Fillmore District- San Fran’s historic African American District

I added the small Alamo Square District into this Fillmore District review. That means the southwest corner extends down to Hayes St where the rest of the southern border is Grove Street.

The Fillmore District began to rise to prominence after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake being unaffected by  the large fires that ensued. It quickly became a major commercial and cultural centers of the city. The early 20th century also ushered in a large influx of diverse populations. The Fillmore District began to house large numbers of African Americans, Japanese and Jews. African Americans in particular arrived in numbers after the Japanese internment of 1942 where many unoccupied homes and businesses were left open. Almost immediately Fillmore became a  thriving African American district known for having the largest jazz scene on the west coast. Sadly this did not last long as large swaths of the district were slated for urban renewal in the late 1960s and 1970s. All in all  28 city blocks were demolished and 8,000 people displaced. While many of the rebuilt structures were bland mid-century design, the overall feel of the district fortunately remained very urban and dense. From an urban design perspective, this is probably one of the better urban renewal efforts in the Country and has created a modern feeling Asian district. The neighborhood still struggled with crime and safety issues as the vast majority of new housing built was concentrated poverty. The untouched sections of the district gentrified first (especially near Alamo Park and western half of Golden Gate Avenue) and by the 2010s renovation  had reached most parts of Fillmore.

While much of the neighborhood is mixed use, Divisadora (near Alamo Square) and Fillmore Street (near Gearby Blvd) are the main business districts. This section of Fillmore still hosts a major Asian influence and feels, in many ways, like an extension of Japantown. Fillmore also hosts several major theaters along Van Ness Ave hosting the San Francisco Opera, Symphony, and Ballet. While there are certainly many downsides to the awful urban renewal efforts of the 60s and 70s, the massive affordable housing construction that resulted created one of the most racially and ethnically diverse district in San Fran. About 80% of its units are either rent controlled or subsidized. Hopefully the more autocentric structures that came out of the urban renewal efforts will be replaced with better urban oriented buildings. Fillmore is overall a very walkable district with good retail and cultural amenities, great transit access, and a highly convenient location close to Downtown.  

Click here to view my Fillmore Album on Flickr


* Excellent ADA infrastructure. Only a handful of intersections without modern ADA curbs.
* Quality public transit and great access to Downtown. Also good bike land infrastructure via several dedicated bike lanes and dense bike station coverage.
* One of the most racially and economically diverse districts in San Fran
* Very high pct of affordability here. 43% of all units are rent controlled but around 85% of all units are affordable. Fillmore was a major urban renewal site with significant amounts of aff. hsg concentrated here. Medium rent here is only $1,300, way below the City average.
* Very good recreational amenities, but the parks themselves generally are not as spectacular as most in San Fran (with the exception of Alamo Square where the painted ladies are located). Parks are more modern.
* Great tree canopy.
* Good number and diversity  of pretty well ranked schools, all of them of course walkable.
* Culturally a good array of restaurants, bars, & cafes but much less than other parts of San Fran. Other cultural assets include many theaters (i.e. modern symphony hall, San Fran Opera, Herbst Performing Arts Theater, a community theater and the Fillmore Music Theater) and two major cineplexes.
* Retail amenities include: a supermarket, several ethnic grocerias and health food stores, a couple drug stores; lots of salons, banks, and common neighborhood amenities. Boutiques and more creative stores are less common here than higher end San Fran districts. The many Japanese restaurants and stores are located just north of the Fillmore District in Japantown. The vibrant Hayes Valley is located just to the south.


* For a neighborhood that hosts the painted ladies its surprisingly that about 75% of the district is modern. Only areas around Alamo Square and Divisadero are historic.
* Aesthetically the modern architecture can be bland and sometimes distasteful, but overall the form is very good. Reminds one of Asia.
* Limited generational diversity.
* While not much of it market rents are a bit cheaper than surrounding districts: * Studios lease around 2K, 1-bedrooms $2,000s, 2 bedrooms 2 & 3 Ks. 3-bedrooms 3K-5K.
* For sale a bit limited as so much product is afford. rentals. Fortunately a decent # of1 bed and 2 bed condos selling between 200-500K. Some 3-bedrooms selling btwn 500-800K. Plenty of produce selling btwn 800K-1.5M depending on size & condition.
* Fillmore use to be a higher crime are but seems to be much improved since 2010. Still some lingering safety issues, but much of it may now be perceived.
* Only a handful of art galleries and a couple local museums.
* Massing is generally pretty good but plenty of modern apartment bldgs with surface parking.
* Good vibrancy but much less than other San Fran districts thanks to its modernist design.
* Will crime is way down the district still struggles from image issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s