San Fran’s Chinatown

 Chinatown is the oldest and largest of San Francisco’s 4 Chinese enclaves. There is a lot of history documenting the neighborhood’s ups and downs combating racism, gangs, sex trafficking, disinvestment and revitalization. I’ll just cover some of the highlights. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, Chinese merchants were able to successfully rebrand Chinatown with Chinese-motif “Oriental” style in order to promote tourism in the rebuilt Chinatown. This helped quell efforts by City planners to relocated Chinatown somewhere else in the City. In the 1960s another huge wave of immigrants came with the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion act. Most came from  Hong Kong. Currently the majority of residents and immigrant are elderly, and opt to live in Chinatown because of its affordable housing and cultural ties.  As of 2015, two thirds of the Chinatown residents lived in one of its 105 single room occupancy hotels (SRO). This explains why the district’s medium rent is $760 and medium income around 55K.  Many Chinese immigrants who managed to accumulate wealth while living in Chinatown have moved to more spacious Chinatowns in the City (i.e. Richmond District, Sunset District, or Visitation Valley).

Most tourist visit Grant Street (filled with indistinguishable souvenir shops) but nearby is the more authentic Stockton Street, home to fish markets, stores, restaurants, and mixed use bldgs more akin to what one would find in Hong Kong. Chinatown also has great urban qualities including superb transit and proximity to Dwtn, affordable housing, mixed use development, great services and walkability to department stores along Union Square, vibrancy, and quality schools. Areas for improvement include better ADA infrastructure and bike lanes, more park space, better tree canopy, more for-sale condos, and a full service grocery store would be nice.

Click here to view my Chinatown Album on Flickr


* One of San Franc’s densest districts. 
* Excellent economic diversity. Prob the best in the City.
* About 75% of the units are rent controlled. Medium rents are half the City average at around $760. A significant amount of the units are run by the housing authority.
* Cultural amenities are not surprisingly mostly Chinese and restaurants, but there are a lot of them! Also a good number of cafes & tea places, art galleries, several local museums, some bars & night clubs, the Clarion Performing Arts Center, and the Great Start Theater. Very convenient access to all the theaters, museums and cinema plexs located around Union Square at Yerba Buena.
* Retail amenities include an endless amount of souvenir shops, boutiques, small Asian grocerias, bakeries & dessert shops. Target and a plethora of department stores and retail are located with 1/2 a mile away. Also plenty of drug stores, & churches, several book stores, a post office, public library, a local Chinese Hospital.
* Several excellent schools within and near Chinatown. But limited # of high schools.
* Very vibrant district.
* Great urban massing and a very imageable district with its Chinese distinction.


* Generally very good ADA infrastructure but several intersections missing modern ADA ramps and some steep hills along the western edge.
* Limited dedicated bike lanes but pretty good bike station coverage.
* About 70% of the population is Asian but very old.
* Rents are a bit high but certainly much more affordable than other parts of San Fran. Studios & 1-bedrooms lease in the mid-high $1,000s, 2-bedrooms in the mid $2,000s, 3-bedrooms lease in the $3,000s. Overall market rate product is pretty limited especially 3-bedrooms
* For sale products are even more limited but similar priced to surrounding areas.
* Chinatown is generally pretty safe. A bit sketchy at night in certain pockets.
* Several nice squares (e.g. Portsmonth, St. Mary’s, Wong Playground, and Woi Hei Yuen),  but much less greenspace than most San Fran districts. Good access to other Park Spaces in adjacent districts too.
* No supermarkets located within Chinatown nor nearby.
* Tree canopy is only so . Not much space for them in this dense district.

Nob Hill- San Fran’s Historic Wealthy Enclave

Nob Hill  has always been knowns as a home for the wealthy due to its central position and outstanding views. Before the fire of 1906 it was lined with numerous mansions. After the fire these mansions where replaced with high end hotels and flats. Nob Hill is among the highest-income neighborhoods in the United States. Surprisingly Nob Hill (especially when one includes Lower Nob Hill) is one of the City’s most diverse economic districts with a poverty rate that hovers around 10%. This is largely due to the fact that 78% of all housing units are rent controlled.

Other areas of strength for Nob Hill include its high density and mixed-use development, great cultural amenities, host of San Fran’s best concentration of department stores (surrounding Union Square), quality public transit, and great access to Downtown and many other great districts. Areas for Nob Hill to improve include more dedicated bike lanes, more family households, better tree canopy, and cleaning up some sketchy spots bordering the Tenderloin District.

Click here to view my Nob Hill Flick Album


* One of San Franc’s densest districts. Lower Nob Hill is the most dense part of the neighborhood.
* Very convenient to Dwtn San Fran complemented with excellent public transit access.
* Excellent Racial and economic diversity.
* Medium rent is around $1,600 below the City average. 78% of all units are rent controlled.
* Nice mix of private and public schools all rated above average.
* Cultural amenities include several great theaters around Union Square, a movie theater, tons of art galleries, restaurants, bars & cafes, several night clubs & live music venues, a handful of local museums but only about 1 mile to all the cultural amenities in Dwtn.  
* Neighborhood amenities include a Trader Joe’s, tons of small grocerias, several drug stores, a plethora of department stores & brand name retail surrounding Union Square, a hardware store, home goods stores, plenty of boutique stores & gyms, several book stores, dessert shops, a local post office, St. Francis Hospital, and plenty of churches.
* Great mixed use development throughout.


*Bike infrastructure a bit underwhelming. Only one dedicated north-side route along Polk with bike station concentrated along the arterials.
* Generational diversity is fair. Roughly 22% of all households are families.
* For sale housing is certainly expensive but unlike most San Fran districts some studios & 1-bedrooms sell around 500K/700K. Most 1-bedrooms sell btwn 700K and the low 1 Ms, 2-bedrooms generally 1-2 M, 3-bedrooms Low 1 Ms to low 3 Ms but plenty sell for more. 4 beds generally sell in the 2 & 3 Ms.
* Studios start in the high $1,000s, 1-bedroom rentals lease generally in the$2,000s, 2-bedrooms 3-5K. 3 bedrooms in the high 2ks to 4K. Some rents above 4K for larger units.
* Several nice squares (e.g. Union Square), playgrounds and a rec center, but much less greenspace than most San Fran districts.
* Generally Nob Hill is pretty safe but gets a bit sketchy in Lower Nob Hill which borders the Tenderloin District.
* For such a dense area the Tree canopy is good but much less than most San Fran districts.

Russian Hill- Home to Lombard Street but so much more!

The neighborhood’s name goes back to the Gold Rush era, when settlers discovered a small Russian cemetery at the top of the hill. Russian naval and merchant ships frequently visited San Francisco throughout the 19th century. Like Nob Hill, Russian Hill was almost completed leveled during the 1906 fire. But rebuilding came swiftly and its replacement was attractive (although less ornate than the Victorian era) flats and apartments. Russian is most famous for Lombard Street, where the roadway switches back 8 times down a steep road. This is interesting but extremely touristy. I much prefer the views at Ina Coolbirth Park, which leads down to Telegraph Hill. Very few tourist come here. One can see San Francisco in several directions from here. Other attractive pedestrian only lanes/stairs include Macondray Lane and Fallon Place.

Russian Hill from an urban perspective has great access to several exciting urban districts (Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Telegraph Hill), and itself hosts three quality biz districts (Polk St, Hyde St, and Columbus Ave). It also has great schools, is safe, provides quality transit access, and due to its hills and high rises is a very imaginable district. Areas to improve include more modern ADA curbs in many intersections and more bikes lanes. There is also a strong need for more affordable 3 & 4 bedrooms spaces to attract family households.

Click here to view my Russian Hill Flickr Album


* Excellent urban density.
* High quality urban transit and very convenient access to Downtown and other central districts.
* Very few auto centric spots in the district. Great urban form along the commercial districts.
* Good racial diversity.
* 70% of all units are rent controlled in the district.
* Several quality parks within or on the edges of Russian Hill. But not walkable to any blockbuster parks. The Ina Coolbirth Park is one of my favorites for views of the City. Its very much off the beaten path.
* With biz districts along Broadway, Polk St, and Columbus Ave there are excellent retail amenities including plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes, several bookstores, plenty of small to medium ethnic grocers and healthy grocery stores, a couple hardware stores & pharmacies, lots of boutiques and unique retail, gyms, dessert places, and local library. Russian Hill is also adjacent to Chinatown, Little Italy, Fisherman’s wharf and only 1.5 miles to Union Square in Dwtn.
* Cultural amenities include a plethora of art galleries and local performing arts theaters, a couple live music venues, a handful of local museums. Walkable to the many cultural amenities of Chinatown, Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf and Downtown.
* a very safe district.
* Excellent public schools both within and just outside of the district’s borders. Russian Hill hosts the highly rated Galileo High and a couple Catholic schools.
* Very nice historic architecture and very good modern in-fill, albeit not a ton of it.
* Great imageability with several distinctive biz districts, strong borders, and lots of elevation change creating some interesting landmarks.


* Quite a few missing ADA curbs and steep hills make the ADA infrastructure less than other San Fran districts but still good overall.
* Only one bike lane running down Polk St but a good # of bike shares concentrated along the thoroughfares.
* Poor generational diversity and only fair economic diversity.
* Medium rent is 2,300, higher than the City’s average.
* For sale housing is certainly expense but unlike most San Fran districts some studios & 1-bedrooms sell around 500K/700K. Most 1-bedrooms sell in the low 1 Ms, 2-bedrooms generally 1-2 M, 3-bedrooms 2-3.5 M but plenty sell for more. Good amount of 4 & 5 bedroom units for 3-9M.
* Studios lease for around 2K, 1-bedroom rentals lease from 2.5-3.5K, 2-bedrooms 3-5K. There are very few 3 -bedroom rentals available.
* The district lacks a full service grocery store, department stores, and local post office.

Telegraph Hill- Home to San Fran’s Little Italy

In the early to mid 1800s Telegraph Hill was known as “Goat Hill” and was the neighborhood of choice for many Irish immigrants. But this changed in 1849 with the construction of a marine telegraph in the mid 1800s used to signal to ships entering the Golden gate. Eventually the tower became obsolete and Coit Tower was built in its place in the 30s, which provides a wonderful observation deck for the City. Telegraph Hill is also an extension of the historic Italian neighborhood extending south from North Beach. Little Italy is still alive here with its heart located at Grant and Green.  Telegraph Hill also became a destination for poets and bohemian intellectuals in the 1920s creating a very West Village esh vibe.

Telegraph Hill excels at great transit access and proximity to Downtown and other thriving districts, excellent walkable schools, great retail & cultural amenities, and high % of rent control units helping create a more economically diverse neighborhood than most in San Fran. Main areas I’d like to see the district improve is offering more affordable 3 & 4 bedrooms conducive to family households, better tree canopy, and additional dedicated bike lanes. 

Click here to view my Telegraph Hill album on Flickr


* Excellent public transit access and proximity to Downtown (especially the financial district).
* This is one of the most economically diverse parts of the City where the medium household income is just shy of 70K. Also great racial diversity as well.
* Medium rents are about the City’s average and 70% of units are rent controlled.
* Some quality recreational spaces, but not as spectacular as most San Fran districts.
* Culturally plenty of great restaurants, bars, and cafes (especially Italian ones), a couple of local theaters & several live music venues &  night clubs, several local museums and the Science Center. Telegraph Hill also has great access to the cultural amenities of the Financial District, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
* Neighborhood assets include many ethnic grocerias, a Safeway Grocery Store, several drug stores, a couple libraries, a local post office, plenty of boutiques and creative retail (esp. along Grant Ave), a couple bookstores, gyms, and plenty of dessert shops.
* By all measures this is a very safe district.
* Several well rated schools within the district but not as many as surrounding neighborhoods.
* Great vibrancy along Broadway and Grant but much less so on the hilly part of the district.
* Several landmarks and vertical hills that help the district with imageability.
* Excellent urban massing. Only a handful of surface parking lots along the Embarcadero.


* A very hilly district, even for San Fran, standards makes walkability a bit more challenging. A good amount of modern ADA curb ramps missing.
* Because the neighborhood was mostly in the 1906 fire, buildings are a bit newer and plainer. Because of its proximity to the Financial District many plain modern 1970s & 1980s building were built, but generally with good urban form.
* Bike infrastructure are concentrated along the edges of the district.
* Only about a quarter of all households are families.
* For sale housing is certainly expense but unlike most San Fran districts some studios & 1-bedrooms sell around 500K/600K. Most 1-bedrooms sell around 1 M, 2-bedrooms generally 1-2 M, 3-bedrooms around 3 M.
* 1-bedroom rentals lease from 2-3K, 2-bedrooms 2-4.5K. There are very few 3 -bedroom rentals available.
* Only a handful of churches.
* Good but not great tree canopy.

Fisherman’s Wharf- San Fran’s most touristy district

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf gets its name and characteristics from the city’s early days of the mid to late 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen came to the city to take advantage of the influx of population due to the gold rush. Most of the Italian immigrant fishermen settled in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill area close to the wharf. The character of Fisherman’s Wharf changed significantly in the 1970s & 1980s as the area diversified and became a major tourist destination. This also brought a significant amount new blocky buildings to replace the district’s older stock. Despite this transition, Fisherman’s Wharf remains an active wharf.

From an urban perspective the district is a bit unique due to its active wharf and strong tourism. Compared to the rest of San Fran population is pretty limited. About 1/2 of the district has been redeveloped for bland 70s/80s buildings, albeit generally with good urban form. The neighborhood also has pretty limited tree canopy. But there are still many positives to the living in the Fisherman’s Wharf including excellent public transit access, good bike infrastructure, quality schools nearby, several excellent parks, tons of restaurants & cafes, and plenty of retail amenities.

Click here to view my Fisherman’s Wharf Flickr Page


* Excellent Public Transit Access and great access to Dwtn and the financial district.
* Good bike infrastructure with a couple good dedicated bike paths and lots of bike stations.
* Very good diversity overall. Excellent economic diversity, good racial diversity, and decent generational diversity.
* About 65% of all units are rental controlled.
* No schools directly within district but several highly rated public schools within walking district in adjacent districts.
* Several nice parks in the Fisherman’s Wharf including: Russian Hill Park, Maritime Park, Golden Gate Nat. Park Conservatory, and a couple smaller parks.
* High pedestrian traffic thanks to all the tourist.
* Culturally lots of restaurants, but mostly seafood ones or ones catering to tourist, some bars & breweries, plenty of cafes, and tons of dessert joins including Ghirardelli’s. Other cultural assets include plenty of art galleries and tons of museums catering to the strong tourism.
* Retail amenities include: lots of clothing stores, boutiques, gift stores catering to tourism, lots of unique retail, plenty of banks, a Trader Joe’s & Safeway, several drug stores, and a handful of gyms.


* One of the least dense districts in San Franc. But this has a lot to do with the fact that Fisherman’s Wharf is more of a tourist destination than neighborhood to live.
* Modern architecture has decent urban form but generally bland or ugly 1970s/1980s design. Much of it is also parking lots.
* Historic architecture is pretty limited to the Western section of the district. Its good where it exist.
* For sale product is pretty limited but sales comps show district is a tad cheaper than surrounding areas. 1- bedrooms sales btwn 750K-1M, 2-bedrooms in the low 1 Millions, and 3-bedrooms in the high 1 Ms.
* Rental product also pretty limited. 1-bedrooms lease in the mid-high $2,000s, 2-3 bedrooms anywhere between high 3Ks and 7K.
* Medium rent at $2,500 is pretty high compared to City average.
* Generally good urban form but a fair amount of surface parking and industrial uses near the wharf.
* Tree canopy still good but less than other San Fran Districts.
* District is well known Nationally but not terribly desirable by locals.
* Really no theaters or live music in the district.
* No libraries or post office within the District but still nearby. Very few churches here nor walkable hospitals.
* Night live is good but sup-bar compared to most San Fran districts.

San Fran’s Marina District- a lovely district with pastel colors and unique 1920s architecture

Prior to the 1906 earthquake consisted the Marina District consisted of bay shallows, tidal pools, sand dunes, and marshland and some limited development. This was all destroyed in the earthquake thanks to the districts sandy foundation and the area was completed redeveloped in the 1910s & 1920s. More density occurred with the completion of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge and widening of  Lombard Street. Sadly since much of the Marina is built on a former landfill, the district is very susceptible to soil liquefaction during strong earthquakes. This resulted in extensive damage during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Demographically the Marina District shifted from mostly middle class families to young professionals in the 1980s & 1990s. The neighborhood is also one of San Francisco’s “Whitest” neighborhoods. The Marina District has a very unique set of architecture styles and pastel coloring unique from other parts of San Francisco. From an urban perspective this is a very walkable and comfortable urban district. The urban business district along Chestnut Street is wonderful one is still within walking district to Cow Hollow’s Fillmore St. and Union Street along with Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Marina District also contains excellent public schools, great park amenities, solid public transit, good bike infrastructure, and excellent cultural amenities. Areas to improve upon include redeveloping some auto centric spots along Lombard St., limited economic and generational diversity, extremely expensive for sale housing, and a tree canopy that is somewhat wanting (especially for San Fran standards).

Click here to view the Marina District on my Flickr Page


* High quality architecture but not as nice as older parts of the City. Very unique in its pastel color palette and Spanish revival styling.
* ADA infrastructure is overall quite excellent. Several residential intersections are missing modern ADA curb infrastructure.
* Excellent neighborhood commer. district along Chestnut and several side streets.
* Good bike infrastructure with a couple dedicated bike lanes and numerous bike stations.
* Decent racial diversity.
* 75% of the total residential units are rent controlled, a very high Pct for the City.
* Several well rated schools within the District or nearby. Public education is especially good here.
* Excellent park amenities including parks like the Presidio, Golden Gate Nat. Park Conservancy and  Marine Time Nat. Plenty of medium sized parks too (e.g. Little Marina Green, the Marinas, Palace of Fine Arts, and Moscone Park
* Culturally the Marina District hosts a great array of movie, community, and performing arts theaters, plenty of bars, restaurants & cafes, several night clubs, and a  few art galleries. This district also hosts the Marina District (Golden Gate Nat. Conservatory, Museo Italo, & Maritime Museum) and the Presidio of San Francisco along with a few other local museums.
* Great neighborhood amenities including a Safeway, a couple smaller independent grocerias, a butcher shop, several drug stores, plenty of banks, lots of boutiques/clothing stores, several home goods shops, a couple book stores, and tons of gyms & fitness centers and dessert places. Marina district also offers convenience access to a public library, 2 post offices and is walkable to all the biz districts in Cow Hollow and Ghirardelli Square.


* Some spots of more auto centric development along Lombard St. and to a lesser extent Van Ness
* The northwest corner of Marina District has good but not excellent mass transit access.
* Fair economic diversity and very limited generational diversity as only 17% of households have kids.
* Few public housing developments here and the medium rent ($2,370) is high compared to the City average.
* Studios start in the low $2,000s, 1-beds anywhere btwn the mid 2Ks and 4K, 2 & 3-beds anywhere btwn 3K-5K.
* For sale housing is expensive with 1-bedrooms generally selling btwn 700K and 1.3 M.  2-bedroom condos range from 1-2.4 M. 3-bedrooms generally mid 2 M-4 M. 4-Bedrooms are generally 2-5M.
* For San Fran standards, tree canopy is a bit sparse.
* Not walkable to any hospital.
* Modern in-fill is pretty limited but generally urban.
* Not as mixed use as other parts of San Fran but still very good,

Cow Hollow- Another great San Fran District

Not surprisingly Cow Hollow was named after its original use as a cow pasture. The district also began as a settlement for fishermen with its relatively close location to Fisherman’s Wharf. Many include Cow Hollow with its larger neighbors the Marina District or Pacific Heights, but Cow Hollow can certainly stand on its own as a separate district as it hosts its own business district along Union and part of Fillmore St. 

Being outside the burn area, Cow Hollow hosts lots of ornate late 19th century Victorian architecture especially on its eastern half. From an urban perspective the district is highly walkable with many retail and cultural amenities, has great tree canopy, and is very safe. Its also close to several other urban business districts including Chesnutt St., Polk St., and Fillmore St. But the district is more expensive than most San Fran districts with average rents around $2,500 even with a high pct. of rental controlled units. For sale options start just under 1 million. Economic and generational diversity also isn’t great. There are also some wholes in the urban fabric along Lombard St. and Van Ness Ave.

Click here to view my Cow Hollow Album on Flickr


* Excellent Historic architecture. District was unaffected by the 1906 fire.
*About 65-70% of all units are rent controlled.
* Only a couple schools within Cow Hollow but several excellent schools in neighboring Marina District and Pacific Heights that are still very walkable.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Only a handful of small parks within Cow Hollow but the Presidio is on the districts western edge and several recreational amenities in the Marina District are nearby.
* Cultural amenities include plenty  of restaurants, bars, and cafes, night clubs, two local theaters, several art galleries, the Presidio of San Francisco (a National Park Site), and a historic house. The waterfront cultural amenities of the Marina District (Golden Gate Nat. Conservatory, Museo Italo, & Maritime Museum are within walking distance).
* Several small to museum sized groceries but not major supermarket within the district. Other amenities include a coupe drug stores, lots of boutiques and local creative stores esp. along Fillmore and Union; a hardware store, plenty of banks, several florists,  dessert shops, many fitness outfits, and a local post office and library. Cow Hollow is also very close to all the retail amenities in Marina District’s Chesnutt St.
* A very safe district.


* Urban form is generally excellent in the biz districts (Filmore & Union) but some auto centric spots especially along Lombard and some on Van Ness.
* Good distribution of bike stations but no dedicated bikes lanes in the district.
* Racial diversity is decent but not great economic and generational diversity.
* Even with a high pct of rent controlled units, medium rent is still very high in the low $3,000s.
* Studios start in the low $2,000s, 1-beds anywhere btwn the mid 2Ks and 5K, 2 & 3-beds anywhere btwn 4K-6K.
* For sale housing is expensive with 1-bedrooms generally selling around 1 M.  2-bedroom condos range from 1-2.5 M. 3-bedrooms generally mid 2 M-5 M. 4-Bedrooms can get very expensive.
* Modern in-fill is pretty limited but generally urban

Pacific Heights- One of San Franc’s most exclusive districts

Pacific Heights is blessed with one of the best panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, the Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz, and the Presidio sitting above its adjacent districts.  The neighborhood was first developed in the 1870s with small Victorian-inspired single family homes built. Starting around the beginning of the 20th century, and especially after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many sf homes were replaced with period homes and eventually apartment buildings (especially near Van Ness). Pacific Heights has always been a higher-end district and never experienced a prolonged period of disinvestment. In 2013, Pacific Heights was named the most expensive neighborhood in the United States. Pacific Heights continues to have a high level of prestige in San Fran.

Affordability is obviously a major issue in Pacific Heights, but the district has a surprisingly high pct of rental controlled units (65%). Purchasing a home here is not in reach for many with small condos starting in the 600Ks. Urban strengths for the district include its lovely hilltop parks (Alta Plaza & Lafayette), strong walkability, numerous small business and neighborhood retail amenities especially along Fillmore St,  numerous high quality schools, and safety.

Other areas for improvement in Pacific Heights include a need for more dedicated bike lanes and more economic and generational diversity among its population. Very few family households reside here.

Click here to view my Pacific Heights album on Flickr


* Excellent connectivity. And convenient access to Downtown with quality transit service.
* Pretty good racial diversity.
* About 65% of all housing units are rent controlled. Only a couple public housing projects here however.
* Park amenities include two lovely medium sized parks ( Alta Plaza and Lafayette) with gorgeous views of the City and the SE corner of the expansive but rather inaccessible Presidio Park. No smaller pocket parks.
* A more eclectic array of historic architecture mixing early and more mid 20th century design but still excellent.
* Culturally amenities are good but less than most San Fran districts. There are a good number of diverse restaurants, cafes, and bars. Also several nice museums (i.e. Recording SF Museums, Haas-Lilienthal House, and Academy of Art Auto; plenty of historic homes, and the historic Vogue Theater.
* Retail wise there are a great array of small businesses including every imaginable neighborhood serving store, tons of boutiques, home good stores, and salons,  a Whole Foods & several medium sized grocers, a Staples, a couple drug stores, several dessert & pastries shops,  a public library, and a major hospital, and a good # of churches.
* A very safe district.
* Strong concentration of highly rated walkable schools in Pacific Heights. Large concentration of Catholic private schools although still a good # of public.
* Excellent urban form except for a couple auto centric spots along Van Ness and California Ave.
* One of San Frans most expensive districts help Pacific Heights garner a lot of buzz.


* Still very high density (25Kper sq mile) but lower for San Fran standards.
* Good distribution of bike stations but no dedicated bikes lanes in the district.
* Limited economic and generational diversity.
* For sale housing is expensive but some studios available in the 600Ks & 700Ks. 1-bedrooms start in the 800Ks & 900Ks  but most sell in the low-mid 1 Millions. 2-bedroom condos range from 1-3 M. 3-bedrooms generally mid 1 M-3 M but plenty of large options selling in the 4 & 5 Ms. 4-Bedrooms start at 3 M and up to 8 M.
* Medium rent is $2,400, expensive even for San Fran standards. Studios for least start in the high $1,000s, 1-beds anywhere btwn the low 2Ks and 5K, 2 & 3-beds anywhere from 3K-7K.
* Modern in-fill is a bit limited but what does exist is generally aesthetically pleasing and quality urban form.

Lower Pacific Heights- Home to San Fran’s Japantown

Lower Pacific Heights was historically known as Upper Fillmore and a part of the Western Addition. This follows a common trend in America cities where neighborhoods are further subdivided when they gentrify and are rebranded. Lower Pacific Heights was a middle-class district for much of its history but became much wealthier in the 1980s and 1990s. This was the time when “Upper Fillmore” fell out of favor in exchange for “Lower Pacific Heights”. I don’t sense the district ever had a major period of disinvestment.

Japantown is a small sub-district within Lower Pacific Heights adjacent to the northern edge of the Fillmore District. Japanese immigrants began moving into the area following the 1906 earthquake (along with the Fillmore District). By World War II, the neighborhood was one of the largest Japanese enclaves outside Japan and took on an appearance similar to the Ginza district in Tokyo. WWII created a bit of a Japanese diaspora as Japanese families following several years of internment camps often resettled in other parts of San Fran and its suburbs. But the district retained its Japanese identity, especially as a center of Japanese shopping and culture. The district’s focal point, the Japan Center, was opened in 1968 and is the site of three Japanese-oriented shopping centers. This shopping center still remains a vibrant, dense collection of Japanese shops and is one of the most interesting parts of the City.

Lower Pacific Heights is a high quality urban district in line with central San Fran neighborhoods. It has a couple of urban deficiencies that lead to a lower score than other surrounding districts, namely, limited dedicated bike lanes, few schools within the neighborhood boundaries, okay park amenities, and only 18% of households as family households. The neighborhood’s strengths are Japantown and a great array of cultural and neighborhood retail amenities. 

Click here to view my Japantown album and here Lower Pacific Heights


* Quality historic architecture mixing late 19th century Italianate and Victorian with 20s apartment bldgs. The modern architecture design wise isn’t super inspiring but generally very good urban form. This is concentrated along Geary Blvd and in Japantown.
* Urban massing is overall very good but some autocentric spots along Ghery Blvd and Presidio Ave.
* Great access to Downtown and a highly walkable district. 
* About 55% of all units are rent controlled but also several public housing bldgs in the district. Medium rent is $2,077, slightly higher than the City’s median.
* Great racial diversity with a large Asian (Japanese) population here. Decent economic diversity.
* By all appearances, this is a very safe district.
* Cultural amenities include a great array of restaurants, bars, and cafes particularly in Japantown. There are also a handful or art galleries, two movie theaters in Japantown, the Vogue historic theater, the Regency Ballroom, and several live music venues and clubs.
* Great retail options concentrated in Japantown, many of them very unique cultural stores but also plenty of general retail options (i.e. hardware, grocerias, boutiques, and medical offices). Retail assets throughout the Lower Pacific Hghts include: several major supermarkets (i.e. Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and Wholefoods), plenty of grocerias, a target, several drug stores, 4 book stores, great array of boutiques & creative stores along Fillmore, plenty of banks, a couple antique stores, a hardware store, and plenty of dessert places. 2 hospitals within are near the district and decent array of churches.
* Vibrancy is great esp. in Japantown. 


* Good but not great bike infrastructure. 2 dedicated lanes in the district and good array of dedicated bike stations.
* 1-bedrooms lease in the mid 2Ks-low 3Ks, 2 bedrooms in the 3Ks & 4Ks, 3-bedrooms 4K-5K.
* Cheapest for sale units are some 1-bedroom condos selling btwn 650K-900K. Plenty of 1-bedrooms selling in the low 1 Millions. 2-bedrooms sell for anywhere btwn 800K-mid 1 Millions, 3bedrooms low 1 Ms to 3M. Larger & higher end produce selling in the 3 & 4 Ms.
* Poor generational diversity. Only 18% of households are families.
* Compared to most San Fran. Districts Park amenities are pretty limited. Lower Pacific Heights does have a great recreation decenter and a handful of small parks and plazas. Several medium sized parks just outside the district borders.
* Only a few schools within the district but plenty of good ones in surrounding districts.

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.