Correction to This Article
An article on San Francisco in the March 24 Travel section incorrectly referred to the Doggie Diner restaurant franchise as defunct. The company operates a store in Carson City, Nev., and two carts on Pier 39 in San Francisco, and has licensed its name to 12 outlets in San Francisco's Pacific Bell Park.

Waaaay Beyond Cable Cars

By Paul Iorio
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 24, 2002

San Francisco's great attractions -- the over-photographed Golden Gate Bridge, the famous-for-no-good-reason Coit Tower and, stop me if you've heard this one, cable cars climbing foggy hills -- are the sorts of cliches that almost give cliches a good name. Still, there's only so much you can take of overly familiar beauty. Here are seven lesser-known places -- all free and accessible without a car -- that even Bay Area fanatics may not know about.

1. San Andreas Fault. The fault -- where the North American Plate rubs against the Pacific Plate, causing occasional earthquakes -- runs southwest and northwest of San Francisco. One of the fault's nearest points to the city is a couple of miles away, at the intersection of Gateway Drive and Hickey Boulevard on the border of Pacifica and Daly City, according to a map of area faults.

A Shell gas station at Gateway marks the eastern edge of the San Andreas, whose full width takes about seven minutes to walk. (Don't try walking its length, which spans more than 800 miles.) The hike along Hickey, through a mostly suburban section of Pacifica, is hilly, scenic and rugged; at Firecrest Avenue, there's a commanding view of the Pacific. The fault ends at Inverness Drive and Hickey, where the ground tilts toward the ocean.

No physical clues suggest that this area is on a major fault, and the people in the area with whom I talked had no idea what they were sitting atop. Though small quakes occur frequently, a temblor above a magnitude 8 on the Richter scale hasn't rocked this region since the 1906 quake, which caused enough shaking and fire to destroy almost all of San Francisco.

To reach the San Andreas Fault, take the BART train to the Colma stop and connect with SamTrans bus lines 122 or 121, which stop on the fault at Hickey and Firecrest. Drivers can take the Skyline Freeway (Route 35) south to Hickey and head west.

2. Berkeley Hills. Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue is the best place to experience the town's famed counterculture, but continue on along Centennial Drive, which starts at the eastern border of the main University of California campus and ends atop Grizzly Peak. Most of the area, about 12 miles from downtown San Francisco, is set aside for ecological study.

Halfway up Centennial is the U.C. Botanical Garden -- the United Nations of flora collections, with thousands of plants from around the world. My favorite is the cactus garden, which stars a 30-foot Argentine specimen. Farther up the road is the Lawrence Hall of Science and its sweeping Bay Area panorama (the museum has science exhibits as well as a planetarium). Beyond that is the southern tip of the massive (2,077 acres) Tilden Regional Park, worthy of a day trip in itself.

To visit Centennial Drive, walk east from the Berkeley BART station past the campus campanile to California Memorial Stadium on Stadium Rim Road, which intersects with Centennial. By car, cross the Bay Bridge, take I-80 north/east and exit at University Avenue. Follow the walking directions from there.

3. Sea Cliff neighborhood. Fine taste meets very big money in this exclusive enclave between Lincoln Park and the Presidio, home to some of the area's most impressive private residences and celebrities like Robin Williams and Sharon Stone.

The main drag is El Camino del Mar (no tour buses allowed), lined with Mediterranean-style palaces and modern mansions -- "view homes," in real estate parlance. Among the highlights, from west to east, are the vista above China Beach; the house at 308 Sea Cliff Ave., which has a sleek, almost cinematic walkway and patio overlooking the bay; and the dazzling homes at and around 160 Sea Cliff Ave.

If you want to buy in, be prepared to shell out some serious moolah: The coastal homes cost $6 million to $9 million (300 Sea Cliff reportedly went for $15 million), according to real estate agents.

Also of note is 25 Avenue North, a cul de sac leading to Baker Beach, where the surf is unusually explosive -- which must sound great at night to neighbors. To the west of Sea Cliff, on top of Lincoln Park, is the city's best art museum: the Palace of the Legion of Honor, noted for its French paintings and sculptures.

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