SF District 1
District 1 sits on the northwest portion of the City, below the Presidio, south of the Golden Gate Bridge, east of the Cliff House, and north of Golden Gate Park. The area is mostly dominated by the Richmond District, but is also anchored by Sea Cliff, the Lake District and Jordan Park. The District features more houses than condos, which all tend to be on the bigger side. The area is foggier, but is also very scenic in parts as it is bounded by Golden Gate Park, the Ocean and the Presidio, and has more gently sloping hills than other parts of the City.
SF District 2
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 a 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 reputation has started to shift thanks to global climate change. While many people were busy looking for property in the eastern half of the City, those who realized that this neighborhood’s foggy disposition is turning sunnier have been buying here and driven prices up by 50-100%, in some cases, over the past few years. This area is relatively flat, but once you pass Sunset Boulevard there is a gentle slope towards Ocean Beach and the homes with street addresses in the 1200-1500 range will have a better view of Golden Gate Park. There are excellent schools throughout the neighborhood.
SF District 4
Located in the middle of the City, this area surrounds Sutro Tower and the backside of Twin Peaks, which means you’ll have hilly and curvy streets that can be narrow in parts. The hilly topography can also act as a buffer from the city’s chilly, coastal fog.
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 by families with childres as they rank among the best in the City.
SF District 5
This area is quintessential San Francisco 2.0 living, with a mix of trees, parks, cars, tech shuttles, bikes lanes, and old picturesque/historic buildings next to new condo developments. The area is home to hippie, yuppie and techie alike.
District 5 is the second-most traded district in the City and one of just three that saw more than $1B worth of sales in 2015; only District 9 (with SOMA, Bernal Heights and Dogpatch) has more sales. District 5 encompasses Noe, Eureka and Cole Valleys, the Haight and Lower Haight, Mission Dolores, Dolores Heights, Corona Heights, Buena Vista, Ashbury Heights, and more. The area’s proximity to BART lines, 101/280, MUNI lines, views, and parks, along with its warmer weather and mix of demographics, topographical, and architectural assets, combine to make this area very attractive to buyers, renters and tourists.
SF District 6
Thanks to urban renewal efforts over the last decade, Hayes Valley has become vibrant and growing. Now, there are new condo buildings (8 Octavia, 400 Grove, 300 Ivy, the Hayes) mixed in with Victorian flats and the occasional single-family house along the small alleys that dot the area. Many big structures will have both a garage and parking in the rear along those alleys. The boundaries are porous between Civic Center, Alamo Square, and the large swaths of Western Addition housing projects.
Once famous for hippies and the summer of love, The Haight is now filled more with techies and yuppies. It has numerous rental flats in carved up Victorians, some condos, and some large, historic houses (some of which have been renovated).
Two major thoroughfares, Oak and Fell Streets, define the neighborhoods known as The Panhandle & NoPa (North of Panhandle), Alamo Square, and Western Addition. This area is filled with wood-floored, single-pane-window, Edwardian buildings, many of which have been split up into condos with decently tall ceilings, plaster walls, and split bathrooms. The ones that have been restored may be TICs for a while, but renovations of big houses can be stunning, expensive and more traditional: think Restoration Hardware. Parking tends to be tandem or squeezed into low-clearance garages unless steel beams were added.
SF District 7
Located near the gorgeous Presidio forest and butting up against the Marina with vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, Tiburon, Marin and the Marin Headlands, Presidio Heights is filled with detached homes that have been redone and done up. The streets are quiet and the residences are immaculate. The neighborhood houses well-heeled people who are never home, upwardly mobile professionals with younger families and aspiration, established families, financiers, and ambassadors and counsel. It is also home to some of the best hiking trails and best views in San Francisco.
The chic Marina/Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco is made up of spacious houses, art-deco era condos, and a score of buildings that have 2-5 rental units within and garages on the bottom floor. These investment properties are mostly Spanish-style stucco buildings with 1- or 2-bedroom units that have single-pane windows, dated bathrooms (circa 1930 or 1980), and double-parlor layouts with hardwood floors. Upgraded condos will have thicker (and darker) hardwood floors, nicer cabinets with a Bertazzoni (maybe even Viking) gas range, stone countertops, recessed lighting, higher bedroom-to-bathroom ratios, marble-laden bathrooms with plush finishes, plantation shutters, and carpeted bedrooms. The area has countless sidewalk cafes and boutique shops along its two main shopping drags (Chestnut and Union), with Lombard as its big thoroughfare and living here is about the outdoors and nightlife, to an extent. Views, if you get them, are of Alcatraz, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Location, prestige, and charm define Pacific Heights. It is one of the most expensive San Francisco neighborhoods you’ll find, and for good reason—it’s simply gorgeous. This hilltop community is both grand and peaceful, with sweeping, “multi-million-dollar” views and some of San Francisco’s oldest and most regal mansions, which have been gorgeously restored. You’ll find plenty of designer shopping opportunities in Pacific Heights, with boutiques that cater to the upscale crowd. You’ll also find trendy restaurants, cafes, and pop-up establishments here, as well as a few neighborhood bars, theaters, and comedy clubs for a touch of nightlife. The neighborhood is quite walkable, though hilly, and there are several nice parks where families, kids, and dogs are all welcome. It also has some bike lanes, currently, and more paths planned for the future.
SF District 8
This is one of the most varied districts in the City. Its neighborhoods range from the ultra-posh Russian Hill to the gritty Tenderloin, and a mix of building and planning department restrictions have constrained how much these neighborhoods can change. With historic preservation regulations in the Hills (Nob, Telegraph and Russian) and anti-condo development laws regulating SRO buildings in the Tenderloin, you get hardcore entrenched San Francisco-ness in District 8.
SF District 9
The popular Bernal Heights neighborhood is primarily a residential one, but the Cortland Avenue corridor offers a number of excellent restaurants and shops, along with a bookstore, a number of bakeries, and even a fish and butchery shop for the local foodies. More hip shops, restaurants, and trendy cafes are centered around the newly upgraded and renovated Percita Park, near the Cesar Chavez border at the foot of the northern slope. This part of the city generally enjoys warmer temperatures and less marine fog than other parts of the Bay Area, and it is home to a surprising diversity of wildflowers and wildlife. If you are a dog lover, you will want to head to Bernal Hill Park, one of the largest parks in the area, which is known for its off-leash policy.
Potrero Hill (flats) has a mix of trades-related warehouses interspersed with historic, loft-conversion buildings, newer-stock condominium buildings (1001 17th, the Onyx), a very large condo-development building at 17th Street and Kansas (The Potrero), as well as its very own Whole Foods and a large series of buildings along Carolina Street.
Potrero Hill (North Slope) is made up of older Edwardian, two-unit buildings, marina-style houses, and Victorians. For some reason, there is also a good crop of circa 2007 vintage remodels in the area, with colored-glass pendants. This neighborhood is sought after for its single-family homes and split-up Victorians, as many will have both character and views of the City’s skyline. It focuses around 18th Street, which has popular shops, restaurants and the venerable Goat Hill Pizza.
China Basin/Mission Creek became densely populated as the area filled up with large, modern, condo buildings bounded by 280, Mission Creek, CalTrain, and AT&T Park. Dogpatch has also revitalized over the past 10 years, with modern loft condominiums leading the way, accompanied by a T-Line addition on 3rd Street. These neighborhoods are in an area that is flat and has great views of SF’s skyline. Many of the buildings here are high-end rentals with two notable exceptions built in Mission Bay by the mogul Bosa family, called the Radiance and the Madrone (these feature large condos with higher-end, but generic finishes). You’re likely to see a lot of investors here as the City’s comprehensive Rent Ordinance doesn’t apply, so there is no eviction/rent control.
South of Market (SoMa) was the original home to the urban lofts in San Francisco. Starting in the 1990s, the area’s warehouses and vacant lots were filled in by loft condominiums on the area’s small alley side streets. Over time, they’ve grown more elaborate and luxurious, with some stunning examples of brick and timber renovations like those in the Oriental Warehouse (at Delancy & Brannan Streets). Starting in the late 2000s, with the Palms at 4th & Bryant, the area moved solidly into mid- to high-rise luxury developments that are either named or are known by their addresses: 829 Folsom, 200 Delancy, 175 Bluxome, the Portside, Bridgeview, etc.
South Beach is the land of luxurious and ultra luxurious high-rise condos, with amenities and high HOAs. It is also home to mid-rise buildings that house baseball stars and corporate rentals in a streetscape filled with construction cranes, baseball traffic and commuters. The neighborhood boasts views of the Bay Bridge and the East Bay.
SF District 10
The homes in Portola are cute, charming and quiet. They are clustered around the reservoir known as University Mound and the neighborhood streets are named after colleges (Harvard, Yale, etc.). Here, you’ll find multiple generations of residents, including some folks who have lived here all their lives, living in the archetypal, Sunset-style, homes that abut McLaren Park—which itself has just been renovated. The area is quiet and sleepy, but just like other overlooked parts of the City, it is now getting attention from buyers who have been priced out of other neighborhoods.
In Mission Terrace, you will find surprisingly large, remodeled, Spanish-Mediterranean themed homes with manicured lawns, sitting on quiet streets. There are lots of small enclaves or clusters of very cute and well-maintained houses (say, 3 or 4 of them at a time) that vary in quality and character. More fixers are coming to market, but the area is rapidly gaining popularity. Younger families and same-sex couples have moved here (like they have to Glen Park, Sunnyside and Bernal) because of the opportunity to get more value in a neighborhood that has access to 101, 280 and BART.
The homes in Silver Terrace/Excelsior look much like the homes everywhere else in the City—marina-style 2- to 3-bed units with garages mixed in with the occasional Victorian house. The biggest difference is that you’re likely to see more bars on the windows metal gates out front here. You’ll see streets named after world cities and countries (Persia is one of the true, tree-lined boulevards in the City) along with cars parked on sidewalks and houses in need of repair. While there are some single-family homes that have been carved up into unwarranted rental units, there are increasingly more redone homes in the area, with surprising finishes and prices, since developers/flippers are banking on the area being gentrified much like the Mission, Bernal and Sunnyside. Time will tell.