Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: The Richmond is SF’s Most Deceptively Historic Neighborhood

Housing is not just housing; housing is history. And in San Francisco, the Richmond District packs more history per city block than almost any other neighborhood.

Historians often have an eastern neighborhoods bias when it comes to SF. After all, those are the oldest neighborhoods, and the most densely built.

But when it comes to housing history specifically, the Richmond District boasts a much deeper treasure trove than people might realize.

According to the US Census, in 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available–they’re still rolling out 2020 figures), SF’s District 1, which covers the Inner and Outer Richmond, as well as related nearby neighborhoods like Sea Cliff and Presidio Heights, packed more than 26,000 homes.

Of those, more than 14,600 were built before 1939; pre-1939 homes are the oldest category the census tabulates data for, by the way.

Why ’39? Well, the practical reason is just because prior to that there were no national housing surveys. But on top of that, a lot of US housing construction happened during the post-Depression and post-World War II boom periods; pre-war houses, therefore, are actually a deceptively rare commodity.

SF as a whole sports more historic homes than almost any other city. In 2010 (the last full census we have data for–again, the 2020 figures have not all been released yet), SF was one of just 23 cities with more than half of their homes built before ’39.

For all of San Francisco to crack the 51 percent margin on this telling metric is pretty impressive already. But in the Richmond and nearby neighborhoods, the ratio is more than 54 percent. (Believe it or not, fewer than 250 homes in the district were built in the last ten years.)

If homes had memories, the Richmond would remember more SF living than almost anywhere else.

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