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It’s almost impossible to tell the story of District 6 without feeling like you’re reliving every morsel of San Francisco’s history. This relatively small, but dense, district is home to some of the city’s most beautiful Victorians — and some of the ugliest public housing ever built in the Western Addition.

That’s because the Western Addition was at the center of a campaign to revitalize San Francisco in the 1950-60s. Thousands of Victorians in 27 blocks were demolished in favor of cinder block public housing in the name of urban renewal.

While it may be true that some of those 2,500 Victorians were decrepit and unsafe (there were quite a few that lacked running water and electricity), the loss of those homes is still being felt today. And that’s not just because the replacement buildings aren’t pretty. This “revitalization” blew apart the vibrant African American community that was centered in the Western Addition. Many of the families who were forced to leave were never able to return.

While it is possible to find some fantastic examples of Victorian architecture here (look near the Safeway on Webster, or along Broderick or Sutter) or those in the Beideman Place Historical District created by Enid Sales, it’s hard to miss the fact that the neighborhood feels a little bit like its soul has been pulled out.

Maybe that’s because at one time the Western Addition was also home to San Francisco’s Japanese community. When World War Two broke out, many of these citizens were interned and were never able to return. Though Japantown still exists, it’s many times smaller than it was in the late 1930s, and we think the concrete redevelopment of the area in the 1960s has stolen some of its charm.

None of this is to say that the district lacks lots of charm — it’s just got lots of history, too. The neighborhood is still a multi-cultural gem, with a renowned jazz club, an Ethiopian restaurant and a cluster of high-rise apartment buildings on Lower Fillmore, which has been christened as the Fillmore Jazz District.

One more note about the Western Addition: Don’t miss Cottage Row, a tiny little block of perfectly preserved of diminutive cottages. These charming row houses were spared in the “redevelopment” and are often sold between friends and family — but you might be able to pick one up for just about $600k.

Alamo Square is just uphill from the Western Addition. It’s home to one of the most famous views in San Francisco: The Painted Ladies Victorians. The houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh, who lived next door in the 1892 mansion at 722 Steiner Street. But Alamo Square has another distinction. It’s second only to Pacific Heights in the number of mansions that are more than 10,000 sq. ft. Although you might need such a large home, it’s nice to know they’re available here if you need one. For the rest of us, though, you can probably find a lovely TIC or condominium here starting in the mid $700s.

Go down the hill, and you’ll find yourself in the vibrant and very cool environs of NoPa. There’s been an incredible resurgence in NoPa; between the new median with trees on Divisadero, cool restaurants (who doesn’t love NoPa?), and restored Victorians and Edwardians, you can hardly take a step without bumping into something cool and on the cutting edge. Prices here begin in the low $700s.

Head a few blocks north, and you’ll hit Anza Vista — the neighborhood just on the other side of USF. It used to be home to the Calvary Cemetery (before everyone was moved out of the city to Colma) and it sits on a smallish rise, so there are plenty of views to be had from the homes that face downtown. The homes here were built in the 1940s. Parking can be a wee bit tight because of Kaiser’s huge hospital here complex on Geary, but for the most part this is a pleasant and quiet place to live. This is a great place to look for a condo, starting in the low $500s.

Of course, Hayes Valley is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city. It’s safe to say that this area truly opened up after the 1989 earthquake due to the destruction and demolition of the Central Freeway. That behemoth had overshadowed and bisected the neighborhood for years, causing blight. But as the freeway came down, chic eateries and trendy boutiques moved in, and Hayes Valley was revitalized. We love all the little wonderful alleys (like Ivy, Lily and Rose Streets) studded with plenty of meticulously restored cottages. This is the place to find a fantastic condo, TIC or home starting in the mid $700s — all the way up to multi-million dollar penthouses.

Last but not least is Lower Pacific Heights. This area used to be called the Fillmore, until it became more gentrified in the early 1990s. There are plenty of wonderful, restored TICs and condos to be had (carved out from stunning Victorians), as well as quite a few single family homes. Be sure to check out lower Fillmore Street as well — that’s where you’ll find all sorts of cool eateries and shops that cater to the hipsters who live here.



Handy Links about District 6

The Western Edition Neighborhood Newspaper

NOPA Neighborhood Association

SFGate on the Western Addition

Alamo Square Neighborhood Association

Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association

Anza Vista Neighborhood Blog

WHY WE LOVE IT HERE.

Nopalito
415 437 0303

Nopa
415 864 8643

Absinthe
415 551 1590

Hayes Street Grill
415 863 5545

Fly Bar & Restaurant
415 931 4359

Little Star Pizza
415 441 1118



DISTRICT 6

Change, evolution, conflict and rebirth — you'll find it all here. From chic Hayes Valley to lovely Alamo Square, every block has a story.