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It’s hard to believe, but 20 years ago South Beach as we know it today just didn’t exist. Neither did AT&T Park, the Third Street light rail or pretty much all of Mission Bay. District 9 is home to some of the most profound changes in San Francisco, thanks to an aggressive redevelopment plan kicked off in the late 1980s that continues today.

Let’s start with South Beach. Today, it’s home to thousands of lofts, condominiums and mixed-use projects of all stripes. But 20 years ago, it was dominated by artists, homeless people and vacant warehouses. The dot-com boom in the 1990s brought an influx of money and development, and by 2000, when the ballpark opened, it was the new hot spot in San Francisco real estate. Today you’ll find world-class restaurants, great shopping in the design district, and good values for lofts — you can enter the market today in the mid-$600s for a good-sized unit. And don’t forget to drop by South Park — it’s an oasis of green around an oval drive.

With more museums than anywhere else in the city, plus the Metreon movie complex, Yerba Buena is a veritable hub of culture. This is the place to live if you have always dreamed of living the downtown life — the grand apartments available at the St. Regis and Four Seasons are truly spectacular. For the rest of us, though, there are other fine condominiums available that truly take advantage of everything San Francisco has to offer. What’s particularly interesting about Yerba Buena is that it is the result of a redevelopment plan that dates back 60 years — and with the completion of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and inaguration of the pedestrian-only Yerba Buena Lane, the plan is finally completed as of 2010.

There is still one pocket in District 9 that remains relatively untouched by the City’s massive redevelopment plans — and that’s South of Market. Though vibrant and engaging, San Francisco has continued to struggle with pervasive homelessness and drug use in the Sixth Street corridor and the mid-Market area. But the truth is that if you move a block or two away from these areas, South of Market has a lot to offer. Vintage live/work lofts, charming alleys and an exciting nightlife scene make it an attractive and central place to live. Plus, you can enter the market here for a loft in the mid-$700s.

On the other hand, one of the newest areas of the city is Mission Bay — home to UCSF’s new research center and state of the art hospital, various biotech and clean tech companies and 6,000 new condominiums. It covers 303 acres of land between the Bay and Highway 280, and it has the distinction of being named a model of sustainable development by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Development here started in 1998, so if you love new new new this is the neighborhood for you.

It may be that the newness of Mission Bay makes us appreciate the history of its next-door neighbor even more: the Central Waterfront/Dogpatch. Here you’ll find some of the oldest houses in the city, since this neighborhood was largely unscathed by the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. The main artery is Third Street, which can seem pretty industrial — but take a side street and you’ll quickly find tree-lined streets and charming Victorians. In the 1990s, a fair number of live/work lofts were built here too, so the housing stock is mixed and there’s been an influx of new residents. Even so, we love that this neighborhood is a tight little community — people know each other here.

Speaking of history, few neighborhoods have seen more positive change than Potrero Hill. Surrounded by industrial zones down the hill, it can seem a bit isolated (in a fantastically good way!) — with its own tableaux of tidy houses, pretty gardens and clean streets blessed by great weather. Potrero benefited mightily from the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, when many of these homes were renovated. But it’s seen other changes too. The Safeway complex at 16th and Bryant used to be the Seals Stadium up until 1959. And don’t miss the real crookedest street in San Francisco — Vermont.

While the Inner Mission may not be the first place a tourist would think of when imagining San Francisco, this vibrant neighborhood is truly the heart of the city. It’s certainly the hippest, with more artists, writers and all-around cool folk per square foot than any place else. If you’re looking for a place to get started and are willing to invest a bit of TLC in your property, this could be the place for you.

We love Bernal Heights — at the southern end of the Inner Mission — so much that we bought property there. This is one of the quaintest neighborhoods in San Francisco, with narrow streets and a retail strip that somehow isn’t populated by every chain store in the universe. It’s a great place to raise kids — or dogs, given its proximity to the Bernal park (a veritable canine free for all). But the fun doesn’t stop there. Don’t miss the Winfield Street Slides, a 40-foot double slide that was built and is maintained by volunteers. Houses here begin in the mid-$500s.

Handy Links

Mission Bay Redevelopment

Wikipedia’s Entry on Dogpatch on Potrero Hill on The Mission

Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center

Bernal History Project

San Francisco Days | Bernal Heights

The Potrero View

Spots Unknown (a unique look into San Francisco History)


The Liberty Cafe
410 Cortland Avenue

Flour and Water
2401 Harrison Strett

Roosevelt Tamale Parlor
2817 24th St.

Humphrey Slocombe
2790 24th St.

2495 Third Street

Beard Papa
99 Yerba Buena Lane

Chez Papa
1401 18th Street

3621 18th Street

301 Mission

801 Toland St

Paxton Gate
824 Valencia Street


From South Beach to Bernal Heights, District 9 is on the cutting edge.