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The Real Top 10 List of Steepest Streets in San Francisco

Steep Streets Graphic by Theo LaBua

Graphic by Theo LaBua

I was driving around with a small group of computer and navigational scientists the other day demonstrating VoicePark and doing field research for a collaborative project with them. What I like about driving around with a carful of scientists is the curiosity, the creativity, and all of the questions that arise. But, what I absolutely love about driving around with a carful of scientists is that, being always on the hunt for new answers, any one subjective view of reality is never taken for granted. During these scientific field trips, what any of us thinks to be true can be, and often is challenged. Reality is never fixed.
 
This is a good thing. If we all simply accepted “truth” blindly and if there wasn’t an innate human quest to understand our world and to make it better, ships and the sailors on those ships would still be sailing off of the edge of the earth like they used to in the old days.
 
So, the question came up “What are the steepest streets in San Francisco?”  That was an easy one for me, as I’ve been asked that question a million times (literally). I quickly rattled them off, quoting the popular and accepted SF Bureau of Engineering’s findings from last century.

1. Filbert between Leavenworth and Hyde (31.5% grade)
2. 22nd between Church and Vicksburg (31.5% grade)
3. Jones between Union and Filbert (29% grade)
4. Duboce between Buena Vista and Alpine (27.9% grade)
5. Jones between Green and Union (26% grade)
6. Webster between Vallejo and Broadway (26% grade)
7. Duboce between Alpine and Divisadero (25% grade)
8. Jones between Pine and California (24.8 grade)
9. Fillmore between Vallejo and Broadway (24% grade)

Someone in the back seat asked, “What about Kearny Street just above Broadway. Why isn’t that on the list?” At first, I thought that this was just a ruse to get me to drive them to Broadway and alter the nature of our field research, from parking analysis to partially clothed women. Which, I was not necessarily against, after eight hours of research and driving over 100 miles around SF with them.
 
“It is pretty steep,” I said. “We should check it out.” And off to Broadway we drove. We parked perpendicularly halfway down on Kearny above Broadway. My passengers quickly turned into a makeshift group of road surveyors. The vertical rise to horizontal run was measured and quickly calculated into a ratio, and then expressed as a percentage.   
 
The grade of Kearny is about 30%. Everything I once thought to be true about the grades of streets in SF came tumbling down. Truth shattered once again. I checked with a few friends later to see if they knew if anyone had done this research. I hoped they had, or else I would probably end up doing it, and Lord knows I have enough going on already. One of them pointed me in the direction of a man named Stephen Von Worley, who combined the National Elevation Dataset’s data with an Open Street Maps grid, and indeed had come up with a new list.
 
So, without further adieu, ladies and gentleman, I present to you, the 21st  Century new and improved list of the steepest streets in San Francisco.
 
The Steepest Streets In San Francisco
1. Bradford above Tompkins (41% grade)
2. Romolo between Vallejo and Fresno (37.5% grade)
3. Prentiss between Chapman and Powhattan (37% grade)
4. Nevada above Chapman (35% grade)
5. Baden above Mangels (34% grade)
6. Ripley between Peralta and Alabama (31.5% grade)
7. 24th between De Haro and Rhode Island (31.5% grade)
8. Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth (31.5% grade)
9. 22nd between Vicksburg and Church (31.5% grade)
10. Broadway above Taylor (31% grade)

David LaBua is a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement.  
He is the author of Finding the Sweet Spot, and founder of VoicePark, the world’s first voice-guided mobile parking app.