San Francisco of the East Coast

That’s what New York magazine is calling Ditmas Park, “the Victorian-packed enclave south of Prospect Park.” Its resemblance to the foggy city is listed as reason #39 to love New York, and it’s not just the “painted ladies,” those houses now fetching as much as $1.8 million, that bear a resemblance to San Fran. “You can also see similarities in the restaurant scene: The reigning culinary draw, the Farm on Adderley, references Chez Panisse (okay, that’s in Berkeley, not Frisco) in its strident locavorism and mismatched plates. And Ditmas’s tiny, cozy Cinco de Mayo can hold its own in the Mexican brunch department against the Mission District’s Pancho Villa Taqueria (although the latter’s burritos are admittedly better).” Perhaps most San Francisco-ish is the Ciy LIghts of the East Coast, Vox Pop, with its socialist literature and cappuccinos, “where, on a recent Sunday, you could order a Cesar Chavez personal pizza, buy lefty tracts, and listen to a live drum circle from a group called Manhattan Samba.” Still, a look at political contributions belies the neighborhood’s true colors: it actually leans toward the red.
Because Ditmas Park Is the New San Francisco [New York]
Photo by nicknormal.

56 Comment

  • seriously weirdness. i had a dream last night i was walking on the roofs of those painted ladies victorian homes last night. not the ones in the pictures, just random ones.. i kept getting on the roofs and then i couldnt get down :( i dont even want to begin to analyze that. ive never been to ditmas park, thanks for the info i cant wait to check it out! i love colorful houses. sometimes the brown / beige / brown / brown / brown / brown / dirty grey / beige color scheme of park slope gets old.


  • I think San Franciscans would be ROTFLMMFAO at this comparison. Sorry, no disrespect to Ditmas Park but come on!!!!

  • I was thinking something very similarly Dave.

  • ive never been to san francisco but professors used to tell me id LOVE it. but then everyone i know who has been there to visit said how horrible the people are and that i would absolutely HATE it. so i dont know what to believe.


  • Looks more like Berkeley, but Cortelyou Road ain’t Telegraph Avenue.

  • Well, there are Victorian homes in both, but me thinks the comparison ends there. I lived there for several years, and I’m hard pressed to see this one.

    And please please don’t call it Frisco – no one that lives there ever would!

  • Comparing the restaurant scene was just idiotic. No part of Brooklyn can compare to SF in that respect. No, no part at all.

    There are however fewer “street people” in Brooklyn than in SF and that may say alot for quality of life!!!

  • No one but you cobblehiller, apparently. :)

  • well if New York magazines calls it that it must be true. Because we all know how well New York magazine knows NYC and all its neighborhoods. And is up on all the trends.
    It is my #1 source for keeping up with what is current.
    Once this word gets out about Ditmas Park being our SF,
    I’m sure Chelsea and Hells Kitchen will have lots of vacant apts.

  • DIBS – huh? Do I need more coffee? I’m missing something.

  • I lived there for several years, and I’m hard pressed to see this one.

    And please please don’t call it Frisco – no one that lives there ever would!

    Posted by: cobblehiller at December 16, 2008 9:43 AM

  • One wag calls San Francisco “Brooklyn Heights on steroids.”

  • “You can also see similarities in the restaurant scene: The reigning culinary draw, the Farm on Adderley, references Chez Panisse (okay, that’s in Berkeley, not Frisco) in its strident locavorism and mismatched plates.

    It was in the blurb up top!

  • Ah, Cobblehiller, did you? I lived there for one glorious summer in my early 20’s (sex research project for the Kinsey Institute). I always swore I’d live there someday, that I’d get back for good. Never did. Have visited several times through the years, have some friends who live there – well, now in Marin – but never really “got back”.

    Absolutely zero comparison beyond a smattering of Victorian homes. And San Francisco is very, very, blessedly blue.

  • Yeah and Bed Stuy is the new Russian Hill!!!

  • Nokilissa….let’s go to the Open Thread and talk more about your sex research in SF. I’ve done quite a bit myself. :)

  • Anyone who’s gone to the Mission District for Mexican knows that there are dozens of great places, not one like in DP. Taco Loco is far better than Pancho Villa.

  • We were pleasantly surprised at how nice Ditmas Park was when we visited but didn’t realize any similarities to SF.
    Dave by “street people” did you mean the homeless population? Our only worry with DP was how it seemed vastly removed economically and socially from the surrounding neighborhoods but that can be said for lots of other places we guess.

  • I’d say it’s our West Philly.

  • El Faro was my favorite – was it on Valencia near 16th?

  • Poor New York Magazine, they will say anything to fill column inches. It must be silly season. Not that DP isn’t lovely, but come on. Vox Pop is a scuzzy little oddity, hardly the locus of a legendary bohemian subculture; and Farm on Adderly is wonderful, but the point of Farm is that it’s a lone beacon among the surrounding blah. However, Cinco de Mayo does rock (although I’ve never eaten a West Coast fish taco, so what do I know?)

  • Yes Pierre. The whole city is filled with homeless…young, old, male & female. Union Square itself is still ground zero for a problem that the city just won’t own up to. It’s really very tragic but also quite an annoyance to anyone visiting (and living there I’m sure) to encounter so many throughout the whole downtown area.

  • It (homeless population) was so bad in and around the Tenderloin, that my friend and I started what we called “Operation Homeless” where we’d make peanut butter sandwiches and pass them out with hunks of cheese. Actually had a couple of people throw them back at us as a sign of their gratitude that we wanted to help them eat rather than buy heroin and liquor. That was nice.

    It is a problem not going away anytime soon.

  • Homelessness was very bad over by City Hall when I was there. There were little encampments. GGate Park also had people camping out in the bushes – sort of little shanty type arrangements. It was pretty serious in the 80s. Then, for the 1984 Democratic convention they scooped up as many homeless as they could find and bussed them to other places. It was bizarre and awful. Dianne Feinstein (DiFi) was mayor. In the Haight and on Polk St. you would see a lot of teenage kids that looked like they hadn’t showered in days, dirty skin, pan-handling.

  • Well Dave we are really sorry to hear that. We were really appalled when we visited DC and there were homeless people everywhere. Dommage! To be fair Union Square is not so bad in comparison these days. But back to DP that Vox Pop place sounds very interesting and unique; does anyone know more about it?
    Noklissa we suspected drugs has a lot to do with the homeless mess as you suggest but the missus got upset when we brought up drugs :). She prefers to blame it squarely on poverty.

  • Sometimes poverty, sometimes drugs, often mental illness of one kind or another being self-medicated with drugs. You never can tell. That is until a peanut butter sandwich hits you in the face! Then you can sorta tell.

  • Why can’t Ditmas Park just be Ditmas Park!

    It does have some great Victorian architecture. Many of the styles are represented. One of my favorite is a stick style house. I was thrilled to see it in Brooklyn. There are a lot of Queen Anne, some late gothic revival and Italianate.

    So many delicious Victorian details. I would recommend a walk thru.
    There aren’t that many painted ladies in Ditmas (unless I missed them). For an overwhelming cluster of painted ladies, go to Cape May and count how many colors are used.

  • Most of the houses in Victorian Flatbush use a simple three-color paint scheme. Very few are true “painted ladies.”

    The house which illustrates the New York article is operated as a bed and breakfast in my neighborhood of Beverley Square West. The paint job is new over the past year. Even when it was on the house tour in 2007, it had a five-color scheme, though the palette was more restrained.

  • San Francisco and Brooklyn are very different. Not only physically and topographically and architecturally but also culturally. They are both expensive, but I think SF has the clear lead in terms of quality of life. I mean, far and away. New York has the lead in quality of work. Ours is a city devoted exclusively to work. San Francisco has a sensual side that I think is nurtured by its beautiful climate and incredibly scenic geography.

  • Homeless: the most underutilized labor force in the nation.

    So much work to be done, yet these people don’t seem to do any. An easy problem to solve.

  • Really Poley? Do tell…share your wisdom. Cities all over the country are waiting…

  • Not in this environment polemicist. There are far more people willing to work who cannot, including illegal immigrants.

  • Polemicist did you say easy problem? Care to elaborate on solutions? Can’t wait to hear this one.

  • When I first moed to brooklyun I fell in love with the brownstones and townhouses. One day we were out exploring and stumbled over Ditmas Park- at which point I then stumbled over my bottom jaw which hit the ground. It was the most incredible neighborhood- i had no idea something like that existed in NYC. Everytime I go back, I fall in love with it all over again.

    I agree with BRG- Ditmas Park doesn’t need to be anything but Ditmas Park.

  • My favorite painted ladies’ sisters are the cottages in the Campground area of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.

    Here are some Flickr pics in someone’s album there:

    As for this NY Magazine piece, that’s just embarrassing. Comparing the two places is way off. Let Ditmas stand on its own as unique.

  • Oh, I do hope Poley is typing – this is going to be good! I wonder if he has the cure for alcoholism and cancer, too?

    Type away Poley, type away!

  • As a long-term ex-SF-an (19 yrs) I can say that DP bears little resemblance to SF (though that house pictured makes me drool…why can’t we have a little color in these drab brownstone rows, maybe I’ll paint mine (flame suit on)).

    To answer some comments: restaurants in SF are fabulous, plentiful and cheaper than NYC; food is typically fresher and the coffee nothing like the muck you get here even in “good” restaurants.

    Fewer people on the street, one thing that makes it less pleasant to walk around (many more use cars); transport is iffy after commute hours. Fewer kids.

    Yes, many more “street people” but only in certain areas, rare in residential areas. I think people are superficially much more pleasant (especially service people) but more mobile and harder to make friends. People more “real” here, I think.

    Quality of life? Well, much better weather, less hassle day-to-day, less crowded than Manhattan but otherwise? I love Brooklyn now.

    Never met a communist in SF. SF is probably no more liberal on average, but has more extremes, than NYC. Gay scene, of course, stronger but mainly because the city is small and gays very organized and politically savvy.

  • oh no- please don’t give him that soapbox.

  • Poley, you lost this one, don’t even bother.

    I love Ditmas Park, my jaw also dropped the first time I “discovered” it. I don’t get there often, but each time is a visual pleasure. This photo shows one of the best parts of the area, the magnificent arbor of trees that arches over the streets. In the summer it’s just amazing. There is no streetscape like it in the entire city.

    I just don’t get the comparison to SF. It would be more a propro to compare it to a great old college town like Ithaca or Oneonta, where large turn of the century houses abound.

  • Why not bxgrl/MM? Such an difficult and complex issue as homelessness apparently has an easy solution! We should all be sitting up straight in our chairs, with our hands folded neatly on the table in front of us, and listening/reading attentively, because I have no doubt that Poley, ever the humanitarian, has a brilliant solution to homelessness. In fact, since I’ll be unemployed come the new year. I can, in fact, start implemementing his plan right away. I’m ready to rock the solution to homelessness!!

    I’m so excited! And…he says it’s an EASY problem to solve!

    How great is that!

  • Hubby and I were going to go to Ditmas on Saturday just to walk around. (yes, we often just pick a nabe and walk). But decided we really should go xmas shopping.

    Montrose, if you ever want to join us, I’ll give you a shout. We’ll pick you up.

  • silly comparison. Homelessness is more of a problem in SF for the simple reason that the benefits are better there.

  • Ditmas Park and Prospect Park South are nice leafy neighborhoods. They were designed from the begining to look different than the rest of Brooklyn. They look more like a Suburban town like Garden City, or Rye, or Morristown. The thing I find disturbing about it is the “apartheid” nature of it. Mostly all White in the big houses, surrounded by mostly all Black in the apartment building districts on all sides. The phenomenon of the wealthy living in their enclave surrounded by poor is one I associate with Latin American Cities. La Paz comes to mind. The wealthy live in beautiful, huge homes in the center of town, and then in all directions are poor and very poor districts. I don’t like the invisible boundary. Creepy. But the houses are of course, very nice.

  • Inigo –

    There are a significant number of black families living in these homes, although I agree they are not the majority. Some bought in the 70s, others are new to the neighborhood.

    As far as the apt. houses – you will find both white and black (and Asian and Latino )residents. This is the most diverse zip code in the U.S.

    You’re comment is off the mark, not to mention insulting to those that actually live there.

  • I stand corrected, cobblehiller- I’ll bring paper and pencil so I can take notes on everything he says. Of course, I’ll be joining you on the bread line after the 1st too. (Has no one mentioned to poley that forced labor isn’t legal in the US?)

  • I stand corrected, cobblehiller- I’ll bring paper and pencil so I can take notes on everything he says. Of course, I’ll be joining you on the bread line after the 1st too. (Has no one mentioned to poley that forced labor isn’t legal in the US?)

    Excellent bxgrl! After implemementing Poley’s Taser-to-work plan, we can swap goverment cheese recipes! I’m telling you it makes a very good grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t ask me how I know this.

  • Have you tried the Spam Delite with government cheese? Or spam and asparagus Soup? with grated government cheese? (don’t ask me -please, please -where that idea came from either).

    And I have heard a rumor (just a rumor) that the government is planning on putting out a cookbook for the homeless entitled

    “50 ways to stretch your food budget”
    subtitle: Using rats,mice and found objects

    I heard poley is the cuisine consultant. :-)

  • “Such an difficult and complex issue as homelessness apparently has an easy solution!”

    Two words: Soylent Green.

  • Two words: Soylent Green.

    Snark, you are my hero! Well, it’s either Soylent Green or Taser-to-Work – either way – I see a brilliant future ahead!

    bxgrl, my g*d – that is inspired. Using rats,mice and found objects – Wow, that’s heavy – bu it’s all right there in chapter 13 of Poley’s “Are There No Workhouses” Handbook! My g*d, he’s thought of everything.

  • WOW Snark! Brilliant.

    Here’s the movie trailer if you’re interested…

  • We expect nothing less from you, Snark.
    You are amazing!

  • and Soylent green is so obviously the perfect choice- soy base, green manufacturing process.(er….right?)

    I loved the Taser-to-Work Program. I unfortunately have coffee spray on my monitor now but it can be cleaned. Yes- the cookbook is also a green document since the rats, mice and found objects are also repurposed items. Come to think of it, I’ve heard that about Spam too.

  • My grandmother had foster kids for a while, when I was a kid in the 60’s, so when we went to visit her, we got “gobment cheese”, canned powdered eggs, condensed milk, and a Spam-like canned sandwich meat. My mother could make great meals out of all that, along with some other basic ingredients, and vegetables.

    Most people have no idea what real hunger is. I don’t, even though we had very little money when I was a child. To think that complicated social problems are easily solved by forced labor and draconian pronouncements should have to test it themselves for at least 6 months.

  • Scariest statement of the week: “Spam-like canned sandwich meat.”

    An imitation Spam?????

    That aside- hunger is no joke. We weren’t poor- but we didn’t have money. Somehow I never realized it until I was grown just how much we did without. At least in terms of today’s kids. But we also weren’t so focused on the status of “stuff.” I can honestly say I had a great childhood. Money or not. MM’s mother sounds like a classic It’s a Wonderful Life Mom- we did have them.