Squeezing San Francisco

Here’s an interesting map I picked up in San Francisco last year. (Forgive the poor-ish quality. I laid it on the floor and took a photo of it.)
San Francisco map
It took a while to realize this, having referred mostly to the downtown area in which I was staying and because the shape doesn’t look too unusual at a glance from a non-local, but the map is actually at two different scales.
San Francisco map scale difference
The dashed red lines indicate the different scales. The section on the left is 4.5 miles across while the larger section on the right is 2.5 miles across. It’s fascinating because (1) unlike an ordinary inset map, the two differently-scaled areas are adjacent and contiguous and (2) it’s only the horizontal scale that differs. I’d never seen anything like this before. The closest thing I can think of is certain subway maps, such as the updated Vignelli map of New York subways with a tiny Staten Island, but really those are a different animal, often falling in the category of cartogram.

I think I like the idea as a way to show the whole but focus on one section (ostensibly more important for tourists), but then I didn’t attempt to get around anywhere in that western section, so maybe it would actually turn out to be frustrating. San Francisco, it seems, is probably a rare city for which it’s easy to pull this off: it ends abruptly at water on three sides and has a street grid largely aligned to the cardinal directions, meaning the map can be squashed horizontally while preserving most street angles. Are there other maps like this out there?

A PDF of the map is available at Bay City Guide’s site.

Tagged , ,

1 Comment

  1. I live in San Francisco and grew up just 32 miles north-east from there in Concord and I collect maps. Years ago there used to be a touristy-type map of SF provided by a similar-type outfit as the map in your post (hotel, rental car agency – I’m not 100% sure) that actually cut out the city’s middle section entirely just a few blocks west of Van Ness Ave through to about Central or Lyon. Unfortunately unsuspecting tourists thought that they could simply walk a few blocks from their hotel to the Haight and/or Golden Gate Park. Even more unfortunate was the type of neighborhood(s) actually occupied the in-between, omitted space. The Western Addition isn’t what I would consider to be one San Francisco’s more crime-ridden enclaves but even I have been robbed there once at gun-point ( specifically Page at Octavia) and I was dressed like bum. I have no hard data and but I from what I remember several muggings took place before the “helpful” map was scraped for one similar to the one you now have.

    24 November 2009 @ 6:04am