San Francisco's Multiplying Neighborhoods and Microhoods

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San Francisco's Multiplying Neighborhoods and Microhoods

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San Francisco's NoPa neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of

Real estate agents swear by the premise that the right name can sell a house. This applies to a fancy name on a bronze plaque at a mansion's gated driveway, whether a street address uses "alley" or "avenue," the precise numbers in a zip code, and the nickname of a property's neighborhood or microhood. San Francisco seems to be adding new neighborhoods and microhoods all the time, and it all started decades ago.

Baby Boomer Creations

Urban waves of gentrification took hold in major American cities as the first baby boomers exited college in the late 1960s and chose not to settle in the suburbs. In Manhattan, former residential wastelands such as SoHo (South of Houston) and Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal Street) realized exponential growth throughout the following decade. With SoHo's historical cast-iron district gaining proper recognition from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1973, the newly popular neighborhood naming trend spawned Dumbo (District Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Nolita (North of Little Italy), Nomad (North of Madison Square), and other nicknames sprinkled throughout Lower Manhattan realtors' jargon.

San Francisco Style

Beginning with Silicon Valley, a 1970s catchword that caught on in the 1980s, the San Francisco Bay Area embraced the name game, too. Neighborhoods in San Francisco now gain nicknames nearly as quickly as new apps are started up by the high-tech crowd.

Microhoods Popping Up

Sometimes, a collection of a few streets is tagged as a neighborhood. How about just 100 residents? Frederick Knob between Cole Valley and Ashbury Heights in San Francisco consists of only two blocks between Clayton and Ashbury streets, yet it shows up with its own Wikipedia listing and is now labeled on Google Maps. There's Jordan Park, a pocket within Laurel Heights, which itself straddles Presidio Heights and Inner Richmond. There's long and narrow NoPa (North of Panhandle) with only two streets running through it. Banners hanging from street lamps indicate the boundaries of a little Little Saigon. Sandwiched between Post and Pine streets, where a dicey Tenderloin rubs noses with posh Nob Hill, the moniker Tendernob has gained wide usage. Or should it be called Nobberloin?

Newer 'Hoods

The large and well-known SoMa (South of Market) launched its Twitter-headquartered offspring, Mid-Market, with tax breaks to encourage venturing into the neighborhood. FiDi (Financial District, of course) is where virtually nobody lives, yet it has given birth to FiDiSo, home to the new $4.2 billion Transbay Transit Center. Will the name stick? While the first train is not due to pull in until 2020, it's a flashy new neighborhood that requires an equally cool nickname. Not many locals have yet heard of Somisspo, the intersection of South of Market, the Mission, and Potrero Hill. On the edge of Dolores Heights, adjacent to Mission Dolores, the label Baja Noe is being bantered about.

Who's Counting?

Pedestrian-friendly San Francisco is everyone's favorite city with its fabric of neighborhoods woven together. Wikipedia lists 117 neighborhoods in San Francisco. The real estate blog CurbedSF identifies 91. Clearly needing to catch up is the San Francisco Planning Department, which identifies only 36 neighborhoods.

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