One of my favorite memories from childhood was the first time my grandparents took my sister and me into San Francisco. We were country bumpkins who grew up on a ranch in northeastern Nevada and were mesmerized by the cacophony and tumult of the big city. My grandfather took us to all the tourist destinations of note, including Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, but the memory that remains the most vivid in my mind was the drive down Filbert Street.
We left Fisherman’s Wharf in his old faux-wood paneled station wagon, driving south on Hyde Street, before turning east on Filbert. After the turn, just before the infamous Filbert grade started, my grandfather said, "Look, kids, Coit Tower!" He then gunned it, sending us careening over the edge of "The Steepest Street in San Francisco," sacrificing the integrity of his car’s undercarriage and front-end for the sake of a good scare and the subsequent laugh.
I certainly never forgot that moment and I’ve used the same trick on other people who aren’t familiar with San Francisco’s hills. I took it on faith that Filbert was the steepest street in the city, a fact backed up by none other than Wikipedia (tied with 22nd St. in Noe Valley), which claims it to be "one of the steepest navigable streets in the Western Hemisphere, at a maximum gradient of 31.5 percent."
So it must be true, right? Wrong.
Stephen Von Worley, who runs the blog Weather Sealed, went out and measured a few other steep streets and it turns out there are several significantly slanty-er than that block on Filbert, and most of them are on the hill right behind my house in Bernal Heights.
Take Nevada above Chapman: 36 percent grade. Or his steepest: Prentiss between Chapman and Powhattan, 37 percent grade!
Von Worley writes a very entertaining essay about his quest to right the record books on the steepest streets in San Francisco, highly worth the read. Any dissenters out there have a steeper street?
Photo of Prentiss after the jump.