South Beach- San Fran’s new Downtown District

The district of South Beach was originally referred to as Rincon Hill. The South Beach name is more of a modern invention. The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the remaining Rincon Hill mansions, which were already on their way out. Post fire, Rincon Hill languished but eventually became an industrial/maritime district serving the Embarcadero wharfs. Things really started to go down hill in South Beach in the 50s with the construction of the Embarcadero Freeway (surrounding the neighborhood on three sides by freeway ramps) and the decline of the maritime industry.  From the 1960s to the mid-1980s, while the nearby Financial District was built up, Rincon Hill was largely ignored.

Fortunately things started to slowly improve for South Beach. The 1989 earthquake had the positive urban affect of its disassembly which helped removed a major physical and psychological barrier to the rest of Downtown. An upzoning in 1985 lead to some new housing and office (albeit with poor urban design) and a 2005 revision helped create a Vancouver esh mixed-use downtown district.  South Beach is now a highly attractive and walkable urban neighborhood sitting on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, Financial District, and South Market neighborhood.

There are still some areas of improvement for South Beach. The district has limited schooling options making it a bit hard to raise a family here. While they are a high level of affordable rental units, modestly priced for sale options is non-existence with 1 bedroom condos starting at 700K. 

Click here to view my East Cut album and here to view my South Beach Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent ADA infrastructure overall.
* Great public transit and overall walkability. Great bike lane system and a plethora of dedicated bikes (both electric and non electric available).
* Great racial diversity with just as many Asians as Whites and a large Hispanic population.
* About a quarter of all rental units are rent controlled but overall about 60% of all units are affordable. This certainly shows in the data as the median rent is around $1,700 (lower than the median Citywide).
* No large parks in the district (or nearby ) but plenty of excellent medium parks (i.e. Salesforce, Yerba Buena Garden * Public Square, San Fran. Bay Trail and waterfront parks, Sue Bierman Park, and Maritime Park). Also plenty of Dwtn plazas and pocket parks throughout.
* Some Homeless issues in the district, but overall it is very safe and low crime neighborhood. In 2015 the district created an improvement district.
* Not a ton of historic architecture but a decent amount of attractive warehouses remain. Lots of dense urban infill with good urban form and pretty good aesthetics.
* Culturally great array of restaurants, bars, cafes, and breweries, some art galleries, and several great museums (i.e. Mexican Museum, SFMOA, CA Historic Society, Museum of African Diaspora, and the San Fran Railway Museum). Really no theaters within South Beach but plenty nearby in the Dwtn area.
* Retail amenities including: 3 full service supermarkets within or on the edge of the district, several drug stores, post office, Ferry Building (a market with plenty of shops and stores), lots of banks, several book stores. Plenty of  major shopping areas just outside of South Beach (Union Square, Embarcadero Center, Crocker Galleria, Metreon, Westfield Mall, and two targets.
* Generally excellent urban form with the exception of a couple surface lots and some cold modern bldgs on the streetscape. Even better urban streetscape as much of it is new.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Decent generational and economic diversity. Certainly a high overall medium income but still a 10& poverty rate and many other modest income earners.
* For sale housing is very expensive. The cheapest are 1-bedroom condos selling for around 700K. 1-bedrooms typically sell btwn 1M and 1.5M, 2-bedrooms anywhere from 1.5M-2.5 M, and 3-bedrooms generally 2 & 3 Million.
* Market rents start around 3K for 1-bedrooms, $4,000s for 2-bedrooms, and 5K+ for 3 bedrooms.
* Only a handful of schools within South Beach. Some still walkable in adjacent districts but none are large schools.

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