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What is the steepest street in San Francisco?

Alyia Renee Yates
The view from the top of Filbert and Leavenworth

KALW listener Stephanie Stathanos wanted to know, what is the steepest street in San Francisco? KALW Audio Academy Fellow Alyia Renee Yates headed to Market Street in the early morning to find the answer.

Located at 1155 Market Street is Bruce Storrs office. Mr. Storrs is the surveyor for the city and county of San Francisco, and his office has a nice view. It makes sense because his job is to make sure the streets of the city are maintained. This, however, can be difficult since the streets were designed in the 1800s by people who didn’t plan for the hills.

“On paper, they would be designed long before the streets were laid out,” Storrs says.

Past surveyors would then take those plans and go into the field to inspect the hills and sand dunes of the city. In order to create a street, what was there had to be moved and some things were easier to move than others.

“The super steep ones are on rock not on sand that's why it was much more difficult to move a bunch of hard rock then it was to move sand around,” Storrs explains.

After giving me some background information, Mr. Storrs begins to search the San Francisco maps in order to find the steepest street. After searching the inclines of surveyed streets in the database, we found our answer.

“The steepest street in San Francisco that's usable for vehicular traffic is Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth. It's 31.52%,” Storrs says.

As stated above, Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth allows vehicles to pass through making it a pretty busy street. So with cars zooming by daily, I asked how does he measure the streets. The answer I received was right out of a high school textbook.

“It's called Rise over Run. You take the elevation difference and you divided by the length of the piece of the street or anything,” Storrs says.

But the numbers didn’t give me the extent of how steep it was, so I went out to visit the street myself. Right off the bat, I noticed that there is no sidewalk. The sidewalk is replaced by steps in order to help people walk up the street.

Needless to say three minutes into my ascension, I was exhausted. It is quite a workout. Yet, if you can get to the top of the hill the view of the city is amazing. It makes a great picture for Instagram.