Underground Part 2 – San Francisco

Posted on August 28, 2011


The Usual Introductory Words

California!!! Not too much introduction needed for the quake and sunshine ridden state along North America’s west coast. Within California lies the city that popularized the hippie subculture in the mid 60’s — San Francisco. What I had seemed to find equally interesting about this city besides the many pop-culture references is the imaginary imagery — yes, I really did say that — of the city beyond the superficial scenery one is often confronted with. But imagining is sometimes just half as great as discovering the what is real.

It’s been a long time after the New York post, but it is finally here… Part 2 – San Francisco.

Beautiful image of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco by sunset

As you might have deduced from the title, this city has a few secrets hidden beneath the surface that could be interesting little facts to be aware of and I intent to delve a bit deeper –just a bit — into the burrows which keep these secrets.

The Earth Beneath the City of Love

The mere mention of the city’s name renders the picturesque scenery of steep developed hills and that iconic bridge we’ve all come to know so well. With levels of elevation ranging between 0 meters and approximately 280 meters above sea level you might at least expect to find a few civil engineering gems buried in the depths beneath.

Within city limits San Francisco boasts a hill count of approximately 50 (see List of Hills), which is a rather uncommonly large amount of hills for a developed area. However, man has made it somewhat of a game to build cities on locations that don’t always seem to be ideal — It’s a game, I guess.

It Had to Start Somewhere

I’ve read through many different sources about that which may lie beneath the San Francisco. A lot of claims which are quickly discarded as urban legends and myths. Somehow some claim many of them to contain several drops of truth but then again… How would I know for sure, right?!?


The tunnels are obvious. No question about it… beneath and through the hills, San Francisco boasts a vast collection of tunnels which form the main traffic arteries of the city. At the moment, I believe the tunnels for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) are among the most popular tunnels within the city that people are aware of.

neighorboods of san fransisco

The different neighborhoods within San Francisco, handy guide to visualize where certain things may lie 😉

Stockton Tunnel

position of the Stockton Tunnel

The popular tunnel history of the city started with the Stockton tunnel completed in 1914, which traverses a area of about 3 city blocks. After the completion of this tunnel and it success, many more tunneling projects were initiated to make a vast portion of the city more easily accessible.

Twin Peaks Tunnel

The Twin Peaks Tunnel, measuring approximately 3.6 kilometers in length, held a vacancy in the list of the longest railway tunnels at its time of opening in 1918. The tunnel burrowed beneath the city’s “highest hills” to carry it’s commuters to and fro and was eventually connected to another tunnel to become part of a larger rapid transit system — MUNI Metro.

Yerba Buena Tunnel

Top Deck of the Yerba Buena TunnelNot really as much of a underground landmark, as one might expect anything mentioned in this post might be, but a interesting little thing. The Yerba Buena Tunnel lies between the two spans of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and boasts the widest diameter for a transportation bore tunnel — five lanes of traffic, two decks… some mini-tunnel.

Dungeons, Bunkers and Dragons

There’s been some upheaval about underground bunker found beneath the surface of SF. After the San Francisco episode of Cities of the Underworld much interest was rekindled for the San Franciscan subterranea. Much thanks to the urban explorers (such as Wesley Townsend Kitten) who set out to document that which we need and want to see.

Enough For Now

Having equipped you with enough leads, I now leave the rest of the discovery up to you. Google, click, read, watch… explore and be amazed!!! 🙂

Extra Material

World Map USA CA San Francisco Stockton Tunnel southern entrance at Stockton & Bush St. accessible from Sutter St. where this photo was taken

Stockton Tunnel as photographed by Sheldon

A Breda Car emerging from the Twin Peaks Tunnel into West Portal Station. It does look like it was taken from the 1970s to the 1980s, but it was taken in 2007.

Twin Peaks Tunnel


  1. [docu] Cities of the Underworld – San Francisco
  2. List of Hills in San Fransisco
  3. Neighborhoods in San Francisco
  4. The Tunnels of San Fransisco, California
  5. History of San Francisco
  6. [wiki] Stockton Tunnel
  7. [wiki] Twin Peaks
  8. [wiki] Yerba Buena Tunnel


Posted in: history, life