The Sunset, Parkside, Golden Gate Heights
One of the biggest neighborhoods in the City in terms of geographic size, numbers of houses and population density the Sunset occupies a different place for different folks. It can be the land of recently-immigrated Chinese families (or generations thereof), the old-school original owners who moved in shortly after WWII, the younger family looking for a house in the city, the folks with SF State or UCSF student renter in the in-law unit behind the garage or the home to the surfer crowd.
Traditionally thought of as always being foggy that rep has started to change thanks to global climate change. Buyers who discovered the neighborhood’s foggy disposition is turning into a sunnier one have been buying here while you were busy looking in eastern half of the City and have driven up prices over the past few years by 50-100% in some cases. The area is flatter but once you pass Sunset Boulevard there’s a gentle slope towards Ocean Beach. And homes on numbered streets with addresses in the 1200-1500 range will see Golden Gate Park more. There are great schools and surprises throughout the neighborhood.
Architecturally, one of (truer) stereotypes about the Sunset is that the houses look alike. Okay, they’re not exactly alike but you can see how that rep stuck. Most of the houses are right up against its neighbors. The rows and rows of houses will usually be stucco, have poured terrazzo stairs going up to the main living level with ground-floor garage with a room or some kind of space behind the space. Building materials are almost always stucco and wood with asbestos siding in the rear. Most parcels are 25 feet wide and 100 feet deep with 2 bedrooms, 1 pastel-colored bathroom, dining-living combo with kitchen all on one level. Wood floors are common as are older gravity-style furnaces and older electrical systems that may need some attention. Also, because it’s moist out here, you’re likely to have some kind of pest (termite, dry-rot, or beetle) issue. Many homes that haven’t been updated lately will be sold via probate or trust as fixers or cosmetic fixers. Homes that have been redone can range from the Home Depot fly-by-night fixer to some (rarer) stunning architectural statements.
So why the conformity? The Sunset was first developed in the 1920s and 1930s with the biggest push coming after WWII with the baby boom of the 1940s and 1950s. Mass construction went from east to west to Ocean Beach. The song “Little boxes,” (the theme song for the TV show Weeds) by Malvina Reynolds makes reference to the Sunset and to similar homes in Daly City:
“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”
The Outer Sunset/Parkside. Homes here are stacked up against each other and have become more popular (and expensive) as folks who are priced out of other parts of the City come here. The area has become nicer as climate change has increased the number of warm and sunny days here. Known for good schools, Ocean Beach and the N-Judah and L-Taraval MUNI lines, the area can be foggy and can be monotonous especially on treeless streets. Odd-numbered houses on numbered avenues have a chance for an ocean view and homes on numbered avenues up the 1900 block are worth more as they’re located closer to the MUNI lines and Golden Gate Park. The typical configuration is 2-3 bedrooms up with 1 bathroom, garage and additional space behind with homes in the Parkside part of the Outer Sunset being smaller and more budget friendly. Watch for pest reports (it’s more damp here), Federal Pacific electrical service boxes, old gravity heaters and single-pane windows, average living area: 1000-1500 sqft.
The People: Long-time residents/original owners, the surfer/hippie crowd, the younger family moving on up who may or may not have kids, the owners who want to do their houses up themselves, those interested in better schools, folks seeking condo alternatives
The Central Sunset.These homes range from 17th Avenue to Sunset Boulevard approximately. The houses here are the standard 2-bed, 1-bath variety but there are upgraded blocks with bigger footprints. Larger homes usually have 3+ bedrooms and 1+ bathrooms with more ornamentation and Med-French chateau embellishments (see parts of 25th, 33rd and 35th Avenues between Judah and Lawton for example) or are of the Edwardian Arts + Crafts style. The bigger houses will have 1500-2000+ sqft. There are some surprising views of the Golden Gate from some homes and there are many that sit on a deeper and longer parcel depending on the block. There’s a fair chance these homes have been remodeled at one point (usually nicely too) and when it’s foggy there will be about 30 minutes less fog a day than there would be at the beach.
The People: (Fewer) original owners, mid-career professionals with kids, the professionals who work on the Peninsula, the multigenerational family, folks with the in-law renter who use the rent to offset taxes or otherwise, renters of all types.
The Inner Sunset 1 (Closer to Lincoln and 19th Avenue). This is where you’ll see rows of Victorian/Edwardian houses across the street from some mid-century monstrosity that’s filled with renters who are young professionals with roommates, UCSF students (UCSF being one of the best medical and nursing schools); physicians and scientists doing fellowship or research work). There’s always people walking around and parking can be tough. There’s a big Asian influence in the area as well. Activity and local businesses are focused around 19th Avenue, 9th Avenue and Irving and Judah Streets. Major thoroughfares are Lincoln, 7th Avenue, 9th Avenue, Irving and Judah.
The Inner Sunset 2 (Closer to UCSF and 5th Avenue). If you’re not looking at an income building or condo, you’re looking at big Arts & Craft houses along 3rd through 6th Avenues, cute houses or condos on Hugo Street, which all have seen big price gains in the past few years. There is a clutch of big houses up on 8th and 9th Avenues and into Golden Gate Heights and the Windsor Heights area that feel like a bit of Tahoe in SF. These homes can be big with character and period details, woodwork and a rich, big feel. While there have been ones that have been redone, they’re not the over-the-top/builder-boring whitewash of all the character that makes these houses so distinct.
Golden Gate Heights. The streets here are perched above the rest of the Sunset and Parkside and nestled next to Forest Knolls and don’t have too much to look at. Most of the houses look typical of the area with some notable exceptions. On a cloudy day these curvy crowded streets with few trees make the area look a little barren. But go inside to many of these homes and look out the windows and you’ll see why this area draws many folks — stunning views of the ocean and the entire neighborhood for many and views towards the Golden Gate and the north. The sunsets are stunning and the views are sweeping. This will place a premium on homes with big, big windows and (heated) outdoor spaces and decks.
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