Hayes Valley Playground
Fell to Grove; Van Ness to Fillmore
Last summer, David Baker’s snappy zinc and lime green Richardson Apartments at Fulton and Gough ushered in a new era of architecture in Hayes Valley. Art has long been part of the neighborhood’s persona, but now it’s scaling new heights. Even playgrounds are looking slick, like WRNS Studio’s vibrant blue-paneled Hayes Valley Playground (Hayes and Buchanan sts.), complete with living roof. And this spring, revered architect Stanley Saitowitz’s latest residential project, 8 Octavia (it looks like a glowing iceberg with fins), will break ground on the corner of Page Street. “People here aren’t just accepting of avant-garde architecture—they’re pushing for it,” says 8 Octavia developer Mark MacDonald.
As if all this weren’t high-minded enough, SFJazz is unveiling a new concert hall this month at Franklin and Fell, its syncopated facade the work of rising star Mark Cavagnero. “People are moving [to Hayes Valley] to have one foot in the major cultural world like the symphony and opera, but still be able to engage in the youthful energy,” Cavagnero says. Wander out to Arlequin Wine Merchant’s (372 Hayes St.) back garden patio on any given fall afternoon and you might spot ballerinas and tenors sipping prosecco after practice.
Shopping in Hayes Valley is packed with high-covet-level boutiques such as Acrimony (333 Hayes St.), Steven Alan (445 Hayes St.), and Gimme Shoes (416 Hayes St.). And while the restaurant scene used to be sparse, today it’s a feast. At Douglas Burnham’s Proxy (432 Octavia St.)—a flock of reconfigured shipping containers—choose from Ritual Coffee Roasters, Smitten Ice Cream, and Suppenküche’s Biergarten. Or dip into fritto misto at the Boxing Room (399 Grove St.) or grilled guinea hen with lichen at Rich Table (199 Gough St.). The temptations here are great.
Affordability: C- (Rent for a twobedroom condo, $4,300; cost of a two-bedroom: $820,000)
Walkability to amenities: A (It’s flat, and most things worth walking to are within a short radius)
Public transportation: A (16X, 21, 47, 49 Muni lines; Muni Metro at Van Ness and Church; Civic Center BART station—you can pretty much get anywhere in the city in 20 minutes)
Weather: B (Summer forecast: 66 degrees, partly cloudy)
Safety: C+ (Generally safe, but burglaries are more common here than in other neighborhoods, and the surrounding neighborhoods have higher crime rates)
The bummer: Expect to be home before 11 p.m.—most nightlife shuts down early
Read More: The Bay Area's top 10 neighborhoods
Ocean Beach: For a reminder that this is a beach town
Polk Gulch: For bustling nightlife (just don't call it the next Valencia)
Richmond Annex: For the no-strings-attached white picket fence
NoPa: Because it's the Mission 10 years ago
Uptown Oakland: For a nonstop art orgy
North Beach East: For Little Italy charm without the tourist kitsch
Mission Creek: Because it's the new locavore mecca
Dogpatch: Because it's an urban laboratory
Burlingame Terrace: Because maybe Pleasantville isn't lame after all
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of San Francisco.