Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, North Waterfront, Tenderloin, Downtown, Financial District, Van Ness, Civic Center, Barbary Coast
This is one of the most varied of neighborhoods in the City. From the ultra posh Russian Hill or Telegraph Hill to the grit of the Tenderloin. Various building and planning department restrictions constrain how much these neighborhoods can ever change. From historic preservation regulations in the Hills — Nob, Telegraph and Russian — to the anti-condo development laws regulating SRO buildings in the Tenderloin you get hardcore entrenched San Francisco-ness in District 8.
Telegraph Hill is iconic, postcard San Francisco focused around Coit Tower. In between cable cars tourists, windy and narrow streets, you’ll get a mix of stucco-clad, bay-window buildings filled with luxury condominiums, apartments the occasional TIC unit along with stately homes of famous people. You’ll have stunning renovations mixed in with dilapidated buildings on the major streets and a propensity to have little alleys and dead-end streets. There are lots of multi-unit rental buildings with just-minted MBA finance types, to buildings that house very long-term (i.e., protected) tenants in various states of disrepair. While garage parking is the norm here so is a shortage of parking. Rents are high because these are the neighborhoods moviemakers focus on.
Russian Hill is also iconic San Francisco. The homes here are a little more spread out and there are some of the City’s early high-rise buildings located in the neighborhood (several of the City’s 13 co-op buildings are in Russian Hill). The streets can be steep, narrow and windy — the crooked part of Lombard Street is located in Russian Hill. While condominiums and co-ops are the norm here so are opulent single-family houses. Like the other hills you’re getting panoramic views, prestige and location (if you need to be close to the FiDi of course).
The Tenderloin/Van Ness Like the meat cuts of the same name, this neighborhood is indeed tougher and rougher. Euphemistically known as Lower Pacific Heights or Lower Nob Hill (sometimes the Tendernob) the area is permanently gritty and shadier. Why? Big building shadows, soot from area traffic because there’s a high frequency of heavily traveled one-way streets going east-to-west and north-to-south here (e.g., Larkin, Geary, Van Ness, Ellis, Eddy, Taylor, Bush, Post, Sutter). The area has long been associated with the seedier elements of society. Any mention of the area must also note the large homeless population too. It’s tough. That said, there is real estate here too. There are newer build condominium buildings here (see Civic Center) along with old-school buildings like the Belgravia scattered throughout the area that surprise as well as puzzle in this most urban of areas.
Civic Center is a very modern model urban forest. Being anchored by Van Ness Ave. the soundtrack here is of car horns, revving engines and reverse beeps. Most homes here will be a condo or stock co-operative (co-op) with views of, well, other tall condo buildings. Many condos will have a decidedly pre-war feel but yet many others are of newer construction with varying degrees of views. Most will have at least a secure entry lobby with some having security guards. Parking, if you can find it, will be underground. The area itself is full of cars, artists (the symphony, opera and ballet are here), lawyers (state and federal courts are located here along with SF’s city government), tourists and homeless people. You may get swept away by the odd wind vortex that’s created by Van Ness near Grove Street. If being close to mass transit, the arts and a certain grittiness is your cup of tea, then this urban jungle of neighborhoods will be just right. Sutter’s new Cathedral Hill hospital along with a few other adventurous car dealerships are leading a Van Ness corridor revival. Notable buildings in the area: One Daniel Burnham Court (senior-focused units and circa 1980s feel condos), the Artani (2008 vintage modern LEED-certified condos),the Marquis (industrial timber and brick lofts circa 2002), Opera Plaza (1970s brutalist architecture condos gone a wry) and Blanc SF (circa 2014 new-build condos designed, in part, by Stanley Saitowitz) and new build ones like the Rockwell coming online soon.
Union Square. This is the most New York-like living you can have in the City that’s located in an area where you can hear honking and hail a cab. If you can find housing as the area is known for its tourists, shopping, holiday ice rink and proximity to the Tenderloin. Spaces for sale can be hidden gems, but you’re far more likely to find commercial properties here. There are a few named condominium buildings here (e.g., the Odeon, the Royal) that have units with views (usually of other buildings or a busy street) and parking is at a premium.