Recently, I learned I’m cool. Wait. Let me walk that back.
Time Out magazine rated my San Francisco neighborhood—the Richmond District—one of the 40 coolest in the world. #27 to boot!
Carolyn and I have lived in the Richmond for 50 years. The neighborhood—homes and two-flats abutting each other, small apartment buildings, mostly on corners—wasn’t always considered cool. Pleasant? Sure. Stolid? Okay. Foggy and windy? Our summers are chilly, often cold. That doesn’t equal cool.
Still, the Richmond has many charms. Occupying the northwest corner of San Francisco, it runs west from Arguello Boulevard (once First Avenue) to the Pacific. Often called the Avenues—48th (north-south) nears Ocean Beach—the neighborhood was mostly developed in the 20th century. On sand dunes. In the 19th century, our patch of sand and fog was deemed uninhabitable. But San Francisco grew, and the Richmond emerged. It was unofficially named by an Australian immigrant art dealer after a suburb of Melbourne.
What gives us “status”? Start with location. The Presidio National Park constitutes our northern border. I can walk to the Golden Gate Bridge. Lobos Valley, steps from my home, runs west to Baker Beach. Two blocks northeast is Mountain Lake Park with its—yes—lake.
Golden Gate Park forms our southern border. Carolyn and I stroll to the Rose Garden, the De Young Museum of Art, the Academy of Sciences and other attractions. Heading west, we make the uphill climb to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, my favorite art museum. We enjoy spectacular views of the Golden Gate and Marin Headlands. I often ate lunch at the Cliff House overlooking the ocean then hiked home along the Coastal Trail with those great views from atop rocky cliffs. Cliff House went under during the pandemic. New owners plan to relaunch it.
Tree-lined Lake Street—a Halloween destination—takes me to the adjacent, and wealthy, Sea Cliff neighborhood. The home Robin Williams and his wife Marsha bought back in the early 90s is up for sale. Asking price: $25 million.
Still, the Richmond is down to earth. Residents range from working class to upper-middle. You’ll hear Mandarin and Cantonese, Spanish, Russian and other languages.
We have great shopping streets: Clement, Geary and Balboa. Anza, a bit. The Richmond once hosted many single-screen theaters. The 4-Star and Balboa survive, offering classic movies and live entertainment. Readers flock to Green Apple Books.
Food? International: dim sum, pho, Thai pumpkin soup, sushi, burritos, chicken masala, falafel, veal piccata, pizza, pelmeni and more. Lokma Turkish restaurant is a destination. California-style? Eats again reinvented itself. Heritage updated the Clement Street Bar & Grill. Bill’s Place still serves up great burgers. Arsicault Bakery hosts long lines for croissants. Cafés? Loads. Plus Asian and Russian markets, and Clement Street’s Sunday farmers market. Plus neighborhood services galore.
Not to mention the Lincoln Park and Presidio golf courses, playgrounds, a community center, library branch, the Y (Carolyn’s gym)—and relative quiet. Urban problems? Sure. But the perception of a lack of safety, for which San Francisco is “known,” outweighs the reality.
Okay, I’m not cool. But I enjoy living in a truly great neighborhood. Of course, Time Out’s rankings will change year to year. But top 40 or not, the Richmond—if not me—will remain cool.
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