Inner Sunset House Serves as Community Meeting Site

By Jan Robbins


Nothing brings a community together more than a neighborhood party where everyone

is invited. And, none so much as the eclectic and sometimes eccentric gatherings hosted

by Inner Sunset residents Barbara and Paul.


No one in the Sunset neighborhood was surprised earlier this year to hear that Barbara

was throwing a shindig. The Inner Sunset resident – now 66 and who prefers to keep her

last name secret for security purposes – and her late husband started hosting

neighborhood happenings in 2007.


This year the invitation to a barbecue was posted on her fence: “Bring finger-sized

desserts, drinks and I will supply the meat,” Barbara instructed. “Enjoy our friendly

guitar-duo.” Anyone who saw the sign was welcome.


The variety of the often impromptu get-togethers tickles the imagination of local

residents. Many remember the haunted house, said Martha Ehrenfeld, director of the

Inner Sunset Park Neighbors association. “It was so scary – someone reached out and

grabbed my ankle,” Ehrenfeld said.


A passer-by might suspect something or someone special lies behind the fence at the big

blue house located at Sixth Avenue and Irving Street. There are numerous mobiles,

chimes and other hanging art, tinkling and chiming over flowering plants.


Of all the events she and her husband sponsored, Barbara is most fond of the

“book blast.”


BookSale copy

 Inner Sunset District residents Barbara and Paul held a book
give-away with 10,000 books at their home. Courtesy photo.

“We had so many helpers, sorting books every Thursday night for 10 weeks,” she said.

Barbara and Paul sought donations for the book giveaway on Craigslist and then picked

them up in their car. “Sometimes we had so many books in the car Paul had to walk

behind the car on the way home,” she said. That year they collected 10,000 books, which

were given away over a weekend’s time.


What makes Barbara’s backyard so great for accommodating events is that the house is

located on a corner, with five big doors giving access to the street. So, when Barbara and

Paul hosted the last book blast in 2016, people delivering donations could easily pull up

in their car and offload items.


“Twice a year, your money back if you’re dissatisfied!” Barbara says of the

couple’s motto.


Perhaps Paul and Barbara’s most unique event was the “fix-it fair.” There was a time

when she and Paul were fixing things in their yard with one of the doors

opened. People would look in, sigh, and wonder how they could get what they

needed fixed.


“I found six people who sew and brought them over with their sewing machines. I

rounded up welders, electricians, knife sharpeners, carpenters and others

who were willing to fix things for free,” Barbara said.


Other events that have debuted at Sixth and Irving are the “gazillion family flea market,”

“dessert and dancing” and “Sunday silent garden.”


Barbara’s skill in pulling off successful events could come from her background in

writing and marketing. She wrote the catalogs for major department stores as well as a

financial column for the SF Examiner when working for a tax attorney.


Then again, she just seems to be one of those naturally goodnatured types who loves to

bring people together. Happy is a word she uses a lot.


“I had a very happy childhood traveling with my family to many countries when my

father was in the state department,” she said. “I feel very happy to live in the Sunset. I

swear there is serotonin in the water. Everyone smiles walking down the street.”


Events like the haunted house, which require a lot of construction work, are too much

for her these days. Her husband died in 2017, but that is not going to stop the parties.


“Spreading joy and happiness while hosting gatherings in the Inner Sunset is in my

blood. I am continuing the tradition,” she said.


“There’s lots of demand for another fix-it fair,” she added.


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