Some have said that if Pacific Heights had its own zip code, it would be the most expensive in the country. Its beauty, ideal location and panoramic views are just some of the reasons why many multi-millionaires and billionaires call this neighborhood home.
In 2013, Pacific Heights was named the most expensive neighborhood in the United States. To further drive the point home, Pacific Heights is home to "The Gold Coast", a two block stretch of some of the most expensive homes in the country. It’s on Broadway Avenue from Broderick Street to Lyons Street, leading to the iconic Lyon Street Steps leading into the Presidio. By contrast, the home owned by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, isn’t even in Pacific Heights, but is instead in the prestigious Noe Valley.
Pacific Heights was first developed by the nouveau riche in the late 1900’s when cable cars made the hills accessible. During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the neighborhood’s 2 parks, Alta Plaza Park and Lafayette Park, were home to many who were homeless due to the destruction of the quake and the ensuing fires. Affluent residents of nearby Nob Hill noticed that several of the buildings in Pacific Heights survived the turmoil and set about rebuilding their expansive Victorian mansions within the district.
Because many buildings survived the earthquake and new residents were able to afford building brand new extravagant houses in the style most fashionable in their time the architecture of the neighborhood is varied and includes Victorian, Mission Revival, Edwardian, and Château styles. The style that most characterizes the neighborhood, though, is the painted Victorian style architecture.
It is this look that has made Pacific Heights extremely popular in Hollywood. Exterior shots of homes in Pacific Heights (and Lower Pacific Heights, which used to be part of the Western Addition) have been used as establishing shots in many TV shows and movies. Walk through the neighborhood and you’ll run into the houses used as the exterior shots for the houses from Party of Five, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Full House. It’s also home to Grove High School, the school where Anne Hathaway's character Mia attends in the 2001 film The Princess Diaries. Ironically, the film Pacific Heights, which was inspired by and is purported to take place in the luxurious neighborhood, was actually filmed in Potrero Hills.
If it seems like the residents of Pacific Heights are above it all, it’s because they kind of are. Architecturally and historically significant homes mixed with recently renovated manors line the streets as high as 370 feet above sea level. They are high enough that they are actually above the fog line, so the skies there are typically clearer than those of the rest of San Francisco. This doesn’t always translate to warmer temperatures, though, since the wind tunnel created by the Golden Gate Park tends to cool the area. The highest point in perhaps the most well known area of Pacific Heights features Lafayette and Alta Plaza Parks and offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, Alcatraz and more.
The neighborhood is so prestigious, in fact, that several consulates have chosen to have their consulates in Pacific Heights. These countries include England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Korea, France, Indonesia, and Egypt. Not only that, but Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, is said to have a home there.
The residents are a mix of old family money and extremely successful individuals, mostly in the tech industry. As noted earlier Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t live there, but the co-founders of Oracle and PayPal, and the Ex-Chief designer at Apple do.
If you’re looking for both celebrity and historical significance, you’ll be very interested in the Spreckels Mansion. It was built in 1913 using money made in the sugar industry. It was later divided into 4 separate properties and then bought and reconsolidated into one unit by Danielle Steel, the bestselling author alive and the fourth bestselling fiction author of all time.
If you want to take a look inside, however, you’ll have to go to the Haas-Lilienthal House. It is the only private home from that time period that is open to the public. Once inside, you can see authentic furniture, the circular corner tower, and photographs describing this home's history.
Other historic homes in the area include the Whittier Mansion and the McElroy Octagon House to name just a couple. In fact, there are many buildings in Pacific Heights that have been registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pacific Heights is mostly residential, but the shopping centers there offer only the best of the best. The stores on Fillmore Street, the district's main shopping avenue, are a who’s who list of industry elites, including Prada, Ralph Lauren and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Sacramento Street, which stretches into Presidio Heights, is more family-oriented (though still high-end). Fashionable consignment shops are also a common sight.
The restaurants in the area are likewise top of the line. They include a Michelin-starred Italian-inspired eatery, Vietnamese street food in an industrial chic setting, a cozy French-inspired bistro and brunch hot-spot, Neapolitan-inspired inspired pizza, and innovative sushi offerings.
Pacific Heights is also some of the most prestigious private schools, including the San Francisco University High School, the Drew School (formerly Drew College Preparatory School), the Hamlin School, the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, the Stuart Hall High School, San Francisco Waldorf School, the Academy of Thought and Industry, Town School for Boys, and Hillwood Academic Day School.
It’s as if one could say “living in San Fransisco isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?... Living in Pacific Heights.”
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