The South Side - A Park & Historic Monument

The historic south side - Sign Hill Park (Friends of Sign Hill photo)Whether you are flying into San Francisco International Airport or driving north on Highway 101, the landmark 'South San Francisco The Industrial City' lettering on Sign Hill makes locals know they are returning home. It is also a major visual point from our front and back yards. For those who have grown up with this historical sight, we often take it for granted and not give a thought to how this land has been preserved, or even how much of this land is publically owned. From the southern view, Sign Hill seems to blend into the larger mountain range of the San Bruno Mountains, and indeed it is the ‘little sister’ if you will. And it is the northern side of Sign Hill, the side that faces the San Bruno Mountain, which is now calling to be preserved and protected from development.

The southern portion of Sign Hill is publicly owned and is a South San Francisco city park, Sign Hill Park. The painted lettering was originally put on the hill to bring businesses into South San Francisco back in 1923. Due to the success of this endeavor, permanent concrete casted 60 foot high letters were created in 1928 and remain to this day.

This area boasts 30 acres with almost two miles of hiking trails along with a wonderful grove of trees planted by South City resident Mr. Alphonse ‘AL’ Seubert. Those who knew Al know how hard he worked to create beauty for generations to come. His daughter Evelyn writes in testimony to the back-breaking work involved: “Your enjoyment of Sign Hill might be increased by knowing the history of its forest. Before 1960, the hill was covered with grass only, which would vary between green, yellow and burned black - because every year the kids would burn it down as part of their high school initiation. Then my father, Al Seubert (1916-2006), started his quest: to create a forest on that hill. Other people would help - donating or planting trees; but the majority of what you see up there was planted by him over a period of 40 years. He actually planted nearly 40,000 trees; we estimate 10,000 survive to this day. He would grow the trees from seeds in the backyard, and then transplant them to the hill. Before the sprinkling system was installed, he had to carry gallon jugs up the hill to water each little seedling. Can you imagine how he felt every year when the hill would burn? But he never gave up. After every fire, he would go back and plant some more. So if you're hiking on Sign Hill, and you feel it's too cold, or windy, or steep - stand for a minute: the spirit of Al Seubert will inspire you, and keep you going!”

Content was excerpted and modified from:
by Kamala Silva Wolfe
Peninsula Progress, July 11-18, 2012

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