Lillian Saunders


San Francisco: The Ingleside, Oceanview and Westwood Park Neighborhoods


I’ve lived in the Ingleside district of San Francisco for almost my whole life yet it was only recently that I began to become curious about its past. How and when was it developed? What role did it play in relation to the neighborhoods around it? I believed that answering these questions would make me become a more aware member of my city and community. A specific aspect that I wanted to focus on was the architecture of Ingleside and the neighborhoods it’s sandwiched by: Oceanview and Westwood Heights. Each neighborhood has a unique style of architecture yet they also have many overlaps with each other. From observation, I knew that Ingleside was in the middle of Oceanview and Westwood Heights in not only physical location but also on a socioeconomic scale. It creates a kind of bridge between the lower middle class Oceanview and the upper middle class Westwood Heights. Since each neighborhood is largely residential, the architecture of each one reflects both the time period that the neighborhood developed in and which class of citizens originally occupied it. Ingleside, Oceanview and Westwood Park neighborhoods developed unique forms of architecture because of their locations relative to the city and public transportation, the 1906 earthquake and World War II.


Spain began to colonize the San Francisco Bay Area in 1776 before any permanent residences had been built on the land. Taking advantage of free labour from converted Ohlone people and Spanish colonists, Spanish leaders began to develop the Presidio, Yerba Buena and Mission Dolores (originally San Francisco de Asis). The land that OMI (Oceanview, Merced Heights and Ingleside) now encompasses was first formed in 1845 with a purchase of 4,400 acres by Jose de Jesus Noe which included Mount Davidson and OMI. Noe was the acting mayor of Yerba Buena when the United States took control of the area in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Some farmers had set up farms on the land before the United States took over, yet American squatters forced themselves on to these farms until the farmers could prove that they owned the land which could take a few years. In 1852, Noe sold 600 acres- to American John Meirs Horner that became today’s Eureka Valley, Castro and Noe Valley. Although Horner anticipated that he could sell the land for farms and housing, not many people wanted to buy it. The land was isolated from the city with very limited access to public transportation. The railway that did go into the area was expensive to take into the city and therefore inconvenient for many working families. The land also wasn’t equipped with drainage and sewage systems which made it unattractive as well (1). This was the beginning of the slow development of Ingleside, Oceanview and Westwood Park.

Oceanview Development

In the 1860s, farming was the most profitable industry in Northern California and the OMI area had very good soil for farming. Immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Germany bought land in the area to build farms on but only 17 farmers were present in the area in the late 19th century. Adding onto the lack of desire to farm in OMI was the modern industries that were developing at the time. With the call of plumbing and electricity jobs, few of the new generations saw farming as a viable career option. Farmers who did farm the land were also being evicted for polluting creekwater with their fertilizer. By the 1940s, most of the farms had disappeared although the farm houses were left standing and can still be seen today in Oceanview and Ingleside, as these were the areas where many of the farms existed. Further inhibiting residential development was the prevalence of roadhouses and saloons which were probably the cause of an increase in juvenile crime in the 1850s. On present-day Balboa park and the campus the City College of San Francisco currently occupies, a jail was built for juveniles in 1859. The jail was notorious for its bad conditions and ineffectiveness in reforming its inmates and was finally shut down in 1891.In order to alleviate the unattractive prospect of living next to a jail, a promise of creating a rail line on the eastern edge of OMI (where I-280 is today) was spread. Homestead associations bought up land in hopes of selling it at a profit to future residents. The associations were met with disappointment, however, as the population did not significantly increase. There were plenty of well-priced plots of land closer to the city such as in the Mission and Western Addition (1). These neighborhoods also had affordable and convenient public transportation systems which Ingleside and Oceanview lacked.

Yet there was still hope for the area. Oceanview began as the combination between the Railroad Homestead Association and the City Land Association. In the late 1860s, hundreds of acres that would soon become to be known as Oceanview were bought by these homestead associations and divided into shares with very low price points. At only $90 for a plot of land and the promise of plots next to each other for large families, many blue-collar workers were attracted to the area. 1,130 people moved onto 2400 lots within two years. Originally, the land was called San Miguel but was changed to Oceanview in the 1880s, likely because of the view of the ocean that one would catch while driving to the area. While the neighborhoods were still growing at a slow pace, a community that hadn’t previously existed was beginning to form around the bars and roadhouses that had previously been a cause for crime. The community organized for neighborhood improvement, a school and a fire station. By the early 1900s, Oceanview had the largest population in OMI (1).

Ingleside Development

Ingleside was developing simultaneously but at a slower pace than Oceanview. In the 1850s, it was mainly a convenient place for roadhouses and saloons that could be operated out of the view of the authorities. In 1881, Adolph Sutro bought the land that is now Ingleside yet it sold poorly due to its remote nature. Ten years after it was divided into lots, only 223 residents who were mostly farmer, jockeys at the local racetrack, saloon keepers, and bartenders, lived on the land. The neighborhood was called Lakeview at first but transitioned into Ingleside due to the existence of Ingleside Inn close by. In the 1890s, pleasure drives along Ocean House Road, the main commercial road, became popular and called for the creation of restaurants and other businesses to cater to the visitors. It wasn’t until the earthquake of 1906 that the development of both Ingleside and Oceanview really took off. With the death of 3,000 people and over half of San Francisco burnt and destroyed, 225,000 people were left homeless. Luckily, Ingleside and Oceanview suffered no fires which made it a prime spot for refugee camps. Many homeless took up residence in an Ingleside refugee camp. The population of the camp rose to 800 at one point and 1,287 people passed through in total. The majority of residents were born outside the United States (83%) and 75% were over 50 years old. It is speculated that this initial demographic encouraged the later immigrant population to come to Ingleside as well. (2)

Oceanview and Ingleside Architecture

The sudden influx of so many residents created the necessity for more residences to be built in Oceanview and Ingleside. Popular styles were one-story cottages, Craftsman, Queen Anne Victorian and Edwardian style houses which were built in the 1910s and 1920s. The Craftsman style of architecture was implemented from 1900-1930 with a prominent rustic, “crafted” look and roofs sloping towards the street with pillars supporting the front porch. Queen Anne Victorian houses, adapted from the Victorian style, were popular from 1875-1900. Traditional elements include brick chimneys, varying textures, and shaped shingles. When Queen Victoria’s reign over England ended in 1901 and King Edward VII gained power, Edwardian architecture grew in popularity. Due to the growing density of the city, the ability of Edwardian homes to hold multiple flats with little wasted space was heavily favored. It’s popularity is apparent today as it is the most common style in San Francisco today (2). A nationwide housing boom in the 1920s caused many row style houses to be built (1). Row houses are stucco houses that were built with almost identical interiors and exteriors as quick and convenient housing for a rapidly growing population (3). This repetition of housing style is still apparent in each neighborhood. Another reason for the population increase was the tolerance of black families (likely due to the area’s historical acceptance of immigrants from many different countries who faced discrimination as well) who were shut out of many established neighborhoods. Oceanview had a 59% black population in 1960 while Ingleside had a 32% black population. In 1970, the black population of OMI was 63% while the population citywide was at 31%. By the 1970s, most of the homes were middle-class single-family homes with 76% of the land dedicated to residential buildings versus the 39% rate citywide (3).

Westwood Park

The majority of homes in Westwood Park were built between 1918 and 1923. The land was bought in the early 20th century to serve a white collar community. Land near downtown was becoming crowded with developments and the creation of the Twin Peaks Tunnel in 1918 made the creation of Westwood Park possible. John M. Punnett, an engineer was responsible for designing the neighborhood. He chose to create two large ovals for minimal confusion. The architect who built around 600 houses was Charles F. Strothoff, along with other architects. The houses were specifically designed for the middle class of the city. Westwood Park consists largely of Craftsman and bungalow style houses which were in style at the time and were “unique, practical, artistic and moderate in cost” (4). Residents must obtain approval before changing anything about the outside of their house (5).


The architecture that is unique to each neighborhood and the styles that overlap reflect the patterns of development in the neighborhoods. Due to the rapidly growing need for housing after the 1906 earthquake and World War II, Ingleside and Oceanview both contain many row houses and former farm houses while Oceanview contains more basic stucco residences. Both neighborhoods were popular with the immigrant community because of the farming opportunities and, later, the refugee camp. As farming became a less lucrative business with the turn towards industrial work and immigrants generally lacked large bank accounts, Oceanview and Ingleside became middle and lower-middle class neighborhoods. The era that Westwood Park was developed in and its intended residents of white collar families made it a haven of Craftsman and bungalow houses. Because it was developed after Oceanview and Ingleside, and black families were discouraged from living there, it became an upper middle class neighborhood (2). Each neighborhood developed as as result of its location and events that occurred during its development.


(1)Brandi, Richard, and Woody LaBounty. “San Francisco’s Ocean View, Merced Heights, and Ingleside (OMI) Neighborhoods 1862 – 1959.” Outside Lands. Accessed December 5, 2014.


(3)Weinstein, Dave. “Brightening the Sunset / Oliver Rousseau, a Depression-era builder, infused the city with rows of romantic homes.” Last modified August 7, 2004. Accessed December 15, 2014.

(4) “A Short History of Westwood Park.” Westwood Park Association Accessed December 5, 2014.

(5) “Westwood Park Bungalows.” Westwood Park Association. Accessed December 5, 2014.

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