Warmth Greets Fathers in the ‘Couv’

After a rather damp and cool June, the elusive ‘El Sol’ made an appearance over the area just in time for Father’s Day. The mercury managed to get up into the upper 70s under what was just a magnificent day. We are almost out of the clutches of a rather persnickety spring that didn’t want to give an inch on spring warm weather. But this week the solstice arrives and with it our summer will finally come. Sure, ‘Miss Spring’ may yet throw some showers and cool breezes our way but summer will take hold and the 75 days of the best weather on Earth will soon begin. How about these really long days? Yes friends with the solstice we enjoy some 16 hours of daylight and another hour or so at dusk and dawn of gorgeous twilight. Soak it up while you can because starting Wednesday the days begin shrinking in length; first with morning light and later in the evening. But that is so July, it is still June and our moody spring still has some time to mess with our weather.

On other topics: I have written about the rivalry between America’s Vancouver and the Rose City in numerous posts including ‘Rivals’ here. But there is another West Coast Rivalry that could be the meanest and most ornery of all. That would be San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Manhattan of the West versus Tinsel Town. I am not talking about mere sports spectacle between the likes of the Dodgers and Giants. No this goes deeper than that.

San Francisco was the first big city in the Western USA. With its roots dating the 1770s and the “El Camino Real” traveled by the Spaniards and later Mexico. San Francisco was established well before the State of California was admitted to the Union. But the Gold Rush in the mid 19th Century led to San Francisco’s rapid growth. The city breached the 100,000 population mark during the Civil War era when Portland, OR was still smaller than the ‘Couv’. SF topped half a million souls by the end of World War One and still more than twice the size of the fast growing Rose City in Oregon.

San Francisco was a city slicker’s dream with densely packed tall buildings that engendered the nickname “Manhattan of the West”. It was the largest city west of the Mississippi until the 1920s when LA passed her up. Among Major American Cities San Francisco is second only to New York in population density. Just as a note: San Francisco’s land area is roughly the same as our very own Vancouver USA but they pack in 5 times as many people.

Los Angeles was a sleepy little village of a couple of thousand people when SF was building industrial age high rises. But Hollywood and the California Dream came fast and Metro LA became the biggest boom town story in US history. The City of Angels however was a giant mass of suburbia and San Francisco was a “real city”.

In the 1960s San Francisco upped it’s game and began designing modern sleek skyscrapers like Chicago and New York. The tallest building on the West Coast in 1966 was San Fransisco’s 42 floor Well Fargo Building which surpassed a series of tallest in the west structures in San Francisco. The trend continued in 1968 Bank America Center with 52 floors unseated Wells Fargo. Then TransAmerica with the Iconic pyramid in 1972. All tallest in the West all San Fran. But Los Angeles decided in the mid seventies it needed to “grow up”. After all, LA had become the 2nd largest city in America. So in 1974 United California Bank (AON Center) erected the tallest building in the Western US with 62 floors and topping out just a few feet higher than the Pyramid. That was on purpose, methinks. Meanwhile San Francisco decided to adopt height limits in the 70s to protect the iconic skyline of the city. Heights at 550 feet would keep the classic SF landmarks visible. (550 feet is roughly the height of Portland’s two tallest buildings.) 

In 1985 LA took a shot to face when a new tallest in the West high rise went up. Not in San Francisco, but in Seattle. Columbia Center became the new skyscraper king on the ‘left coast’. Seattle’s glory was short-lived as LA seized control of the skyscraper wars in 1989 with the iconic US Bank Tower and the world’s tallest helipad.

picture of building
LA’s Wilshire Grand Hotel (Wikipedia)

San Francisco meanwhile decided it had been far too long since they had the tallest building in the West; and so the Salesforce.com tower became reality. It was slated to be the first “supertall” in SF and slightly taller than Arch Rival LA’s US Bancorp. But delays led to an opportunity for LA to crush the City by the Bay’s dreams of recapturing their long-lost crown when La La Land fast tracked the new Wilshire Grand Hotel at 1100 feet. Yes, the new tallest building in the west. It topped out before Saleforce.com so that tower is relegated to second place.

When you start playing in the billionaire’s sandbox to feed your rivalry, that’s hardcore 😉 More local: Washington’s largest city still enjoys one biggest and best of the West with Columbia Center still being the tallest building by floor count at 76. Salesforce has 61 and Wilshire 73. Seattle was working on a new King of the West, the 102 story 1150 foot 4/C project but the FAA was worried about air traffic from SeaTac and Boeing so that was scaled back to 93 floors and 1029 feet. It will come in third in the west by height, but will be the new king of floor count.

What does all this have to do with the ‘Couv’. Not a damn thing really, but it’s a slow news day north of the Columbia and I thought the LA beating SF to the high rise party was a comical example of city rivals and their urban toys.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good even though we aren’t building any skyscrapers to rival Portland… yet.


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