Grandview Park: Hidden Gem of the Inner Sunset

School of Dentistry

The Inner Sunset is a neighborhood whose many treasures are often under-appreciated, and one of its loveliest spots is Grandview Park.  At only 666 feet tall, this round promontory is shorter than its famous sisters, Mount Sutro and the Twin Peaks, making it invisible from most of The City’s eastern areas.  However, what it lacks in height, it more than compensates for in perspective. It is the only place in The City where you can simultaneously enjoy views of downtown, the Marin Hills and the waves of Ocean Beach. 

Located at the end of Moraga Street, roughly between 13th and 16th avenues, the hill is an easy 30-minute walk from UCSF. What better way to wind down after class or clinic than a scramble up a secret hill?  The view to the west is especially grand, and makes Grandview well suited for sunset hikes. 

The easiest route from UCSF is to head west to the end of Moraga, which ends at a set of stairs that lead directly to the top of the hill.  Alternatively, you can head south on 15th Avenue from Irving Street and ascend the peak by its northern ridge.

The rock is chert, the same unusual formation that underpins most of The City, and its outcroppings add to the charm of the hill, while the other slopes of sand remind us that this entire western region of the city was once primarily a sand dune district. 

A tasteful grove of Monterey cypress crowns the summit without obscuring the views, balancing out the rocks and succulents and adding to the elegance of the scene.  The park is also reportedly “one of the last habitats for the endangered dune tansy and Franciscan wallflower” in the city, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Once you’ve had your fill of natural beauty, there are still more secret treasures to be discovered.  If you take the stairs down to the west towards the ocean, you’ll find one of the most magnificent and obscure mosaic murals in The City.   It covers the entire height of the lower stairway, with the tiles glued to the vertical surface of the steps, so it is best viewed from below, looking uphill. 

A churning ocean at the bottom spirals up the stairs, narrowing into a river rushing through hills.   Finally, the ascending river and hill give way to a sky with a crescent moon and a brilliant sun — celestial beacons at the zenith.  Dedicated in 2005, the mosaic is a result of a community effort, funded and built with the help of many local residents. Their names can be seen on the playful tiles of fish and birds, which densely populate the river and sky. 

For a brief park history, I turned to  “In 1923 an acre or so at the top became dedicated park land.  In 1952 the surrounding vacant lots were sold by the city. … When several lots were finally developed in 1967, an environmental reporter wrote an article urging readers to protect the hilltop park from being undermined by construction on its lower slope.  Bowing to public pressure, the city reversed itself, and in the mid-1970s finally purchased the lots for much more than what they had sold them for two decades earlier.” (Pete Holloran)