Fire Truck Sails Into Radio Valencia Cafe


Back in June of 1995, a fucking fire engine fucking jumped the curb and fucking took out a fucking cafe. From the Chronicle coverage:

A popular Mission District cafe was wrecked yesterday after two San Francisco fire engines collided in an intersection and one sailed into the restaurant’s front windows.

Eight firefighters were injured in the crash and were taken to hospitals. The accident occurred at 5:36 p.m. and tied up traffic in the area for hours.

“It was like an action movie,” said Brent Coffin, 27, who has worked as a cook for three years at the demolished Radio Valencia at the corner of 23rd and Valencia streets. “There was a huge ka-boom, with glass and water from the hoses flying in all directions.”

Link. “Sailed.” Holy Moses!

Thanks, zinzin, for the tip and the badass photo!

Badass photo by Liz Hafalia, I think.

Full text of the report after the jump, just in case that link is some kind of temporary file or something (document begins with “$temp$”):

Update: Better link. (Thanks, Max!)

13 Responses to “Fire Truck Sails Into Radio Valencia Cafe”

  1. Bryan Haggerty says:

    Was Radio Valencia in the location which is now occupied by Berreta?

  2. Dave says:

    I remember it well. I was living on 23rd and Guerrero at the time, and when I heard the sirens converging I went down to have a look. Lots of neighbors came out of the woodwork for a look as well. As I looked around at all the housewives in curlers I realized this was the first time I’d seen many of my neighbors.
    23rd Street always seemed to be a bit of an ambulance corridor, probably because it’s a straight shot to County General on Potrero, with less traffic and fewer traffic lights than 24th or 22nd. So, the sound of screaming sirens was commonplace along the street.
    As I recall, it appeared as if two fire trucks with sirens wailing converged head on at the intersection of 23/Valencia and the one fire truck swerved to avoid the collision and went straight through the all glass front of Radio Valencia. It was a surreal sight which forever altered my implicit faith in the infallibility of the separation of street and sidewalk.

    As for Radio Valencia, my people never liked the place to begin with. Way too upscale. They saw it as the first overt example of yuppification on Valencia–well scrubbed ‘jazz combos’ playing at happy hour, waitstaff in starched shirts, wine lists, etc. It was a harbinger of worse things to come.

    • Christopher says:

      Dave your memory does not serve you well wait staff it white dark shirts? hardly. I work there when the fire truck hit the building. trust me the place was very mellow and hardly up scale. we wore whatever we wanted to work and served very cheap food. as far as it being the beginning of yuppification of the area, they were already several yuppie restaurants in that area by 1995 when the fire truck it the building. I think you’re thinking of another restaurant. Radio Valencia was a place where punk rockers and artsy typed could hang out as well as those who love jazz music. the scrubbed jazz combo comment is also wrong. John Zorn used to play there.

  3. Ted says:

    @Dave – if you only knew what was coming for that location! “Last Supper Club?” – $25+ entrees etc. I used to go to RV with my buddy for a half sandwich and some peanut soup for $4.89 or something. The only cheaper place was that Cuban revolutionary cafe (is that still there?). It was full of ants. I guess there are levels and levels …

  4. KC says:

    Yeah, it was in the Berreta location. I’m with Ted. I only went there for lunch and it was pretty homey and low key — especially compared to what has come since. I thnk Dave was remembering Last Supper Club. The fire truck shoulda waited a few years and taken that place out!

  5. Robert says:

    Radio Valencia was definitely a low key place. I remember they had a great sandwich called “The Radio Valencia.” A great sunny spot for lunch with all the windows.

    One of my favorites from back then.

  6. brendan says:

    A cool jazz guy I knew said that Radio Valencia was a place that jazz guys used to jam when they finished their paying gigs.

    When the truck hit, that was that for jazz jam nights.

    I am not a cool jazz guy, so I took his word for it.

  7. zinzin says:

    i can corroborate that assertion regarding jazz guys, jamming, et al.

    and free improv / modern music too.

  8. DickinBurlingame says:

    Wow, that long ago? My wife and I were dating back then and we’d always stop in for a good inexpensive lunch after a trip from the herb/plant store on the same side of the street as RV and Good Vibes across the street. RV was a chill urban spot for my suburban girlfriend……….

  9. C. says:

    Thanks for the awesome photo, zinzin.
    I remember this incident well; my best buddy – whom I used often to meet R.V. – called me to tell me the bizarre news, and I had to go over there and see it to believe it. R.V. was definitely cool, local, inexpensive, lowkey and artsy. The music was good: Beth Custer used to play there a lot, as did a fairly eclectic assortment of other local bands. It was a veritable musicological smorgasbord. I remember bluegrass bands playing there quite often, and I believe a friend took me to see Ralph Stanley play there with one of them (is that even possible? am I hallucinating memories?). The food was not bad, and appealed to veggies as well as omnivores.
    I remember walking into The Last Supper club when it first opened to check the menu, and getting just incredible attitude from a youthful hostess aspiring to trendy-scene-ish culinary heights, wearing as I was my then-standard proletarian uniform of Ben Davis and Levis. ;)
    Now if this could only happen to Artist’s Television Access, while video cameras were rolling… ;) _

  10. Scott says:

    I miss this place… it was a great spot that my roommates and I would hang out at.

  11. I actually saw the whole thing happen. I was walking down Valencia Street, immediately across from the “Radio” at the time. It was absolutely, disturbingly, cataclysmic. I tried to find out if anyone was hurt in the cafe. I was told that a waitress had been pinned against the wall of the cafe by the truck but that, incredibly, she was unharmed! I recall someone saying that, ordinarily at that time, the cafe would have been full but, as luck would have it, the tables in the direct path of the fire engine were unoccupied. It was one of my more extraordinary San Francisco moments.