My Life as a San Francisco Realtor: San Francisco Earthquake '89 - Part Three

San Francisco Earthquake '89 - Part Three

I've had many incredible experiences since moving to San Francisco in 1987. Where to start... I've made so many friends, and lost some. A partner's death, and a memorial cruise on the Bay on the Commodore Yacht. Follow the link, regardless of the circumstances, that cruise was probably one of the emotional highlights of my life. Walking dogs in Golden Gate Park, Mt. Davidson and Stern Grove. The Marin headlands, Fort Funston, Yerba Buena Gardens, Point Reyes. The list is endless.... And the Earthquake of '89 was just as much an experience. If I had to pick any place in the United States of America to have had these life experiences, that place would be San Francisco, The Best Place on Earth.

San Francisco Earthquake '89 - Part Three

By John M Scott

October 21, 1989
San Francisco, California

Cypress FreewayWhile walking toward home I began to take more interest in what was happening around me. Some people were treating the whole thing as an adventure. Others had a somber look that told of the fear of the as yet unknown. Just a quick look around and everything seemed unchanged. But it was there - lurking just under the surface of reality - sort of like the Twilight Zone. The City of San Francisco was still there, but then again it really wasn't the same place. There were occasional bricks on the sidewalk. A water pipe had broken inside the fourth floor of one building, sending an eerie waterfall rushing down to the ground floor behind an unbroken glass facade. The 'Western Merchandise Mart' building at 9th Street had lost all of its windows. The windows along Market Street had imploded into the building, but every window on the side streets had exploded onto the sidewalk so it looked like a shower of ice. Small crowds had gathered around portable radios, trying to find out the first fragile news. Two men walking by me had Walkman radios and were muttering about the collapse of several miles of the Bay Bridge. (Turns out they were confusing the collapse of the Cypress Structure freeway in Oakland with the news of the bridge.)

At the Market and Duboce Safeway store, near my home, there was a Bay Bridgeline of people waiting to get in to buy some necessities - batteries, candles and water. I began walking up 14th street. By this time on a hot October afternoon, my throat was parched from the long walk. Fear was building in my mind as I wondered if my apartment building was still intact. I couldn't see any fire trucks or police cars on the street as I looked ahead. But then that wouldn't mean anything - the entire City must have problems..... There were small crowds of people standing in front of buildings in my block. Everyone was talking about the earthquake and checking buildings for any sign of damage.

As I approached my door, the man in the building next to mine told me he had turned off the gas at the main to my building. I mumbled something, although I don't remember what it was. That small act of his would come to affect me more than anything in the coming weeks. There was a new crack in the stucco at the base of the building. I opened the front door to my apartment. It wasn't dark yet, although I knew it would be very soon. A metal and glass-framed poster that had been leaning on the mantelpiece in the front room had flown across to the other side of the room - but wasn't broken. All the vases and pictures in the living room were lying on the floor - but none seemed to be damaged. (My apartment had cheap but well padded carpeting!) A shoji screen in the kitchen had toppled against the glass table, but again, nothing was broken. The next day I found the only casualties to be two plants in broken clay pots.


Read Part One....

Read Part Two.....


John M Scott, Broker / Owner, Scott Keys Properties, Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE), Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB), serving San Francisco and the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area

Comment balloon 7 commentsJohn M. Scott • June 12 2011 08:23PM


I don't think I'll ever forget that earthquake because my dad, brother, and I had just finished eating and had sat down to watch the World Series since it involved two California teams. That was frightening, and I was several hundred miles away.

Posted by EC, JF, Double R and Zoey the Cool Cat (Russel Ray Photos) over 7 years ago

What a great had me caught up in your experience...excellent.  Ironically, my aunt and her partner, who live in Walnut Creek, were airborne at that exact moment, leaving CA to head to VA to visit family.  They did not know of the quake until they got to Virginia! I will never forget the video of the damage.

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 7 years ago

I guess that's why some people would always call it the World Series Earthquake Eric, because it was the first one to have its initial shock broadcast live on TV!

Posted by John M. Scott, Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area (BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties) over 7 years ago

That reminds me of some disaster movies I've seen. You know the ones - where someone is just about to takeoff or land during a cataclysmic earthquake! Thanks for tuning in Susan. There are 3 more episodes to go!

Posted by John M. Scott, Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area (BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties) over 7 years ago

WOW, John.  I was living in Florida in '89 but remember the vivid pictures on TV and what a hard time I had getting hold of friends to find out if they were ok.  Great series you're putting out there. Thank you.

Posted by Peggy Hughes/pha logistix, inc., SF NYC LA (pha logistix inc) over 7 years ago

Peggy, thank You for reading it! Of course I have been reliving the whole thing because of the blog. I found that KGO7 did a 20 year anniversary special, and actually have the 1st 45 minutes of on air news right after the quake. Chilling!


Posted by John M. Scott, Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area (BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties) over 7 years ago

So glad you were safe!!

Posted by Barbara Rauworth Gutierrez over 2 years ago