The Castro District- America’s first Gayburhood

Castro Street was named after José Castro (1808–1860), a Californian leader of Mexican opposition to U.S. rule in California in the 19th century,  From 1910 on, the Castro District and some of the surrounding areas were known as Little Scandinavia, because of its large Finnish, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish populations attracted to the City’s shipping industry. A large influx of  Irish and Italian immigrants arrived in the 1930s transitioning Castro into an ethnically mixed working-class neighborhood  up until the 60s when Castro underwent a major transformation. At that time the neighborhood became one of the first “Gayburhoods in the United States. The 1950s saw large numbers of families moving out of the Castro to the suburbs opening up large amounts of real estate for gay purchasers. Castro’s gay village is mostly concentrated in its business district along Castro Street from Market Street to 19th Street heavily demarked by flags and banners.

Regardless of Castro’s status on San Fran’s original “Gayburhood” Castro is a high quality urban district blessed with great walkability, urban amenities, attractive Victorian architecture (located mostly outside the 1906 burn zone), great urban form and business district, and vibrant area. Some areas for improvement includes a grave lack of affordable for-sale housing and limited economic diversity. Rental controlled units, however, still comprise about 60% of the district. Bike infrastructure could use several more dedicated lanes, and there is a limited amount of churches in the district. The western edge of Castro is rather hilly and not as conducive of an urban environment, although still well endowed with sidewalks and ADA ramps.

Click here to view the Castro album on my Flickr page


* Over ADA infrastructure and sidewalks are excellent with the some small exception of some missing modern ADA curbs on the hiller sections.
* Great architecture both historic and modern.
* Excellent Tree Canopy.
* Good amount of affordable housing here as 60% of all units are rent controlled. Also a handful of public housing developments here.
* Parkwise there are several great medium sized parks within Castro (Corona Heights, Kite Hill, and Rikki Streicher Field). Mission Dolores & Buena Vista Parks are wonderful larger parks just outside the neighborhood. Tons of smaller pocket/community parks spread throughout.
* Good array of walkable private and public schools. Private schools were generally rates well and public was a mixed bag.
* Great cultural in Castro including  a plethora of restaurants, bars, and cafes along with a ton  of clubs and live music venues. There is also a historic Movie theater, several smaller local museums + the Science Museum, and a good array of art galleries.
* Retail amenities are great as well. Several grocerias and health food stores. A Safeway and Wholefoods are located just outside the district. Other amenities include several drug stores, fitness centers, plenty of banks, good array of boutiques and unique stores, a couple home good/hardware stores, a book store, tons of barbershops & Salons, lots of dessert place, a public library & post office, and many eclectic and creative stores. Sutter Hospital only 1/2-1 mile away.


* Generally good street connectivity but some curvy streets in the hilly section of the district. Still good stair connections for pedestrians here.
* Bike infrastructure good but not great compared to other San Fran districts. Dedicated bike lanes run down Market and 17th street to the center of District but no coverage in western half of district. Bike share is similar in distribution.
* Medium rents at $2,100 are a bit higher than the average City wide . Market rents start in the 2Ks and 3K for studios and 1-bedrooms, and 4K & 5K for 2 & 3 bedrooms. Not a ton listed on the open market.
* For sale housing very expensive. 1-bedroom conds run for 700K-1M, 2-bedrooms 1M-1.5M, and 3 bedrooms 1.5M-3 M generally.
* Not many churches in the district but a good amount in neighboring Mission District.

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