Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: Where Does the Richmond End?

When studying housing in the Richmond, at some point you have to confront the question: Where does the Richmond start and stop, really?

Most neighborhoods are defined in terms that are open to debate: aesthetics, unofficial boundaries and landmarks, custom, and in many cases just private opinion.

But not so for the Richmond: Here, we have the unique advantage that City Hall twice passed legislation defining the name and boundaries of the neighborhood (see our previous column for more on that): City ordinance 90099, passed in March of 2009, “establishes the name of the area north of Golden Gate Park and west of Arguello Boulevard as the Richmond District.”

That seems pretty straightforward–but of course in practice, it all needs must be more complicated than that. For one thing, the wording of the law technically also envelops the Presidio, but few people treat that as part of the neighborhood, except perhaps on its southernmost boundaries.

Is Sea Cliff part of the Richmond? The ordinance indicates that it is, and you could make an argument for it in practice, but most people seem to regard that very fancy corner of the city as a neighborhood unto itself. The same goes for Presidio Terrace, which falls into the legal boundaries of the Richmond but does not (and here we’re going to use a highly technical term) FEEL like the Richmond.

(Photo by Wng)

Lake Street, on the other hand, usually qualifies as a neighborhood within a neighborhood–distinct in both history and identity, but still part of the Richmond whole, sort of the same way states are all part of the US.

“West of Arguello” also leaves out a lot of places, including all of Euclid Avenue, Rossi Park, and the University of San Francisco.

Some locals will respond of course, because those are actually part of Jordan Park and Lone Mountain. But those are such small neighborhoods that many people pass right through them without realizing it and just assume they’re in the Richmond the whole time.

For the record, Google Maps lumps Lone Mountain, into the Richmond proper, that neighborhood having lost most of its identity when they moved the cemetery–and while Google Maps will never be the final arbiter of anything, it’s hard to completely ignore it either.

The phrasing of the law is intentionally archaic, because it was based on an order from over a century earlier that defined the neighborhood as “the area north of Golden Gate Park and west of First Avenue.” But neighborhoods are fluid, and things change in the course of a century–case in point, we haven’t had a First Avenue in over 100 years either.

In practice, the final arbiter for such disputes are residents themselves: If a neighbor says they live in the Richmond, most accept their own determination. Although that is not to say that there’s not room to argue.

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3 replies »

  1. To me the Richmond district starts at Masonic and Geary north of Lone Mountain, South of Lone Mountain to the panhandle is a different thing — NOPA — and the Haight ain’t what it used to be. I’m still pissed out what they did to the Red Vic Theater — posh eateries and a pretend theater WTF.

    The invasion and gentrification has changed the neighborhoods, but not much out her in the Richmond district. There are a lot more locals and native San Franciscans than in other parts of the city. I realize that’s anecdotal, but that’s my experience over the last 24 years that I’ve been out her in the Richmond district.


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