Streetwise: A Look Back At 1971

by Frank Dunnigan

Fifty years is a significant block of time. Sometimes, though, it can feel rather like the blink of an eye. Looking back to 1971, many events were taking place that have helped to define the place we know today. Here are some notable examples.

8-Line Muni Bus at Van Ness and Market, May 1971.8-Line Muni Bus at Van Ness and Market, May 1971. (wnp25.2499; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

BART/MUNI—Construction on the Market Street subway that began in 1967 was still ongoing in 1971—complete with wooden-plank roadways and sidewalks.

BASKETBALL—The San Francisco Warriors basketball team relocated from San Francisco to Oakland and became known as the Golden State Warriors. The team returned to San Francisco’s new Chase Pavilion in Mission Bay in late 2020.

BAY AREA REPORTER—Newspaper focused on the LGBT community was founded in 1971, the same year as San Francisco’s first Pride Parade.

Aerial view of Candlestick Park during first 49er football game, October 10, 1971.Aerial view of Candlestick Park during first 49er football game, October 10, 1971. (wnp28.2054; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

CANDLESTICK PARK—Following a major renovation/expansion, the San Francisco 49ers football team joined the Giants in playing home games at Candlestick Park that year.

DISASTER—A January collision between two tankers on San Francisco Bay resulted in a major oil spill that took months to resolve. You can read more about it here.

EST—The self-improvement course developed by Werner Erhard offered its first seminar at the old Jack Tar Hotel on Van Ness Avenue in October 1971. Popular at the time, the organization’s methods were sometimes controversial. It was disbanded in 1984, with its final seminar taking place in San Francisco.

FAST FOOD—McDonald’s Corporation had 1,500+ locations around the US in 1971, but none in San Francisco until the company announced plans for an outlet at 1041 Market Street and another on 19th Avenue near Lincoln Way. The downtown location operated for years, but neighborhood opposition ended plans for the 19th Avenue site before it ever opened.

FINANCE—Financial investor Charles Schwab established a stock brokerage firm in San Francisco under the name First Commander Corporation which later began discount operations under his own name.

FLEISHHACKER POOL—Following winter storm damage to its ocean intake pipeline, the 47-year old pool briefly trucked in fresh water, but was closed permanently before the end of the year. It would eventually be filled in and paved over to become a parking lot for the San Francisco Zoo.

FOUNTAIN—The bronze sculpture fountain depicting famous San Francisco scenes, designed and built by local artist Ruth Asawa, was part of the construction of the 36-story Hyatt on Union Square Hotel (later renamed the Grand Hyatt) which was under construction in 1971 at Post & Stockton Streets.

FREEWAYS—The Interstate 280 extension into downtown San Francisco was completed, along with the final San Mateo County link that extended the route to San Jose.

Golden Gate Bridge from Toll Plaza parking lot, June 1971.Golden Gate Bridge from Toll Plaza parking lot, June 1971. (wnp25.2628; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE—The last original bonds issued for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge were retired on July 1st. The $35 million in principal and nearly $39 million in interest were financed entirely from Bridge tolls. Some people mistakenly thought that the bridge would then be toll-free.

HISTORY ORGANIZATION—The non-profit group, San Francisco Heritage, was founded in 1971 in order to advocate for historic resources and education programs, later acquiring and preserving the 1886 Haas-Lilienthal House on Franklin Street which is open for tours.

Hyatt and Marriott Hotels under construction from Fairmont Hotel, June 1971.Hyatt and Marriott Hotels under construction from Fairmont Hotel, June 1971. (wnp27.6305; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

HOTELS—San Francisco’s hotel building boom was well underway in 1971, with construction progressing on the Hilton Tower, St. Francis Tower with 5 outside glass elevators, the Hyatt Union Square (now the Grand Hyatt) and others.

JACKSON SQUARE—With 83 buildings dating to the mid-19th Century, the Board of Supervisors voted to establish the historic district at the intersection of Jackson & Montgomery Streets in 1971.

John Brodie during NFC Championship Game, the last San Francisco 49ers game at Kezar Stadium, January 3, 1971.John Brodie during NFC Championship Game, the last San Francisco 49ers game at Kezar Stadium, January 3, 1971. (wnp28.4167; Examiner Negative Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

KEZAR STADIUM—The final 49ers football game was played at Kezar against the Dallas Cowboys on January 3, 1971, with the Cowboys beating the 49ers 17-10. The stadium remained in use for high school sports and other events until it was demolished following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and replaced with a much small stadium of the same name. See 800 more images of events in/around Kezar Stadium here.

MAYOR—Joseph Alioto defeated restaurateur Harold Dobbs and Board of Supervisors member Dianne Feinstein in his re-election to another 4-year term as Mayor.

MOVIESDirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood, was released in 1971—with San Francisco as the backdrop—as was another well-known movie filmed locally, Harold and Maude.

MUSIC—Street performers became popular at Fisherman’s Wharf and in the Union Square area, with sounds of Vivaldi predominating. Bill Graham’s Fillmore West venue closed on July 4, 1971 after five nights of shows featuring local bands like the Grateful Dead, Santana, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Playland Entrance at the Great Highway and Cabrillo, 1971. (wnp28.4167; John Martini, photographer / Courtesy of John Martini)

PLAYLAND-AT-THE-BEACH—The decades-old amusement park was sold, and entered its final year of operation. Little did we all realize how much it would be missed. See 900+ more images of Playland here.

SILICON VALLEY—American print journalist Don Hoefler first used this term to refer to the Bay Area’s computer capital in an article dated January of 1971.

Looking south from Gough near Geary at new St. Mary's Cathedral, October 1971.Looking south from Gough near Geary at new St. Mary’s Cathedral, October 1971. (wnp25.3523; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

ST. MARY’S CATHEDRAL—The new Roman Catholic church, built to replace the 1891 St. Mary’s Cathedral on Van Ness Avenue (lost to an arson fire in September 1962), was dedicated in May 1971, with its hyperbolic paraboloid design creating a new landmark on the skyline.

SUTRO TOWER—Construction began on the 977-foot communications tower, which was completed two years later, thus establishing yet another prominent image on the skyline.

TELEVISION—The San Francisco-based police series, McMillan and Wife, starring Rock Hudson and Susan St. James, began a six-year run on NBC in September of 1971.

TRAIN SERVICE—The last passenger train between San Francisco and Monterey was put into retirement.

Transamerica Building at Montgomery and California, November 1971.Transamerica Building at Montgomery and California, November 1971. (wnp25.0024; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

TRANSAMERICA PYRAMID—Yet another significant new structure on the City’s horizon was under construction and just beginning to display its distinctive shape.

URBAN PLANNING—The city’s 1971 Urban Design Plan was the first to codify the shift in values away from the freeway/tower model toward a greater respect for San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods and their human-scale features—influenced by environmentalists, affordable-housing advocates, and preservation groups.

VAILLANCOURT FOUNTAIN—Designed by French-Canadian artist Armand Vaillancourt, the Embarcadero-area fountain was dedicated on April 21, 1971.

VIETNAM WAR PROTESTS—San Francisco’s largest-ever anti-war march drew 150,000+ participants on May 1, 1971.

WOMEN’S CENTER—Establishment of the organization that began providing support services to women and girls. Later, the group expanded and purchased the former Dovre Hall on 18th Street from the fraternal group, Sons of Norway.