Alexander Clark Real Estate

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

A couple of weeks ago we felt daring enough to pose a potentially existential neighborhood question in considering whether the Central Richmond is a real neighborhood or not.

Now we’re feeling even more adventurous, so it’s time to pose the ultimate question: Just where do the Richmond’s borders lie? As we noted previously, even the city itself does not have consistent standards about what a neighborhood is or where we mark out its boundaries.

Except for the Richmond: As we reviewed last year, by official decree since 2009, the Richmond consists of everything north of Golden Gate Park and west of Arguello Boulevard.

Well, that settles that then. Except of course it doesn’t: For one thing, that area includes all of the Presidio. And while the presence of the Presidio is of course critical to Richmond history and character, calling it all part of the Richmond feels nothing short of bizarre.

These boundaries also envelope areas like Sea Cliff, which for practical purposes we sometimes reckon part of the Richmond, but at the same time it’s hard to ignore the fact that it has its own distinct planning history and character–said character in this case mostly being really, really rich.

Nearby Presidio Terrace is a similar story, characterized by its now possibly infamous and oft-litigious O-shaped private street, which almost can’t help but feel separate from the surrounding blocks because, well, it’s a private street. Lake Street too commands its own following and often ends up singled out on neighborhood maps.

And if we were feeling particularly aggressive, we might consider the fate of places like Lone Mountain: It’s been a distinct neighborhood from the Richmond for over a century, but to be honest, ever since they moved the cemeteries it’s always felt a bit lacking in definition. If people who casually drive through just assume they’re in the outskirts of the Richmond, well, maybe they’re right?

Or maybe we’re going about this all wrong: Maybe division doesn’t necessarily mean separation? After all, everyone agrees (at the very least) that there’s an Outer Richmond and an Inner Richmond; but everyone also agrees that there is simply a larger Richmond in general too.

Similarly, we may accept that one neighborhood can have many distinct parts–but still potentially be just one neighborhood.

Of course, all of this arguing over imaginary lines on a map is sometimes fun and diverting, but it’s not really what’s important. What really matters is, when you think about your neighbors, who do you imagine? And how far does that imagining range?

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