Noe Valley is a quaint, sought after place to live that many young families, including our team member Taylor, call home.
Noe Valley is a sort of “diamond in the rough” right in the middle of San Francisco. And it always has been. Noe Valley’s history tells a provocative tale of how it became the coveted family neighborhood it is today.
Noe Valley is named after José de Jesús Noé, the last Mexican alcalde (mayor) of the area, but it was John Meirs Horner, the Mormon immigrant to whom Noe sold the ranch land to in 1854, who laid out the beginnings of the neighborhood in the late 19th century.
It was then known as Horner’s Addition (and still is by the city assessor's office for tax reasons). Horner laid out streets and named them after things such as his wife, (Elizabeth Street) and the State where he was born (Jersey Street). Other streets (such as Park Street and and Temple Street) were named to honor his Mormon faith, but were later renamed (to 24th Street and 25th Street, respectively).
The land attracted blue collar workers from the start. Irish immigrants flocked there during the Irish Potato Famine. By 1880 a fourth of San Francisco's entire population was Irish. The Gold Rush brought even more working class immigrants. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, working-class people from all over San Francisco (most notably the Italians from North Beach) relocated from their crumbled neighborhoods to Noe Valley because it was seen as safer ground.
Most of the housing, therefore, was built just after the quake in the classic Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture for which San Francisco is famous. Row houses were especially popular because of their economy. There was, however, a great amount of individualization as individuals personalized the basic, low cost structure according to their own style and financial preferences. Even today, Noe Valley has the highest concentration of row houses (which San Francisco is known for) with most blocks having 3 or 4 or even a dozen row houses on each side.
Of course, few of these row houses’ facades remain unchanged from when they were built at the beginning of the 20th century. But then, that’s true of Noe Valley as a whole. What was once mostly dairy farms, ranches, and a couple of quarries became increasingly residential as working class families looked for sturdy land on which to build their homes. As demand for housing increased, the divisions of ethnic-centric neighborhoods blurred, and Noe Valley was home to a diverse group of working class people. Recent years have also seen the development of more single family homes with modern architecture.
Since the 1970s, though, the continually increasing demand for housing has pushed prices higher, eventually pricing out many working-class families. The last four decades have shown unstoppable gentrification. Today, the older residents are mostly teachers, judges, writers, public interest lawyers, and public health workers who bought their homes when it was still a middle-class neighborhood, raised their kids, and have stuck around to enjoy their later years. Now that the median price of a home is a couple of million dollars, most of the new residents are working in the tech industry.
Certainly there must be a reason everyone wants to live there. In addition to the history, a big reason for this can be found in the geography of the area. Noe Valley, as the name suggests, is a valley in the middle of hilly surrounding neighborhoods. Twin Peaks, to the west, actually blocks the fog and cool winds coming from the Pacific Ocean, so even though it is right in the middle of the San Francisco peninsula, Noe Valley consistently has more sun, and therefore warmer temperatures, than surrounding neighborhoods.
The layout of the land also creates a natural seclusion in Noe Valley. Though it is not far from downtown and there is ample public transportation to connect it to the rest of San Francisco, there is relatively low through traffic in Noe Valley. This creates a safe, quiet residential feel that is great for families. No wonder it is jokingly referred to as “Stroller Valley.”
Due to the history and geography of Noe Valley, therefore, you'll find tidy rows of Victorian and Edwardian homes with well kept yards, sidewalk 'libraries', friendly pedestrians with strollers and furry family members, and some of the city's warmest weather.
Residents of Noe Valley will also tell you that the neighborhood has a strong sense of community. In fact, residents recently organized to turn a parking lot into a space to gather and relax in the sun. The result was a new town square with a weekly farmer's market that features live music, food carts, local produce, and activities for children. There is also an annual wine walk benefitting local small businesses.
In the heart of Noe Valley, lively 24th Street boasts restaurants and shops galore. You can find staples like Philz Coffee, Starbucks and Whole Foods, plus some excellent local restaurants. There’s the city's finest Japanese fare at Saru Sushi, tasty, cheap, high-quality Chinese food at Alice’s, fat burgers at Barney’s, Americanized versions of classic Hunan and Mandarin dishes at Eric’s, ceviche and oysters at Fresca, authentic British tea at Lovejoy's Tea Room, Noe Valley's own French bistro, Le Zinc, good Roman-style food at Lupa, and so much more.
There is also a plethora of specialty shops such as cheese shops, furniture stores, shoe makers, book stores, health spas, and bakeries. The Global Exchange features goods imported from Latin and South America, Africa, and Asia.
If you are a young single looking to mingle you won’t find much of a nightlife, but there are just enough quiet, upscale bars and sports barish Irish pubs to satisfy the residents that want to step out every now and then.
You can also find numerous trails and hikes at the west end of the neighborhood that lead you to the best view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks. In Noe Valley, there is truly something for everyone.
The next time you find yourself in Noe, look out for our own Taylor and her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels!
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