San Francisco’s “coolest” neighborhood: La Mission…hands down!

If you want to be flat out, straight, f**king cool, then live in (or at least go to) the Mission. We have been in every nook and cranny of this city and checked out just about every type of property you can imagine, seen every type of living quarters, seen just about every type of person and their living environments, and experienced all the areas this city can throw out. The Mission district in San Francisco is by far the absolute downright coolest, most hip, happening place in the city, and a recent trip around the Mission reminded us just how cool it is. Forget Union St. forget Fillmore or Hayes Valley, forget Union Square, forget the Embarcadero, (which are all really cool) forget it all….the Mission is the sh*t. It just has that vibe.


Not sure where it is? Walk outside your door, ask the first person you see, “How do I get to the Mission District,” make your way there, and experience everything else along the way. If you still can’t find it, use this map and look for where district 9c (Inner Mission) meets 5m (Mission Dolores), and you’ll be close.

Since this is a San Francisco real estate blog you’re probably wondering what the market is like there, so here are the comps for the past year. Enjoy and go check it out.

[Update: Since we’re getting a fair bit of link traffic coming in for this post, you should all know we’ve had a few Battle Royales in the past and this one is quickly becoming one itself, so we’ve tagged it to go along with the others.]

49 thoughts on “San Francisco’s “coolest” neighborhood: La Mission…hands down!

  1. Oh Alex. You warm my heart with your positive review of the mission. I live in the mission and love the mission. In my opinion, the mission is the closest you get to urban living in this city.

    The mission is on the front lines of art and creativity. The mission is also on the front lines of gentrification, city planning (ala: eastern neighborhood plan), and real estate landlord/tenant law.

    The mission is also on the front lines of fighting crime and building community. There is definitely some boot-strapping happening, with people starting neighborhood safety groups, and neighborhood coalitions growing in numbers and influence to ensure that political agendas, are aligned with the needs of the community.

    The mission is a wonderful place to live and in my opinion, it has not yet met its potential, but is on its way….

  2. fruitvale is a very similar neighborhood as the mission. in fact, it reminds me of what the mission district probably was about 20 years ago. not to distract folks from this post, but our girl farrah did a pretty solid comparison of the two neighborhoods last december if anybody wants to do a little compare and contrast:

    Hood Wars Part I: Fruitvale vs. The Mission

  3. The Mission is a really, really fun neighborhood. But living there, as opposed to hanging out in the bars/restaurants/clubs/galleries, can wear on you a bit. To wit: There’s a good chance that those are pools of urine under the f**king cool mural.

  4. I am suprised to hear that the front steps thinks the mission is the coolest neighborhood…and a little disappointed. The mission hasn’t been that cool since the Kilowatt played live music. I don’t think it makes the top 5.

  5. Sparky,

    I gotta disagree with you on that. I’ve been around all the ‘hoods and think there are some seriously cool ones (Hayes Valley, Haight, and I even think Union is kinda cool), but there is just something about the Mission that is just flat out cool. Something you can’t put your finger on. It just has that vibe.

    Surfergirl, you’re right. It could very well be urine and living there is likely different than just “visiting” (my wife is an ER nurse at the General, she knows where a lot of the gun shot wounds originate), but same deal, the place is just plain cool.

    So Sparky, what’s your top 5?

    My top 5

    1. Mission

    2. Hayes Valley

    3. Haight

    4. North Beach

    5. SOMA

    This could change at any minute, so don’t nail me to the cross if it does, but recently I’ve felt the Mission is the sh*t!


  6. Not sure about the order of this but I like all of these more than the mission.

    1. inner sunset/Clement

    2. China Town

    2. North beach

    3. West Portal

    4. Upper Haight/Cole Valley

    5. SOMA

    5. Lower Haight

    6. Hayes Valley

    7. Central Richmond/Sea Cliff

    Also, full disclosure I lived in the mission for 5 years and I may just be jaded now. Oh yeah, and I went to the mission for a burrito today.

  7. Sparky,

    Good choices. Inner Sunset is definitely cool. Clement…also pretty cool, but it really only has a couple good restaurants. China Town, cool, but soooo not my thing. West Portal, not so much (IMO). I live in the Central Richmond and I’d have to say no. Geary has decent restaurants, but the vibe is downright gloomy. It’s picking up though, and is a quick trip to the beach. That’s for sure. Sea Cliff, swanky and sweet and very cool.

    Those all in my humble opinion.

  8. NOPA=Safer Mission (to me at least).

    If the influx of “hipsters” is any sign, NOPA is likely the next big thing. Time will tell.

  9. I am not a NOPA fan. I lived there for a year. My wife lived there for 10. Not my thing. Mission over this.

    I was thinking of the Mid 20’s/Sea Cliff part of the Richmond as a unit, and I love it. 2 great Morrocan restaurants, and a TIKI bar! Lived here as well…

    I live in West Portal now. Great restaurants, bars, bookstore, musice store, movie theater, MUNI goes underground, Stern Grove, dog park. Not everyones cup of tea, but it’s mine so whatever.

    Also, I’m a suck for duck in the window and Green Apple books so I meant that to be Inner Richmond/Clement.

  10. Sparky you don’t sound like you are very sparky in real life (i.e. young). This might shed some light on your likes and dislikes for certain areas of SF…No disrespect intended.

  11. My lists starts with bars and restaurants, books don’t make me old, and then music stores. What’s old about that.

    MIssion: Loved the kilowatt when it played live music. Drove 120 back from Tahoe to see the last one, Pavement. It’s both still rough and too yuppy. Also, Bruno’s used to be way better.

    NOPA: had all my tools stolen last year, fought with the bouncers at the bar, my corner store owner was shot and killed.

    Anyway, Craig, I could continue to go on but I think the answer you want is 35.

  12. Sparky my main man, when did you get so old? hahahhahahahah.

    I spent most of my 20s in the Mission and I love/hate it still. Mostly love. Between 20th and 24th, Mission and Guerrerro, that’s my ‘hood. You buy your meat at the butcher (Lucky Pork and others) , your produce from the grocer, your fish from Sun Fat. If you can’t have fun on 22nd street you don’t like booze. It is unnecessary to have a car unless work requires.

    But, like someone just succinctly put it in a conversation, the Mission has retained its seediness while losing some charm. I worry about it somewhat. There remains some element of danger and folks are pretty blithe about it. There were gunshots a week ago right at 20th and Valencia. I see women jogging at night with ipod headphones in, all the time. They shouldn’t. This isn’t a “girls wear headphones while jogging at night” kind of neighborhood.

    In fact, I hate Mission joggers altogether. You want to talk about something that’s out of place. It is jogging in the Mission. Sorry. Take that shit to Marina Green. hahaha. Just kidding. Sort of.

  13. Yohan,

    There is no more urban way of life on the West Coast than what the Mission has to offer. If your model for urban lifestyle is NYC, well, then, that’s it’s own thing too. But “the closest you can get to urban living” ? I don’t mean to pick apart your language or be combative or anything. I just wonder what your standard for comparison is. ‘Cause it’s pretty doggone urban.

  14. Fluj – You are right. The Mission IS urban living – the good and the bad and everything in between… :)

  15. sounds like there is an age and income gap

    I think the mission is great and I would definitely rent there if i were under 30 and single. Same with hayes valley, nopa, haight.

    however, I would prefer to own a house, which appealed to the widest demographic of people with lots of money – not generally hipsters with no kids. I would rather sell to yuppies, but hang out with hipsters.

    So i would rather own a place in russian hill, marina, pac heights, eureka valley, and maybe even noe valley. I would probably rather live in these areas if I was renting and over 30.

  16. Marina, Eureka Valley, Noe Valley. No, No, No.

    I lived in NOPA under 30 and didn’t like it, so I don’t think it’s all about age and income.

  17. Hip is not cool. Hip is following the fads. Cool is old school.

    Chinatown is still cool. Have a drink at Li Po, and go downstairs where they still secretly book death metal bands. Then you can walk up the stairs and stumble into Buddha bar on Washington/Grant. Have a sake bomb. Now that you are hungry and need something in your stomach, walk up Washington and crash into Sam Wo’s — they open til 3am. Get the BBQ pork rolls and some preserved egg porridge. There is a total underground following for Sam Wo. Just google it. Chinatown is very different when the tourists are gone late at night. It makes me feel like I am backpacking in South East Asia when I go there to these haunts.

    Inner sunset is starting to grow on me now that I live there. What I like about it is that it’s very unassuming and easy going. Feels like a little village. The Beanery at the corner of 7th and Irving is a lot of fun and a good people watching spot. I had many 2-3 degrees of separation experiences there just from talking to the people that frequent there. The shoe repair shop is the best in the City. I have never met anybody who is so passionate about shoes, and can tell you everything about it. PJ’s now gone and I really hope somebody open a traditional tapas place like Esperpento. Sure the place is changing, but it’s changing very slowly. With the new stem cell research center rising up on Parnassus, I think Inner Sunset is one of the neighborhoods to watch…

    The Mission? Well, The west side (West of Mission) was cool pre dot-com, when Picaro was a cafe and Kilowatt would not remove that pooltable from the middle of the room when live bands were playing. After 1998/2000, it just turned into a new media hipster hang out. With sensational articles in NYTimes about Ritual Roaster as a web 2.0 epic center and all that, it’s not cool anymore. It’s just hip.

    The east side is still cool. Treat bar still has the stuffed moose heads and BBQs on sundays on the side walk. Doesn’t seem to have changed much. God forbid somebody turns that place into a “lounge” like what they did with that Monkey place on Bryant by 20th or so (owned by the cafe abir people? who turned the old Abir grungy cool into some new sushi/wineshop hip next door — ah well. Have to sell things that can make high margins)

  18. i made a distinction between owning and living, which may not be the purpose of this discussion.

    However, i will emphasize I would rather own a place in the marina, cow hollow, eureka valley, or noe and eventually sell to a jackass hedge fund trader than own in the mission and sell to a cool artist.

    I didnt say age and income were the only reason, but a “cool” 45 year old guy with money isnt generally going to want to but a $3mm in the mission or NOPA.

    I would probably rather hang out with Sparky but sell to Biff.

  19. I probably shouldn’t have said No, No, NO, about those neighborhoods in my last post so bluntly, but it’s true the marina and Noe are not cool. They are valuable, like joemama was describing, and good places to currently own a home, but they’re not cool. Noe more so than the marina, which has some things I enjoy.

  20. joemama, your statement “I would rather sell to yuppies, but hang out with hipsters” is my sentiment, but interpreted differently from yours.

    i used to live (and liked) noe valley in the mid 90’s, but really started hating the yuppification and “preciousness” of the hood. so, i had the distinct pleasure of selling my condo (purchased as tic for $160k mind you in ’94) in the peak of the market in 05. it was fun having numerous scared-shitless yuppies overbidding on it…it sold for slightly over 700k.

    meantime i had a proprty in the mish that went thru a serious renovation/change of use, and i absolutly love the hood. it’s always interesting walking around. i tend to like the eastern part of 24th street, and have seen the white people factor (a gentrification baramoter) grow on a regular basis. with the new fitness gym and a sushi restaurant coming in, you get my point.

    the mish is definitely changing, but it has such a thick ballast of culture, alternative lifestyles, ethnic variety, that the changes are a good thing w/o killing the hood’s intrinsic character, IMO. and it’s absolutly attracting a wealthier clientel that wants to live here. i just rented a very nice 3br unit near precita park to a young doctor making $400k salary. his need to save $$ for his practice, etc. is my gain…another mission landlord going chaa-ching!!

  21. talk about gentrification of the mission.

    My first drive at night was in 2002. driving home a long time resident. And she had to write down the streets I should use, and the ones I shouldnt use.

    Now 2008. There are not a lot of streets that I would worry about, if any. Sure, I wouldnt just walk there at 2am holding high a $100 note begging to be robbed. But the area is definitly a place for RE investment. And the curbside greening projects help a LOT. Like 23rd/bryant before and after.

    Did anybody mentioned BART? gas price going up will keep mission RE prices going up.

  22. yo aminsf

    ” it was fun having numerous scared-shitless yuppies overbidding on it”


    “scared-shitless yuppies”

    you sound like a nice person….not

  23. There are a few streets to avoid in the Mission. Twenty-sixth street is one. Florida between 18th and 21st is another.

  24. If I knew how to be ahead of the “cool” curve, I would have bought in the next SoHo or Tribeca (to use a NYC analogy) of SF. But being a first time buyer and given the entry price in the market, we were risk averse on being too much ahead of the market.

    The cost of housing, even in marginal areas, is still sky high. We looked in “cool” areas like mission and dogpatch and SFH were still expensive in areas where I would assume you would get a substantial discount (30% or greater).

    This is why we ended up wanting to buy in areas with close access to cool areas, but away from the grittiness. We just did not have the confidence to buy in those areas, and it seemed like the asking prices were already assuming they was yuppified.

  25. fluj, what’s wrong with 26th?

    This is a major way that we use several time a day (and at night). And it’s one of the streets I feel the safest on in the whole mission (driving, or most importantly walking).

    It’s good all the way from sanchez to alabama.

  26. we ended up in outer noe, near bernal heights and outer mission – we are close to mitchell’s ice cream and the front porch restaurant.

    I guess they call it Pierre Valley, although I always thought that was a lame name.

  27. why so judgemental paco…i said i didn’t like the yuppification of noe, therefore i probably do not care for the yuppies bidding on my property. that’s how i feel, it has nothing to do with being not nice.

  28. “that’s how i feel, it has nothing to do with being not nice.”

    and everything to do with being hypocritical…

  29. Sophie,

    Huh. A friend of mine was attacked with a bike chain on 26th. Another friend was robbed. I saw a car shoot at another car on South Van Ness between 26th and Cesar Chavez. That street is not safe. Not for walking, and not at night, and particularly for women. Driving? OK. I also drive on it all the time (especially because you can’t take a left on Cesar Chavez between 4 and 6 p.m.)

    But 26th has like four blocks of projects on it. It also has the Bartlett corner. That corner is occupied by guys who are faking or perhaps half interested in being day laborers. Their real job is selling drugs. Drug dealers will occasionally get ambushed by other drug dealers. You don’t want to be around when that happens.

    I’m not making this up. I wish it wasn’t the case. But seriously, I know two women who lived in a great apartment on 26th and Guerrero. They really, really had to watch what they were doing when they went out at night. After a while it got to them. It wasn’t fun having to be so vigilant all the time, and they moved.

    Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t like, say, Alphabet City in NYC in like 1992 or something. But it’s a constant criminal element, for real.

  30. paco- stop being bitter and get a life. you don’t know anything about me to make those silly judgement calls. shees!

  31. aminsf,

    “i used to live (and liked) noe valley in the mid 90’s, but really started hating the yuppification and “preciousness” of the hood. so, i had the distinct pleasure of selling my condo (purchased as tic for $160k mind you in ‘94) in the peak of the market in 05.”

    so you contributed to the problem that you claim to dislike?

    “the mish is definitely changing, but it has such a thick ballast of culture, alternative lifestyles, ethnic variety, that the changes are a good thing w/o killing the hood’s intrinsic character, IMO. and it’s absolutly attracting a wealthier clientel that wants to live here. i just rented a very nice 3br unit near precita park to a young doctor making $400k salary. his need to save $$ for his practice, etc. is my gain…another mission landlord going chaa-ching!!”

    just so full of contradictions. i’m not bitter, just confused.

  32. The Mission has great weather. The kind of weather that people seek when moving to the East Bay or Peninsula. The mission is generally flat – making it easy to walk or ride bikes to Dolores Park or even ride bikes downtown for a baseball game. My spouse bikes to his job in SOMA, as do many on our block.

    There is definitely a creative vibe here which has something to do with the diversity and the density. The newer residents of the Mission are not just 20-something “hipsters”. There are creative, technical and professional people moving here… and some truly original and brilliant people – people that could afford to live anywhere (like this guy who is my neighbor…

    There are also families here. Like other parts of the city, the Mission is benefiting from the renovation of its parks, with Parque Ninos Unidos at 23rd/Treat as its centerpiece. The Mission Park and Playground is scheduled to be renovated next year and the renovation of Franklin Square is scheduled to break ground at the end of this year. Mayor Newsom reopened the new 24th street mini-park in 2007 and will be in attendance this weekend to reopen the Rolph and Potrero Del Sol Parks (Potrero and 26th).

    Additionally, anyone with school age children is closely following the enrollment trends for SFUSD. Interest in SFUSD’s language immersion programs is surging right now, with L. R. Flynn Spanish immersion (Cesar Chavez and Alabama) receiving the largest year-over-year increase in enrollment requests. The Mission offers families access to three Spanish immersion public schools (L.R. Flynn, Marshall and Buena Vista) and the environment of living in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood to add to the immersion experience.

    The Mission has a really good vibe right now, and while the seediness or danger referred to on other posts is still here – it seems to be slowly on the decline. Why just yesterday, when calling the cops to report a naked man walking down Shotwell, the dispatcher told me that they had already received many calls and the cops were on their way (Bet this doesn‘t happen every day in central Richmond huh Alex)? Neighbors are taking on more responsibility for their community and are, in my opinion, less tolerant of illegal activity.

    Treat is one street that is particularly going through some change…. I posted about a few properties on the market on my blog here….

    Revolution Café and The Coffee Shop – Check these out if you haven’t already.

    It is exciting living in such a lively and changing neighborhood. It can be frustrating and challenging at times too. In the end, by living here we feel like we are like we are really living in the moment and participating in the urban experience.

  33. urban dweller- excellent post, and my sentiments exactly. it easy to tell who lives and comsequently understands the naunces of the mish, as opposed to those who simply stereotype it as dangerous or laden with hipsters.

    the whole point of my OP was that i could have continued lived in sterile valley…whoops…noe valley, but specifically chose not to. the mission is welcoming to people like me, seemingly so full of contradictions :-)


  34. AMinSF,

    Hope I’m not part of your list of people who are stereotyping the mission and not understanding the nuances. I started this off by saying I didn’t think the mission was that great, but I also said I lived there for 5 years. None the less, I don’t think it’s that cool, for all the reasons others have stated here and more.

    But, your comparing it to noe valley, so I agree with you there the mission over noe valley for sure.

  35. sparky- no, i respected your comments, and ultimately, to each his own. selecting a hood is a very personal thing, heavily interlaced with one’s personal psychological makeup. i’m sure i’ll probably start hating on the mission in 10 years or so, given the ever growing soccer-mom factor…partly why i’m not too worried about the sporadic violence, which somewhat keeps the yuppie factor in check. come to think of it, the notion of SF becoming a place only for the very rich and very poor, i.e. bye-bye boring upper-middle class american families, as far as i’m concerned: bring it on!

  36. I just popped into an open house apartment for rent on 24th and Valencia, right above Papa Lote. Holy cow. $1550 for a 1 br in the thick of things, with no parking? And it was thronged with people. If that’s wha a renter’s market is supposed to look like I will be a monkey’s uncle.

  37. You YUPPIES need to get out of the Mission! Wishing it was like it was before in the mission district~!!

    Get your own culture………

  38. Potrero Hill is SF’s best neighborhood TO LIVE IN for these reasons:

    1) VIEWS – don’t have one? Step outside, you get one every time you head towards any of the other neighborhoods or just to get a cup of Farley’s coffee. Can’t do that? Watch a commercial or movie, it’s likely it includes a scene shot from here.

    2) PARKING – every one of the other neighborhoods has you looking and wishing you could drink and drive while looking.

    3) SUNSHINE – if we don’t have it, neither do you. If we do, you probably don’t.

    4) PROXIMITY – 280, 101, 80 and trains and the #10 make getting up and down the peninsula or to the East Bay, or to the beach or along the Embarcadero or FiDi or the ballpark a snap. Bernal, Bayview, Glen Park, Mission, Noe, Castro, Soma – are all neighbors, in fact La Mission is our backyard. Every thing else is really minutes ‘cept for the Golden Gate Bridge or Golden Gate Park which really is meant for a lovely drive anyway.

    5) COMMUNITY – it’s tight and effective and gets more and more inclusive vs. many of the other conformist, hands-off-the-merchandise ‘hoods. This means childless hipsters, muralist breeders, biogeneticists, game designers, street soldiers, old-timers, turistas, baristas and anything with paws come together for the Good Life. And it’s small enough that everyone knows your name, “my friend”.

  39. Wow! Reading the article and the responses have been very helpful to me in my quest to plan a three-day stay in SF. I’m not the kind of person who goes for the ‘tourist traps’ and ‘yuppie spots’. By reading the responses to this article, I have found out how to avoid being ambushed by snobs while trying to enjoy my stay. I like the down-to-earth stuff–the places and activities that the locals actually do and cherish–not what some hot-rod yuppie travel agent would have me do. But thanks to all who have posted on here! Keep an eye out for me… I’ll be in your area in June and I’ll be driving a Ford Taurus station wagon with a really crazy paint job and with a Kentucky plate.

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