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Eight things San Franciscans don't know but are too afraid to ask

By Time Out San Francisco editors
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San Francisco is full of smart people. We're used to being in the know. So when it comes to things we should know and don't, many of us are too proud to ask. Which is why we took it upon ourselves to check our embarrassment and go looking for answers. Here's what we found; a collection of basic information that San Franciscans often wonder, yet never ask about: 

1. Where are the Full House and Mrs. Doubtfire houses?

The gorgeous single-family home seen in the classic Mrs. Doubtfire can be found at 2640 Steiner Street between Broadway and Pacific. Literally just around the corner at 2311 Broadway, you'll find the house from Party of Five. Head south to Alamo Square to relive the opening credits of Full House; the family picnic scene takes place in front of the famous Painted Ladies, and the exterior of the Tanner's home can be found a mile away at 1709 Broderick Street.

2. Why is the Golden Gate Bridge orange?

The true name for the color of the Golden Gate Bridge is "International Orange" and there was a lot of drama over its use. To paraphrase: the primer on the original steel used to build the bridge was made of red lead, and as the bridge was being built, many took to the unintended reddish hue. While other paint colors were still heavily considered, including black and yellow (thank you, no), the rust color finally won out. At that point, all of the stake-holders needed to chime in on just how orange to go. The end result is, well, the best-looking bridge in the world. 

3. Which cable cars are real, and which cable cars are fake?

To be a real cable car, the car must be pulled by an actual cable under the street. There are only three cable car lines still operating in San Francisco; the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines, which connect downtown to Fisherman's Wharf, and the California Street line, which runs along California from Van Ness to the Embarcadero. Local tour groups have ripped off the classic cable car look for their motorized coaches, zipping tourists through every neighborhood and along the Golden Gate Bridge. These are fake cable cars—frauds! Real cable cars are so wonderful, they're an official national landmark. Just don't forget, cable cars are a very different form of public transportation than Muni or BART: the MTA has a handy list of rules and etiquette should you plan to hop a ride. And the Cable Car Museum is a great (and free) attraction should your cable car questions continue. 

4. Who is Emperor Norton? 

No doubt you've heard his name mentioned around San Francisco, but who the hell is Emperor Norton? Good question. A San Francisco transplant in the mid-1800s, Joshua Norton referred to himself as the Emperor of America, and dressed the part. The famous eccentric was beloved by San Franciscans of his time (he even had "currency" issued in his name that was honored at establishments he frequented!) until he collapsed and died at the corner of California and Grant in 1880. His wacky memory is still celebrated today with annual pilgrimages to his grave, Emperor Norton-themed city tours and petitions to rename the Bay Bridge after him. 

5. Who is my city councilperson?

You don't have a city councilperson. If you live in San Francisco, you live within one of eleven districts each represented by an elected Supervisor. You can find your district and Supervisor contact information here

6. Why is Rice-a-Roni called "the San Francisco Treat"?

Rice-a-Roni was born in the Mission District. The DeDomenico family set up a pasta factory there in 1912, selling boxed pasta to stores and restaurants. According to the Rice-a-Roni website, in 1958 they "mixed a dry chicken soup mix made at the plant with rice and vermicelli and named it Rice-A-Roni." It's been in the Mission longer than all of us; suddenly sodium-packed, boxed side-dishes are hip again. 

7. Which police station is my police station?

Many of us have no idea how to get in touch with our local police (aside from calling 911, which isn't cool for stuff like fender benders and noise complaints). Each neighborhood in San Francisco has a specific police station: If you live in the Castro, your police station is Mission. If you live in the Marina, your police station is Northern. Here's a map and contact list for every station in San Francisco, where you can file reports, ask questions and get help. 

8. Can I smoke marijuana in public if I have a medical marijuana card?

While you might notice the sweet stink of weed all over parts of San Francisco, recreational marijuana won't be officially legal until January 1, 2018. Even then, smokers can be cited and given a ticket (which is an infraction, not a misdemeanor) for lighting up within 1,000 feet of designated no smoking areas.

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