The crookedest street in San Francisco: Lombard Street
Enter at your own risk: Lombard Street begins at Presidio Boulevard inside The Presidio and runs east through the Cow Hollow neighborhood. For 12 blocks between Broderick Street and Van Ness Avenue, it is a principal arterial road that is co-signed as U.S. Route 101. Lombard Street then continues through the Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill neighborhoods, breaks off at a point becoming Telegraph Hill Boulevard. That leads to Pioneer Park and Coit Tower. Lombard Street starts again at Winthrop Street and finally terminates at The Embarcadero as a collector road.
Lombard Street is best known for the one-way section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being the crookedest [most winding] street in the world (though this title is contested - see below). The switchback's design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles to climb. It is also a serious hazard to pedestrians, who are accustomed to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The speed limit in this section is a mere 5 mph (8 km/h).
In 1999, a Crooked Street Task Force was created to try to solve traffic problems in the neighborhoods around the winding section of Lombard Street. In 2001, the Task Force decided that it would not be legal to permanently close the block to vehicular traffic. Instead, the Task Force decided to institute a summer parking ban in the area, to bar eastbound traffic on major holidays, and to increase fines for parking in the area. The Task Force also proposed the idea of using minibuses to ferry sightseers to the famous block, although residents debated the efficiency of such a solution, since one of the attractions of touring the area is driving along the twisting section of the street.
The Powell-Hyde cable car line stops at the top of this block.
Famous past residents of Lombard Street include Rowena Meeks Abdy, an early California painter who worked in the style of Impressionism.
In his film Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock chose to make 900 Lombard Street the home of John "Scottie" Ferguson. It also featured prominently in Bullitt (1968) and The Love Bug (1969).
The street, and the difficulty of driving it, is parodied in the Bill Cosby sketch "Driving in San Francisco" on the album Why Is There Air? (recorded in Las Vegas):
"They built a street up there called Lombard Street that goes straight down, and they're not satisfied with you killing yourself that way—they put grooves and curves and everything in it, and they put flowers there where they've buried the people that have killed themselves. Lombard Street, wonderful street." (audience reacts with knowing cheers and applause).
It was also included in the comic car chase scene in Peter Bogdanovich's film What's Up, Doc? (1972) starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal.
In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike" in which Adrian Monk proposes burning down all of San Francisco due to a garbage strike, he suggests that "we can even straighten up Lombard Street while we're at it."