Balboa Terrace, Diamond Heights, Forest Hill+ Knolls + Extension, Ingleside Terrace, Midtown Terrace, St. Francis Wood, Miraloma Park, Sherwood Forest, Monterey Heights, Mount Davidson Manor, Westwood Highlands + Park, Sunnyside, West Portal
Located in the middle of the City, these areas surround Sutro Tower and the backside of Twin Peaks, which means you’ll have hilly and curvy streets that can be narrow in parts.
This area is popular with families and long-term residents who first bought their homes in the 1950s and 1960s. Depending on where a property sits you’ll need to Watch out for drainage issues and/or land movement issues (however rare). Of course, because of the area’s hilly topography, it usually acts as a buffer for the coastal fog we’re apt to get creating a fog shadow that happens to corresponds with the warmer climes of Noe Valley, the Mission and more. Remember that the coastal fog forms when cool moist air from the ocean is drawn in by the heated land mass from the East Bay, which means that the fog is chilly and wind-driven at times!
Depending on where, these neighborhoods were among the last developed in the City because they were more removed from the flatter parts of the land and probably because some hillsides are so steep. Take note: all those trees you see up by Sutro Tower are not natural to the area. Originally, the area was covered by coastal scrub and grasses like you’d see on Mount Davidson. It was Adolf Sutro, of the tower’s namesake and former mayor, who owned 1/10th of San Francisco at the time, who planted the eucalyptus, cypress and pine trees that we see today. Homes here range from having views to none at all. You may have a garage (which depends if you’re on the uphill or downhill side of a street) or you may park on the street — just remember to curb your wheels. Things to be aware of in the area: foundations, water drainage systems, roof conditions and other potential issues arising from the area’s potential dampness and/or forest-like feel. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the public school admission process which isn’t tied to where you live necessarily. You’re like to see kids and families, sport utilities alongside the shut-in who hasn’t kept their house up in years.
The flatter areas off of Portola (Market Street’s name once you go over the hill) like West Portal and St. Francis Wood have larger homes and are in demand because they’re bigger and pricier as a result. Meanwhile, the area’s proximity to I-280 makes it attractive for tech folks and the area’s elementary schools are also sought after as they rank among the best in the City.
West Portal. Described by many as the ‘new’ Noe Valley, no one neighborhood drag is more dominated by the MUNI light rail than West Portal (the 9th and Irving one comes close). West Portal itself is a mix of 1950’s-vibe local and national businesses and angled parking spaces. You’ll encounter restaurants, services and one-off stores like a gold store next to a title company next to the Korean BBQ across the street from the Mexican place that has not an ounce of dust anywhere. It’s one of the rare neighborhoods where you’ll see families of kids and parents out and about ala Norman Rockefeller — i.e., Americana but updated for the 21st Century. The houses here are on windy, curvy streets that bound up to the Inner Parkside, which looks a lot like the Sunset. There’s a mix of big houses of varying styles (stucco-clad tudor/Spanish colonial anyone?). You’ll have clutches of cute, redone houses next to each other, a number of long-time (and neglected) houses ripe for a renovation and detached homes sitting on very large parcels. The vibe is a mix of long-time folks, others like students who are en route to SF State on the M-MUNI line as well as an occasional, very-lost-looking tourist. Proximity to Portola, 280 and MUNI make it popular as to do good schools. Single-family houses will range from the mid $1Ms all the way up towards $2M and beyond.
Westwood Area/Westwood Park, Westwood Highlands, Sherwood Forest. Bounded by an increasingly posh Ocean Avenue to the south (a Whole Foods went in there and City College kept its accreditation) and Monterey to the north (Westwood Park) and northwards towards Mt. Davidson is this collection of bigger and bigger houses on increasingly curvy and narrow streets. The houses here were built in the 1920s-1950s and were of the larger kind of homes that incorporated stucco exteriors, parquet wood floors with big bedrooms, driveways and garages. It seems that this neighborhood represents a bit of Americana in San Francisco. The streets all have ‘wood’ in their names and the lots can either be quite large or have contorted shrunken yards that favor houses with more embellishments than in other parts of the city. Interior spaces have wood details, craft details and the kitch/cute vibe (perhaps ala Southern California?) If you venture here you’re bound to see scores of porta-potties and construction crews who are renovating these houses as the first generation of owners (maybe even the second ones too) are selling out of these homes leaving it to the latest generation of owners to renovate and update. Therefore, you’re likely to see pricing fall into surprisingly low to shockingly high. Why? Well, first you’ll find more owner-users in this area who are willing to pay more money to buy a place to renovate because it’s more than likely that the plan is to buy, remodel and hold houses here for the long haul to raise a family. In other words, a house on the market here may not come back to the market again for 18 years so gather them up while ’ye may. There seems to be a more obvious pride of ownership here than in many other neighborhoods but that may be due to the fact that many homes sit on larger parcels and are detached from each other. Homes here tend to have 3-4 bedrooms with 2-3 bathrooms and the possibility of more than 1 parking space routinely. But the area is more removed which necessitates a greater need for a car.
Midtown Terrace. You live here for space, your kids (more space & good schools) and practicality. This gets you over the feelings of isolation, fog and existential anxiety. Otherwise the houses are zero lot line, late art deco into mid-century style with some renovated, others not. And while the homes that have been redone can be very nice (a larger-than-normal footprint helps) with spectacular views, the homes that haven’t may well suffer from the area’s dampness, moisture-related structural issues and potentially questionable building materials (like asbestos) due to the vintage of the area. One other potential consideration to be aware of is that some of the homes are on stilts and are located on curvy streets that are otherwise steep bluffs, so you are well-advised to investigate a structure’s foundation and soil conditions as some parcels do have land subsidence risks that are typically excluded from most homeowner insurance policies.