Glen Park: SF’s Hidden Gem

Glen Park gives the feeling of being in your own secluded small village without compromising accessibility. Charming and picturesque, it is lined with coffee shops, organic markets and privately-owned small business boutiques. On top of it all, it offers about 70 green acres and miles of nature trails through its forested hillsides. Couples, empty nesters and families would enjoy the single-family-home residential options here. Professionals commuting in and out of SF will not find this hidden gem inaccessible at all.

Location: 

Glen Park is at the southeastern edge of San Francisco’s central hills. The neighborhood’s streets follow the hill’s contours down to a small commercial district (“downtown Glen Park”) at the intersection of Chenery and Diamond streets.

It borders Diamond Heights to the northwest, along Diamond Heights Boulevard; Noe Valley to the north, along 30th Street; Bernal Heights to the east, along San Jose Avenue; and Outer Mission to the south, along Bosworth Street.

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Commercial:

The main shopping streets are in the intersection of Diamond Street and Bosworth Street. Notable miscellaneous local favorites include Perch, Cheese Boutique and Glen Park Hardware Store, to name a few. Dining options such as Manzoni, and Le P’tit Laurent are also standouts. 

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Schools:

Glen Park School, Glen Park Elementary School

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Public Transportation:

Glen Park BART Station, Muni (J-Line)

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Notables:

Glen Park Branch Library, Glen Canyon Park, Bird and Beckett Bookstore

The Richmond District

Heavily-influenced by East Asian culture, The Richmond District is divided into 5 sub-neighborhoods. The Pacific Ocean is located to its west- giving it its foggy weather and colder climate. Think wind chills. Couples, empty nesters and various size families favor living in this neighborhood. It’s walkable, teeming with businesses and most importantly- safe. The residential options is made up of single-family homes (check out those Marina-style homes) primarily with the addition of small apartment complexes. Some parts feature quite a number of Victorian and Edwardian mansions. Yes. Mansions. But don’t be fooled. The Richmond is one of the most laid-back neighborhoods in San Francisco.

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Boundaries:

Developed initially in the late 19th century, it is sandwiched between Presidio of San Francisco on the north and Golden Gate Park on the south. Lying directly north of Golden Gate Park, “The Richmond” is bounded by Fulton Street to the south, Arguello and Laurel Heights to the east, Lincoln Park to the north, and Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

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Demographic:

Home to a vast affluent Chinese population, you can see the vast influence on commercial options. Clement Street is commonly referred to as Second Chinatown and arguably the better destination for authentic dining. Some parts of The Richmond also has Irish and Russian influences. This is especially noticeable through the number of churches, Russian stores and Irish pubs.

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Sub-Neighborhoods:

The Lake Street District is just south of Presidio of San Francisco and north of Inner Richmond. This is the one with many Victorian/Edwardian mansions.

SeaCliff is a small neighborhood consists of mostly exclusive mansions. The name came from its position- sitting on the northwestern cliff of The Richmond.

Inner Richmond is bounded by California St. to the north, Arguello Blvd to the east, Fulton St. to the south, and Park Presidio Blvd. to the west. It’s known for Geary Blvd. and Clement Street- yes, the ones with great food options! Not to be outdone, Balboa St with its Japanese and Korean restaurants also garner quite the foot traffic.

Central Richmond is between Inner Richmond and Outer Richmond. It is bounded by Park Presidio Blvd to the east, California St. to the north, Fulton St. to the south, and 33rd Ave. to the west.

Outer Richmond is to the west of Central Richmond. It is bounded by Clement St. to the north, 33rd Ave. to the east, Fulton St. to the south, and Ocean Beach to the west.

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Russian Hill. Yes, the One with Lombard St.

Russian Hill is another one of San Francisco’s “44 Hills” and one of its original “7 Hills”. The neighborhood names goes back to the Gold Rush era when settlers discovered a small Russian cemetery on top of the hill.  It is north (downhill) of Nob Hill, south (uphill) of Fisherman’s Wharf and to west of North Beach.

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One of the most idyllic affluent residential neighborhoods in San Francisco, the home price tags are not exactly pocket change but in this case- very worth it. Turn over of property in this neighborhood is relatively low due to it’s reputation as one of the most sought-after zip codes in the city. Home to the famous Lombard St- the most crooked street in the World (between Hyde St and Leavenworth St), it has the distinction of being scenic and iconic. The views from the top of the hill include Marin County, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

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Boundaries & Location:

Russian Hill is directly to the north (and slightly downhill) from Nob Hill, to the south (uphill) from Fisherman’s Wharf, and to the west of the North Beach neighborhood. The Hill is bordered on its west side by parts of the neighborhoods of Cow Hollow and the Marina District.

At the northern foot of the hill is Ghirardelli Square. A trip down to the east leads to North Beach. Down the hill to the west, past Van Ness Avenue, are Cow Hollow and the Marina districts.

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Demographic:  

Already home to SF Old Money, it is also ideal for young families, empty nesters and professionals looking for a safe yet lively neighborhood to live in. Governor Gavin Newsom used to own a penthouse here from his mayoral days- you know it’s an excellent choice.

Accessibility:  

Due to the steepness of the hills, do not be surprised to see stairways in portions of the sidewalk streets. Russian Hill also feature pedestrian-only lanes such as Fallon Place and Macondray Lane, both with breathtaking views. Several lines of muni run up and down the hills routing through various directions.

Commercial:  

With its immediate proximity to the Marina, the Wharf, Nob Hill and North Beach, Russian Hill will never be at a lost for dining and recreation options from all sides.The Stinking Rose, Nick’s Crispy Tacos, Gary Danko, The Bagelry, Frascati, La Folie and Atelier des Modistes are favorites.

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Notables:  

Lombard St, Alice Marble Park, SF Art Institute

Nob Hill: Not a Zip Code, It’s an Attitude

Nob Hill is a neighborhood in San Francisco. Previously referred to as California Hill in the 1850s, Nob Hill is one of the most prominent higher-end neighborhoods in San Francisco. One of the highest hills, it’s a destination for breathtaking views for both tourists and locals. Condos, apartment complexes and some single-family homes seem to be the real estate makeup while the demographic remains slightly more mature.

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Couples, small families and empty nesters enjoy the peace and safety- the almost haughty seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the city that this neighborhood offers. Single professionals, on the other hand, would love the proximity to dining and recreation- what with Polk St bars, Union Square, Japantown, Van Ness, Russian Hill Downtown and Embarcadero… all a downhill short walk away.

Still one of the most exclusive and sought-after zip codes, the turnover of properties in Nob Hill is on a low rate. Why? Most of these properties were passed on from generation-to-generation. Owners tend to hold on to the property given the desirability of the neighborhood and come on, it could only really go up in value.

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What’s in a Name?

The area was settled in the late 19th century. Because of the amazing views and its central position, it became an exclusive destination for the rich and famous who built large mansions. This included tycoons such as Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University. From California Hill to Nob Hill, it was renamed after the Big Four businessmen known as “the Nobs” who built the California Pacific Railroads constructed mansions there. The neighborhood was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, except for the walls surrounding the Stanford, Crocker, Huntington and Hopkins mansions. You can still see the smoke-scarred walls of these mansions.

Currently, Nob Hill is affectionately dubbed “Snob Hill”. Check MLS and you’ll understand wh

Boundaries:

Nob Hill is centered on California and Powell St. The actual peak of Nob Hill lies slightly to the northwest, approximately at the intersection of Jones and Sacramento Streets.

Commercial:

Even with it’s peace and quiet, Nob Hill is teeming with businesses. There is no shortage of dining and recreational options. A few favorites would be Tonga Room and Top of the Mark for dining; Nob Hill Spa for a truly luxurious spa experience (gold flecks on the pool while you’re having a caviar mask kind of luxury); and of course The Masonic for a live music venue.

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Accessibility:

With muni, buses and the iconic cable cars en route, Nob Hill -even with it’s steep hills- is highly-accessible.

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Rebecca’s Tips:

1. Brunch at the Top of the Mark. At the top of the Mark Hopkins, enjoy a buffet brunch with breathtaking views and a pianist serenading you. Oh, and bottomless mimosas.

2. Nob Hill Spa. Named one of the Top Luxury Spas in the World. Enjoy luxurious amenities and take a dip in the 24k gold-tiled infinity pool. Try the Caviar Facial that includes a pressure point massage for your face!

3. Osso Steakhouse. Found on the ground floor of The Gramaercy Towers, take a bite out of one of the best filet mignons you’ll ever have. Their cocktails are crafted well in the restaurant’s full bar.

4. Grace Cathedral. Whether you’re religious or not, this cathedral is worth a visit for the impressive architecture.

5. Go ahead. Take that iconic Cable Car picture on California and Jones.

Neighborhood Feature: Noe Valley

Noe Valley is still one of the best neighborhoods to live in in San Francisco. It is a safe, family-friendly neighborhood with plenty of commercial and recreational options. Majority of the residences are Victorians and Edwardians- giving it the “old SF charm”. Families, empty nesters and couples seem to love that vibe since they are the general demographic makeup here. In addition, Twin Peaks blocks the coastal fog and wind from Pacific Ocean making Noe’s microclimate sunnier that others. That + walkability = Stroller Mommy Dream! 

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Boundaries:

Its borders are generally considered to be 21st street to the north, Randall Street to the south, Dolores Street to the east, and Grand View Avenue to the west. The Castro (Eureka Valley) is directly to Noe Valley’s north, although the border is not well defined and can stretch into Noe Valley, and The Mission is to its east.

Commercial:

Because of its proximity to both The Mission and Castro, there’s a variety of food, shopping and recreation options available at Noe Valley. Small and privately-owned businesses galore. They have not just one but two shopping strips- The first along 24th Street, between Church Street and Diamond Street, and the second, less dense corridor along Church Street, between 24th Street and 30th Street. Xela Imports, Isso, Common Scents, Wink and Ambiance are a few notables. 

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Dining:

Infamous Mitchell’s Ice Cream and crowd-favorite Patxi’s call Noe home. Try the Chicago deep dish with cornmeal crust. You’ll thank us later. 

Schools:

James Lick Middle School, Alvarado Elementary School, Everett Middle School, Thomas Edison Charter Academy and Immaculate Conception Academy (borderline)

Public Transportation:

24th St BART Station, Muni

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Notables:

St Paul’s Catholic Church, Dolores Park (ISH)

Neighborhood Feature: SOMA (South of Market)

South of Market (or SoMa) is an up-and-coming neighborhood in San Francisco. It encompasses several micro-neighborhoods including South Beach, Mission Bay, Mission Rock and Rincon Hill. Young professionals, couples, and small families make up the residential population and for good reason- plenty of commercial and recreational options, modern residences, a flourishing “tech hub” reputation and great water views. It simply is one of the best neighborhoods to live in right now. It’s hip, it’s trendy, it’s cool, it’s now.

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Boundaries:

Its boundaries are Market Street to the northwest, San Francisco Bay to the northeast, Mission Creek to the southeast, and Division Street, 13th Street and U.S. Route 101 (Central Freeway) to the southwest. It is the part of the city in which the street grid runs parallel and perpendicular to Market Street. The neighborhood contains many smaller neighborhoods such as South Park, Yerba Buena, South Beach, and Financial District South (part of the Financial District), and overlaps with several others, notably Mission Bay, and the Mission District.

Commercial:

Considered a tech hub, SOMA houses the headquarters of Weebly, Foursquare, GitHub, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Trulia, Dropbox, IGN, Salesforce and Yelp, to name a few. Big Box retailers Costco, REI, Nordstrom Rack and Best Buy also have a SOMA address.

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Dining:

Home to not one but two Michelin-starred restaurants plus a multitude of bars and dining establishments, there’s a always a variety of options in SOMA. Saison by Chef Joshua Skeenes is a standout not only because of the coveted 3-Michelin stars but because of “Bay Area’s Most Expensive Meal”. Chef Corey Lee’s Benu shares this prestigious title. Waterbar is another mentionable because of who doesn’t love Happy Hour Champagne and Oysters with amazing views?

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Schools:

Golden Gate University, Marin Day Schools, Youth Chance High School

Public Transportation:

Caltrain, Montgomery BART Station, MUNI, Greyhound Station, Cable Car via Embarcadero

Notables:

ATT Park, Exploratorium, Children’s Creativity Museum , SF Railway Museum

Painted Ladies: The Seven Sisters on Postcard Row

Yep, these ladies’ reputation precedes them. We’ve all heard about and even passed through them through Steiner St. kr9kIOa

Ever wondered how the interior of one of these looks like?

Contrary to popular belief, the term “Painted Ladies” wasn’t just coined for the The Seven Sisters on Steiner Sreet.  It is a term in American architecture used for Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. Now we know when to call a home, a Painted Lady!

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Tips:

Catch the “Golden Hours”. The best picture shot is when the sun is setting in the west, casting a sunset glow over these houses and Alamo Square.

You can schedule time to take a tour inside one of the homes if you want.

Take Muni line #21 to the corner of Hayes and Steiner streets for a straight commute.

Take your time looking! Many Victorian homes of the Queen Anne era have a few unique features: multiple balconies, large porches and are usually two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half stories tall.

Coit Tower: Firebelle Lillie

We’re sure you’ve seen or even been to Coit Tower. What with it being so tall on a hill.

Purple Hour On Coit Tower and San Francisco Skyline, from Russian Hills, California, USA

But did you know about Lillie Hitchcock Coit?

Lillie Hitchcock Coit was a known eccentric socialite back in the day. Smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so- she was in a league of her own. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gamble in the males-only establishments that dotted North Beach. Another thing she loved? chasing fires. And countless stories of her adventures can be found everywhere.

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Lillie’s will would in the future read that she wished for one third of her fortune, amounting to $118,000, “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.” Two memorials were built in her name. One was Coit Tower, and the other was a sculpture depicting three firemen, one of them carrying a woman in his arms. Lillie is today the matron saint of San Francisco firefighters.

Before the end of 1866, there was no city firemen nor fire department in SF and fires in the city so fires were extinguished by several volunteer fire companies. Learn more about Firebelle Lillie’s adventures here and here.

Songs About San Francisco Part 2: The Neighborhood-Specific

In Part 2 of this series, we’re going to revisit songs about the city that are somewhat inspired by  by a very specific location. Click on the song title for direct Youtube video link.

Grace Cathedral Hill- The Decemberists

We were both a little hungry, so we went to get a hotdog, down the Hyde St. Pier. / The light was slight and disapeared. The air, it stunk of fish and beer.

San Francisco- Gregory Alan Isakov

“A lovely ballad that feels like the fog rolling in: “Lay down in your new town / Walk the ground / How you made me weep on Sansome Street / And how you made the weather come.”

Got the Gate on the Golden Gate- Mel Tormé

Ben’s My Friend- Sun Kil Moon

Met my girl and we walked down Union Street
I was scared and my head was in a bunch of places
Bought a $350 pair of lampshades
And we ate at Perry’s and I ordered crab cakes

This Tenderloin summer
This Tenderloin summer
This Tenderloin summer

Did we miss some? Share SF songs you know about!

Songs About San Francisco Part 1: The Good

In this 2-part series, we’ll revisit songs celebrating SF and the ones with a specific location in mind. Here’s Part 1, the good. Click on the song titles and go directly to the YouTube links!

San Francisco- The Mowgli’s

San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair- Scott McKenzie

Honeymoon in San Francisco- Of Montreal

“Honeymoon in San Francisco, what a grand idea. / We’ll rent a room in a four-star hotel / We’ll spend the whole time drunk on champagne and lime.”

San Franciscan Nights- Eric Burdon & The Animals

Fake Tales of San Francisco- Arctic Monkeys 

Come Back from San Francisco- Magnetic Fields 

San Francisco- Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard

And of course…

I left My Heart in San Francisco- Tony Bennett