Noe Valley

Summary: Noe Valley is an upscale family neighborhood known for its coffee shops and for having become highly gentrified.

In the early 90’s, Noe Valley was all the rage with the just out of college set because of the low rents for cool Victorians with sloping backyards. It attracted lots of Gen X-ers not sure what step to take next and many of these “slackers” stayed, married, took part in the digital revolution and as they did the neighborhood’s rents began to climb and the word “gentrification” started to pop up on resident’s lips.

In fact, Noe Valley is exhibit A when it comes to gentrification. A simple look at the restaurants and stores in the area reveals just how much the moneyed set has effaced the neighborhood’s former character. Beyond the cafes that seem to mark every corner and are filled twenty four hours a day, a visit to Noe reveals sushi joints like Amberjacks[R1] and Hamano’s[R2], raw food eateries like Fresca[R3] and upscale restaurants like Incanto[R4] and La Ciccia[R5]. The area is home to one of the city’s most famous restaurant as well, Firefly[R6]. The stores have a similar SF Yuppie appeal, featuring boutiques like Global Exhange[R7] and Rabat’s[R8], and a plethora of spas, home furnishing outlets, pet stores and bookstores. There are the usual set of head scratching oddballs, like Guys and Dolls[R9], a vintage clothing store that looks as if it could actually be used to wardrobe the musical that gives the store its name.

You will also notice the forces of gentrification in Noe Valley’s demographics, where four of five residents are white, and the median income is around $150 K. The residents are a cross section of successful San Franciscans, from dot.com millionaires to small business owners to successful artists. The main drags in Noe are packed throughout the day by mom’s with kids in tow, tech-workers tele-commuting from their favorite wi-fi caffeine den, and well-heeled shoppers taking in the good Noe Valley weather (the surrounding mountains tend to shield Noe from much of SF’s worst fog and drizzle).

Rents are, as you would expect, some of the highest in SF, with studios starting at around $1500. The real-estate crisis seems to have barely dented the market here. Homes in the area are similar architecturally to those in Russian Hill, with restored and updated Victorians along side the occasional boxy modernist construction and some newer homes and buildings. The quaint Noe streets are as clean and leafy as they get in SF. Fancy dogs and strollers are regular sights weekdays or weekends.

Noe tries--with mixed success--to create a real sense of community, having a farmers market and a number of outdoor cafes and eateries. The sheer number of people crowding the streets, however, undermine what could be a small town feel, as do the high prices and lack of parking spaces. Like its gay neighbor just to the north, parking in Noe after 5 pm is a challenge, to say the least.

Crime is low in Noe as well, with the usual car break-ins being the number one problem. Despite its border with Mission, violent crimes are rare and murders so uncommon that when a man was stabbed to death earlier this year, it was only the second murder in almost a decade.

This is not, however, the sort dead zone for nightlife that Bernal Heights is. There are not only late night restaurants here but also a smattering bars and nightspots. The Irish pub, The Dubliner[R10], for example, is a neighborhood favorite as is the swanky Bliss Bar[R11].

Put simply, Noe Valley is the kind of place that everyone makes fun of for its excesses but where most everyone would love to live if they could afford it.