Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Case Study 1.0: San Francisco

I have chosen San Francisco as my first case study, because the West Coast still has a strong aura for me, having never personally been there before. On photos, this area of California has to me some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world and an excellent climate. Furthermore, the US not being very densely populated, much of the surrounding countryside, especially northwards, is free of civilization, not something one is likely to find in Europe. San Francisco is the second most densely populated city in the country after New York, another big draw for me. It's a city full of history, a strong urban culture, and a hopeful future thanks to being at the heart of the high-tech industry. It's a city I could see myself living in. 

San Francisco is divided up into dozens of distinct neighborhoods. I won't analyze all of them, that would take a very long time. Many of them, especially out towards the edges of the city, are just like any other suburb in the US, so that immediately disqualifies them for me as being of any interest. The six I have chosen are very urban areas, established for at least 100 years. They're areas many of you will know at least a little about, or seen them in movies or on television. They're the greatest hits of San Francisco, home to the urban elite of the city. They're trendy and wealthy, for the most part, a common theme among the neighborhoods I like the world over because they tend to be most attractive. I'm a perfectionist, and I expect the same from my cities. I enjoy clean, well-kept areas, but beauty is more important to me. Hence, the areas I like tend to be wealthy, historical parts of cities, the more quirky aspects the better. There was plenty of that in my long time home, London, and plenty of it in San Francisco. The city is lucky to have such a hilly disposition, for it greatly enhances the city's neighborhoods, many of which have impressive views downhill and beyond to the water and Golden Gate Bridge. The neighborhoods I will be looking at:

1.1   Marina
1.2   Cow Hollow
1.5   Russian Hill

Be sure to click on each to view the full case study.

Quick summaries of the neighborhoods: 

palace of fine arts 1
flickr : ken mccown
The Marina is the youngest of the neighborhoods here, being founded around 1915 after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Much of the district's area is former landfill from the 1906 earthquake, hence it frequently sustains the most damage after earthquakes due to the soft ground. This explains the relative lack of historical buildings in the neighborhood. Still, it has a pleasant feel and direct access to the waterfront. It retains its place as one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods.

2700 block, Divisadero Street, SF
flickr : Anomalous_A
Desirability goes up as you head uphill from the waterfront, and Cow Hollow is uphill from the Marina. Homes here have great views and a more refined atmosphere. There's a large collection of historical Victorian homes, adding to that typical San Francisco feel. Union Street straddles the southern edge of Cow Hollow, one of the city's best streets for shopping and restaurants. Sometimes the area is bunched in with the Marina or Pacific Heights but most residents see it as distinctly separate. 

Pacific Heights

flickr : SLDdigital
For many, this is the top, quite literally. Pacific Heights sits atop a hill in one of the most scenic areas of the city, with great access to the Presidio park. The neighborhood has some of the city's most expensive homes and is host to a number of consulates, institutions, and private schools. Built up mainly after the 1906 earthquake, architecture runs the gamut from Victorian and mock Ch√Ęteau to modern. There are fewer apartment buildings towards the Presidio end of the neighborhood, but more towards the east.

Presidio Heights, San Francisco
flickr : Pacific Union International
For those in the know, this is the premier San Francisco neighborhood for families, the cream of the crop and envy of all stroller moms. While lacking the impressive city views of Pacific Heights, it is generally quieter and more relaxed, hence more family friendly. Strollers are a common sight among the large, well-maintained homes which have the highest average property value in the city due to the popularity of single family homes.

flickr: John Weiss
This neighborhood is home to the city's most iconic street, the endless zig-zag of Lombard Street. It is popular with young urban professionals and a growing population of Chinese from nearby Chinatown. Boutiques and restaurants are bountiful and there's a diverse nightlife. The neighborhood also has a variety of living options, from condos to single family homes of all sizes and styles. Tourists can often be seen trawling the streets of this popular area.

Telegraph Hill, San Francisco
flickr : b00nj
Marked by Coit Tower on its hilltop, this is mainly a residential neighborhood, though the bustling nightlife of North Beach is just blocks away. Its rough terrain gives Telegraph Hill an eclectic makeup, with homes hanging over steep hills and tucked away down side streets. Recently the area has become known for its flock of parrots, not native but who now call the gardens along the Filbert Steps home. 

There we have it, the six San Francisco neighborhoods that form my case study. Besides giving a detailed view of the areas and analyzing urban aspects, I will feature local real estate and historical photos.