Sidewalk bombs outside Osento encouraging a boycott (January 2008)

Location
955 Valencia Street between 20th and 21st.
On the same block as Herbivore and Valencia
Whole Foods, and roughly across the street
from Mission Creek Cafe.
Hours
Open from noon to midnight, with the last entry
at 11pm. Closed on December 24th and 25th,
Thanksgiving Day and the Friday following
Thanksgiving Day. Open on New Year's Eve!
A good place to spend it.
Phone
(415) 282-6333
Website
http://osento.com
Owner(s)
Summer Kraml
Established
Early 1980s
Business closed
August 1, 2008
Payment Method
Cash, checks ($35 minimum with photo ID),
credit and debit cards.
Wheelchair accessibility
Not really, see description below.

Closed

August 1, 2008 was Osento's date of closing. The owner posted the following message on the website:

Dear Friends,

As of August 1, 2008, Osento will be officially closed for business. July 31st will be our last day open. On July 31st between 8 PM and 10 PM be my guest at the door (no charge) and bring some food and soft drinks to share with others.

Some of you have been wondering why I am not selling Osento and let someone else or others take it on. Reason one is: The moment the business leaves my ownership, everything, is out of compliance with the building, fire, health, and all other departments.

The interior would have to be stripped and rebuilt up to 2008 codes. The price of the building, plus the refurbishing would cost so much that it would be impossible to charge a reasonable door fee of $12-$20 or any amount close to that. Therefore it would have to be an upscale spa and no longer be the Osento you know.

Reason two is: I have never saved any money, but was fortunate and blessed enough to buy this building in 1979 for a reasonable price. Therefore, by converting the building back to it’s original 2 residential units I can sell the building for a percentage down from the buyer(s) to pay off what is still owed on equity loans and carry the mortgage myself and receive monthly payments just as a bank would. That is the only way I could ever retire.

I always thought I couldn’t retire because I didn’t want to leave San Francisco, but now I’m ready to leave the city and move to Lake County and be out of the hectic city life. I will miss all of you very much but I am looking forward to a slower pace and the calming waters and mountains of Clearlake.

Thank you for your letters, cards, and e-mails and personal expressions of gratitude for having Osento available for 28 years.

With great affection,

Summer

Info

Osento is a women-only Japanese-style communal public bath house, located inside an unassuming Victorian on Valencia Street. If you didn't know it was there, you might never notice it while passing by. It's been in existence since the early 80s, run by the owner, Summer. It's got a neighborhood feel to it; it's not a fancy spa and is a little run down in places, but is such a great asset to the neighborhood.

Inside: There is one hot pool, which can hold about six people before it gets crowded. (I've seen up to twelve women in it on a busy evening!) The water is nice and hot, and 3 feet deep with seats all around three sides. No clothing is allowed to be worn in the hot tub. There are two relaxation rooms with places to lie down, and a small kitchen where you can get yourself water and lemon wedges. There is a bathroom with one toilet, one sink and one shower. You need to shower prior to using the tub; they provide Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap.

Outside: there is another showerhead outside, with soap and towel hooks. There are two small freestanding wooden saunas: the steam sauna holds 4-6 people depending on their sizes and how close to one another they're willing to sit; the dry sauna holds two people comfortably. There is a nice tiled cold plunge with steps and a handrail. Above the saunas is a redwood deck with a bench; it's secluded enough that the neighbors can't see in. It's so very nice to sunbathe here; such a neat thing to be naked in the sun in the middle of the city!

Unfortunately, not wheelchair accessible AT ALL. No handrails exist in the hot tub, either. There is a handrail in the cold plunge, but overall it's not very accessible for women with mobility issues. The entrance is up several stairs, and the outdoor area is down more steps. Getting into the saunas requires you to duck down through the low doors while also stepping up over a high threshold.

Massage is available, and you can phone in to reserve one.

The entry fee is sliding scale—right now it's 12-20 dollars. You can also buy an eight-visit punchcard for 70 dollars, and there are 6-month and year-long memberships too. Gift certificates are available.

Your entry fee allows you to come back in later the same day, if you like. You can also bring food in, as long as you eat it in the front dressing/relaxation room. I've often brought lunch in and continued to soak afterward.

There is a discount for women over 60, and women over 70 get in free!

No scents or sprays.

Comments

2008-01-18 09:30:35   It's a neat place! But, their women-only policy excludes transwomen who haven't had SRS. There's been a boycott for a while among genderqueer women because of this.


2011-04-17 12:32:21   Blessings, Summer! I hope to see you sometime in Clearlake. You and Osento gave me great joy and good health for years. To those who are grieving the loss of their bathhouse - start a new one. It's possible. Osento happened. So can Osento II. —76.126.149.64