Like a complex photograph, this 1967 aerial view of the San Francisco Bay Area becomes more compelling the longer you examine it. The view is taken from a point high above Mt. Tamalpais, with southern Marin County (Sausalito, Mill Valley, Tiburon, Belvedere) in the foreground. It stretches south past San Francisco to Los Gatos, then east to Fresno, continuing north past Yosemite to Sacramento, with Lake Tahoe and Reno off in the distance.
At Neatline, what we like most about this view is that its 3-dimensionality offers a better understanding of the topography of this region than does a traditional “flat” map. We see, for example, how moving east from Berkeley and Oakland we first encounter a set of hills, then the valley that includes Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, then the massive Mount Diablo and its extended foothills. Continuing east, the landscape flattens dramatically into California’s Central Valley, until just beyond towns like Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto we see the dramatic rise of the Sierra Nevada Mountains; capped in snow in accordance with their iconic moniker.
Back at the coast, San Francisco itself is filled with labeled cultural and natural features. Again, the topography of the San Francisco peninsula is brought to light by the scope and design of the view, including: the hills of the Presidio, the slope of the West Side down towards Ocean Beach, Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson, and the hills that separate the city from South San Francisco. Further south, we see the high coastal mountains that rise between the Pacific Ocean and the Bay; it was from these heights (and not from the Golden Gate) that Spanish explorers first caught site of the magnificent bay that they would later colonize.
Finally, it should be noted that Silicon Valley and the South Bay are seen in their pre-boom state, relatively sparsely developed. Overall then, the view is a fascinating look at the physical and cultural landscape of northern California from over 50 years ago.