John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It took satellites and a $35,000 gadget to mark the geographic center, which is almost certainly wrong.
37° 45’ 16.356940” North by 122°26’33.16387” West. That’s the precise geographic center of San Francisco, according to city surveyors who worked it out using a $35,000 positioning gadget and data from nearly a dozen satellites.
Of course, that location is almost certainly incorrect, to believe a beautifully surreal story by the Chronicle’s Steve Rubenstein. But first, here’s the newly crowned city center, which the San Francisco Public Works department has adorned with a shiny metal plaque:
Zooming in reveals the center is on a sidewalk, and save for a few feet could’ve easily been inside a dumpster:
Why did the city go through the effort of sussing out this teensy point? Nobody seems able to explain it, reports the Chronicle:
“It’s important to know where the center of the city is,” [Public Works Director Mohammed] Nuru said, although when asked to explain why, he said he didn’t really know. After thinking it over, he suggested that once you know where the center is, you can tell how far some other place is from it, although he added that he didn’t know what that was good for, either.
Carto-nerds wishing to hike to this hallowed point should also know it’s not the center the surveyors actually plotted. That would be located a couple dozen feet up a hill in some bushes; the sidewalk just seemed like a better place for a plaque. And sticklers for the truth should know if you consider parts of San Francisco removed from the peninsula—Treasure Island, for example, or the Farallon Islands some 30 miles away—the actual center might be a bit eastward or in the frigid Pacific Ocean, respectively.