin into a service center as vital as Market Street. But it is also where those who traffic in crack can most easily find or sell the drug. At night, it becomes frightening — the only homeless people who sleep here are those who pass out or who group up with sentries, because bands of drug dealers roam the streets all night and terrorize the unprotected.

Didn’t Mayor Newsom have a plan for improving this?

BTW, the graphic — this map is only one section of the larger map — reminds me that, while the Chronicle gets a lot of (well-earned) criticism, one area in which it excels is graphics. I worked on a project once with one of the people in this department, John Blanchard; he was a real wizard with information graphics.


Vicki Saulls

vicki saulls

Vicki Saulls does interesting ceramic sculpture. The image above is from the North Beach pool and clubhouse in San Francisco. The work was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

I’d like to show you her beautiful California native plant ceramic tiles. But that image is running with a copyright notice, so I can’t. This is why I urge you to consider replacing copyright notices with creative commons licenses.

San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gate

Many people think of Tony Bennett and his left-behind heart when they think of San Francisco tunes. But residents know that our theme song is really “San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gate.”

Frisco Vista has suffered some connectivity problems recently (please let me know if you have trouble accessing the site or making comments). I think I have the problems repaired now, so we’re back open for business. On that note, let’s hear the original Jeanette Macdonald version of the city spreading her wings, from the MGM movie San Francisco (1936), starring Clark Gable as Blackie Norton:

Some rights reserved 2021 Tom’s Garden. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via