15 Fascinating Facts 'Bay Curious' Taught Us This Year

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One anonymous "curse letter," returning a nail to Bodie. (Carly Severn/KQED)

A lot happened this year. A lot.

But among all the politics, natural disasters and international controversies, there were also the stories that taught us something new, interesting and important about the Bay Area.

Those were the stories we tried to bring you this year on "Bay Curious," and we wanted to take a minute at the end of this wild year to look back on some of the most unexpected and intriguing things we learned while making the show in 2018.

1. Green Goddess dressing was named after a film that featured white actors playing Indian characters. And it was invented at San Francisco's Palace Hotel in the 1920s. Learn more

2. Rent control has been good for keeping people in San Francisco, but it has not been good for allowing new people into the city. One major study found rent control in San Francisco pushed rents up 7 percent citywide over the past few decades, while another found that getting rid of rent control would be the worst thing for preserving affordability for those currently living in the city. Learn more


3. @KarltheFog is named after a 2003 Tim Burton movie. The anonymous creator of the Twitter handle told SF Weekly that they saw similarities between San Francisco's fog and the giant Karl, who everyone was afraid of because they thought he would kill or eat them, when in fact he was just hungry and lonely. Learn more

4. You can stand on Alameda Island and be in San Francisco at the same time. Part of the old Alameda Naval Air Station was built on landfill that crossed over the county line in the middle of the bay, and two local women took the government to court claiming ownership of the land dating back to the king of Spain in 1820. Learn more

5. It takes three days for water to get from Hetch Hetchy to San Francisco taps. Along the way, it goes through a hydroelectric dam that generates electricity that helps power San Francisco schools as well as Muni light-rail vehicles, streetcars and trolley coaches. Learn more

6. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a second Bay Bridge that was never built. Wright dubbed it the "Butterfly Bridge," and it would have had a hanging garden at its center. Learn more

7. California is actually named after a fictional island ruled by a group of black warrior women. Also, San Ramon wasn't named for an actual saint, and Berkeley was named for a slave owner. Learn more

8. California is the only state in the country where motorcycles can legally drive between lanes of traffic or "lane split." But it is legal and even expected in much of the rest of the world. Learn more

9. There really are more dogs than children in San Francisco. In fact, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any major city, according to U.S. census data. Learn more

10. There are specific policies that have prevented the Tenderloin from becoming as unaffordable as the rest of San Francisco. They include nonprofit land ownership, height restrictions, and protections for SROs and historic landmarks. Learn more

11. You're more likely to win an Oscar, be born with 11 toes or get hit by a car than be bitten by a shark off California's coast. Abalone divers are most at risk with a 1 in 1.44 million chance of being attacked. Learn more

12. The California Department of Parks and Recreation invented a "curse" on the ghost town of Bodie. A park ranger spread the myth that if you took anything from Bodie, you would be cursed in hopes of discouraging sticky-fingered visitors. Learn more

13. Green-thumbed Australians brought eucalyptus seeds to California during the Gold Rush. They were able to grow in California's soil, and became popular for firewood and as windbreaks. Learn more

14. Odds are good that the mystery stone walls that dot the East Bay were built by European settlers, not aliens or an ancient native civilization. There's no surefire answer, but there is little evidence to support some of the more bizarre theories that have gotten traction over the years. Learn more

15. There were once hundreds of Native American shellmounds throughout the Bay Area. Almost all of these important ceremonial Ohlone sites have been flattened or destroyed, and replaced with furniture stores, fast food restaurants and other modern creations. Learn more

But wait there's more!

Here are a few other stories that we loved about the Bay Area this year:

It's possible to ride every single Muni line in one day. But, as the San Francisco Chronicle's Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub found out during their #TotalMuni2018 expedition, it will take 18 hours. Experience the sojourn in real time from the live blog, read the narrative version or listen to the four-part series on The Big Event podcast.

The abandoned pink building on the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland has a lot of stories to tell. Our friends at the "East Bay Yesterday" podcast dug in on how this one building sheds light on the struggles of African-American-owned businesses, the Occupy movement and The Town's exploding real estate market. Listen to the full episode here.

Humboldt County invented/introduced the world to Bigfoot. Mike McPhate of the California Sun newsletter marked the legend's 60th anniversary with a look back at its origin and then denunciation from a Humboldt County forest worker, and how that hasn't stopped people (including Jane frigging Goodall) from still believing. Read the full story here.