Today I am going to talk about a neighborhood in San Francisco known as Hayes Valley. Although the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was devastating for certain San Francisco neighborhoods, the demolition of the Central Freeway became a benefit for Hayes Valley. Blocks that used to be covered in the shade of the freeway now benefit from increased natural light. As a result of the reduction in traffic noise and the increase in natural light, the neighborhood has experienced a high level of gentrification during the past 20 years.
The commercial center of the neighborhood is the 300-500 bocks of Hayes Street which are now home to numerous cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants; clothing boutiques and shoe stores; art galleries; hair salons; and antique and specialty stores. The demolition of the freeway and the subsequent, concomitant improvement in the neighborhood cannot be overemphasized. Small specialty retailers, boutiques, art galleries, and cafes opened in the area during the mid- to late-1990s due to the overall improvement in the city’s economy in general and, more importantly, the improvement in the immediate neighborhood in particular. Rent and occupancy levels increased to levels found along some of San Francisco’s better commercial thoroughfares.
Hayes Valley is characterized by level to slightly rolling terrain improved with a diverse mix of uses including (1) single family dwellings, two- to four-unit dwellings, and multi-family dwellings, (2) government subsidized rental housing, (3) mixed-use residential over commercial, (4) scattered stand-alone commercial buildings, including some hotels and motels, and (5) auto repair shops and light industrial uses. Multi-family dwellings of two to four units are the most typical residential use in the area. Buildings range from 50 to 120 years year in age.