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Goat Lady of Potrero Hill


Estelle West and her goats



San Francisco Chronicle
April 28, 1951

Mrs. Estelle West stands defiantly on her porch, as some of her 18 goats munch on their breakfast of greens. The State Division of Highways, which needs her property between Utah St. and Potrero Ave., just south of 19th St., for the Bayshore Freeway, hopes she'll voluntarily move - but a court order for eviction is available if she won't.

Where can an evicted goat go in San Francisco? Or 18 of them for that matter? The problem is faced by the goat's owner Mrs. Estelle West, and she admits she's stumped. ''I don't even know what to think any more,'' she said. “I can't 1et them plow me under. Life is more important than progress.” She wiped her eyes. The sprightly little widow of 64 years is in the path of the Bayshore Freeway. So are her goats.

The view is excellent. No goat herd in history (well, in the history of San Francisco) ever had a better view. The address of Mrs. West’s rickety 2-story building is 705-707 Utah St. But as Mrs. West stands amid her nuzzling friends, she and the goats have a sweeping view of the skyline from the Empire Hotel on the right, past Nob Hill and the Golden Gate Bridge towers, over the city hills, and around to Bernal Heights.

The herd scampered sure-footedly up the sheer side of the rocky cliff that overlooks Potrero Ave. just south of 19th St. Mrs. West excused herself and scampered sure-footedly down the rocky trail to get a gunnysack full of greens for her herd's breakfast.

On the side of her house “Item 22” has been written in yellow chalk. Her home since 1938 and the goat’s shelter since 1947 was to be torn down to make way for the freeway. Superior Judge Edward Molkenbuhr signed the court order which made final the condemnation of her property for the price of $3950. She doesn't want it. She wants to stay. But what’s to do?

“It's in the hands of God,” she said. “I'm not religious but some spirit told me years ago that this was the place. How did I find it? When you need things, you find them. Now too many materialistic things are involved - this old freeway, I mean - I can’t hear that spirit too well. C’mon Elsie, eat your breakfast.”

She continued, “A lady gave me a pet 4 years ago. I guess she had 4 kids in her. Someone poisoned her. I got another one, I felt so bad. Now look at her children.” Mrs. West wants $25 for mom. The other goats she'll 1et go for $12.50 or $15 each, and she hopes to get $25or $30 for the milk goats.

Mrs. West had plenty of notice. “We’ve sought to avoid the eviction,” said Thomas Vizard, attorney for the State Division of Highways. “She has some other property she could move into on Utah St., but I don't know about the goats.”


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December 14, 1955:

Estelle West, the "Goat Lady" of Potrero Hill, is rescued from a sentence of 30 days in jail when former burlesque performer Anita Frances Manville takes pity on her and pays her $150 fine. West was fined for not getting rid of her goats or cleaning up her house at 750 San Bruno Ave. Estelle West promises to get rid of her goats and clean up her Potrero Hill property to meet city sanitation regulations. Neighbors have complained that the goats eat their flowers and smell bad.