Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: Is the Central Richmond a Real Neighborhood?

Not to stir things up around here, but it’s about time someone addresses this head-on.

Historically, the division between Inner Richmond and Outer Richmond along 19th Avenue has remained pretty consistent; reference to an alleged Central Richmond seems only to have popped up in the Internet age, at least in any formal capacity.

Many guides and references to Central Richmond (generally reckoned to fall between 14th and 32nd Ave) are the product of modern realty houses–presumably on account of the fact that the the modern MLS map almost all SF realtors rely on breaks the Richmond down into three major chunks instead of just two.

From a realty perspective this makes sense–the Richmond is a big neighborhood, and sometimes it pays to be a little more specific about exactly where a property lies.

(Photo by Andrew Sorensen)

But outside of the housing game, not everyone bothers to recognize the central neighborhood as a real thing; just a few weeks ago I was talking to a longtime friend who scoffed at the very idea. Real San Franciscans, he maintained, know that there’s Inner and there’s Outer, and that’s all there is to it.

Well, is it?

Casually drawn neighborhood maps of San Francisco often delineate Central Richmond. But this is by no means universal and seems to depend on the whim of the artist.

The Planning Department does not bother to maintain a neighborhood profile for Central, and it does not appear on the department’s Neighborhood Groups Map (although in fairness neither do places like Cow Hollow, which is definitely real). The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services’ map doesn’t include it either, although that hasn’t been updated since 2006.

Google Maps–a notoriously unreliable resource that many people default to anyway–plays both sides: It will mark out Central Richmond if you search for it, but the Google Maps boundaries of Inner and Outer Richmond completely overlap and consume Central on both sides.

The Chronicle recently did an actually quite good exposé about the many conflicting and inconsistent standards and boundaries that the city uses to delineate neighborhoods. But, notably, none of the examples they provided referenced a Central Richmond anywhere.

(A neighborhood map from 1960–completely unrecognizable today.)

In all honesty, it’s easy to see where the conflict lies: From a purely practical point of view, designating a Central Richmond makes sense, because the Richmond is big enough that it can bear a little more specificity on a map.

But in practice, maps don’t define neighborhoods: people do. If Richmond residents consider the Central Richmond distinct enough in its geography and character, then it’s a real thing; if they don’t, no institution in the world is persuasive enough to convince them otherwise. (That’s why “Park Presidio” never caught on.)

So then: What do you say? Are there really three–or just two, forever after?

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3 replies »

  1. This central Richmond issue is very interesting to me. Growing up in what some refer to as central Richmond (my home was on 18th Ave between Cabrillo and Balboa) we often referred to the inner Richmond and outer Richmond as it is apparently referred to today. But, my family and neighborhood friends always drew a distinction as to where we lived altho we didn’t give it a name. We just knew we didn’t live in either inner or outer Richmond as the terms were used.

    Nothing earth shaking here. Just reminded me of how we just knew where we didn’t live as opposed to where we did live.

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  2. Yes, Central Richmond is a real thing. In my paper piles, I have an undated map I clipped from the newspaper decades ago. Central Richmond is labeled with code “1a” which corresponds to Code 1A / Neighborhood Central Richmond / District 1 at the DataSF pages on the sfgov website regarding Assessor-Recorder Neighborhood Codes.

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