Elim Street

I took this photo in downtown San Francisco almost three years ago as an exercise in cityscape photography.

What I did not know at the time was that the most interesting feature was neither the old brick buildings nor the forlorn lot, but rather the alleyway barely visible on the left side of the image. This is Elim Street, the second narrowest street in San Francisco. I explored this tiny alley in detail earlier this month, with both my big camera and iPhone on hand.

On the southwest side (adjacent to the lot), it is wide enough for a vehicle. But beyond that, it narrows down to just 2 meters, or 6.6 feet.

No stopping seems like a good idea. 6.6 feet between two large old buildings feels dark and closed-in as one might expect. I don’t quite have the arm span to touch both walls, but someone only a little taller would be able to do so.

Looking upwards, the narrow slit of sky is especially bright.

The eaves of the two buildings come quite close together at the front of the alley on 1st street.

Here is some pipework on the older brick building in the alley.

Apparently Elim Street has existed this way for quite a while. But it is uncertain how long it will last in the heavy redevelopment of downtown San Francisco. It could get squished out of existence. Or new buildings could celebrate this narrow street with their architecture. I hope it is in fact the latter.

5 thoughts on “Elim Street

  1. I like the idea of interesting architecture too,
    not just a box/rectangle with windows.
    I often find new construction often lacks imagination.
    Buildings are simple. More cost effective,but ugly :/

  2. So cool, your finding these ‘nooks ‘n crannies’, we especially like the photos looking up – roof tops almost touching. Thanks for showing us your city!

  3. Fascinating. Thanks for linking to this post so I knew to look for it. I thought very briefly about trying to ride a bike through the tiny passage as I read your post, but then looking at the photos, I’m pretty sure claustrophobia would snag me before I could get all the way through!

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