Tucked away north of Market Street and west of Van Ness Avenue is Hayes Valley, which, as the name implies, is on a flat part of San Francisco, which is not true of many neighborhoods. This small district’s actual boundaries are Market, Webster, Fulton, and Gough Streets, which makes it one of the smallest actual neighborhoods in San Francisco. And even though it is in the central downtown area and close to Market Street, Hayes Valley is a rather cute and idyllic neighborhood. There are some great old Victorian buildings, as well as being close to everything.
Similar to Chinatown, Hayes Valley is also quite dense, though not as much. Therefore, this neighborhood’s housing options are limited, mostly, to apartments, which, if you are lucky, could include a ground floor garden apartment. That said, Hayes Valley is a popular spot in the City due to its easy access to the Financial District, plus transit and bike options to most of the City, and the number of cafes, bars, and restaurants located in and around the neighborhood. However, if you really want to find a place to live here, be patient and keep looking through rental agencies, real estate agencies, and even signs on windows. Currently, due to the pandemic, there is more apartment availability than usual.
Since Hayes Valley is such a busy area, crime is not that common here. In fact, when writing this article, I checked the statistics, and there was a negligible amount of criminal activity. However, you still need to be careful and take the same precautions you would take in any major city. Additionally, through hearsay, I have been aware of car break-ins in Hayes Valley, but that is also common all over San Francisco. To research this topic further, and with up to date data, you can visit the total police station, as well as by visiting www.spotcrime.com.
Unless you travel far and wide around the Bay Area for work or family, Hayes Valley offers easy access to the entire city and beyond. Several bus lines are traversing the neighborhood and many transit options on Market Street and Van Ness Avenue at the neighborhood’s southern and eastern boundaries, respectively. These transit options include busses, subway, and streetcars (some call them trolleys.) Additionally, the Civic Center BART station is just down on Market Street, which will provide you transit access down the peninsula, including the airport and across the Bay to the East Bay communities.
Furthermore, as I always recommend, the best option still is to use your bike. For example, Market Street has some impressive bike lanes and, something that I find to be a lot of fun is you are never alone. San Francisco bike commuters flood Market Street on their way to and from work. Also, from Market Street, you can find other routes that radiate out towards different parts of the City.
Though, of course, you can drive, this mode of transportation is the one I would least recommend. For one thing, traffic thru and around Hayes Valley can be heavy during peak hours, but also, parking can be a soul-crushing task. The neighborhood’s size, proximity to various venues, and the general lack of on-street parking in San Francisco make parking very challenging in this part of the City.
Shopping, Dining, and Entertainment
Although Hayes Street is the main commercial corridor in its namesake neighborhood, there are various other restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in other areas. That said, you will have more options of this kind on Hayes Street, including the very popular Hayes Street Grill, which is not only well known for its cuisine but is also a popular hangout for opera, theatre, event, and symphony goers after and before a performance.
As far as entertainment is concerned, Hayes Valley is well-positioned geographically in the City concerning available options. Just two blocks away from the neighborhood’s eastern boundary, on Van Ness Avenue, are Symphony Hall, the Opera House, and Herbst Theatre. SO, if you are a ballet, opera, symphony lover, or other, living in Hayes Valley will make it easy to attend these performances just a few minutes on foot from your home.
Parks and Recreation
There are smaller parks and recreation areas in Hayes Valley, such as the Buchanan Street mall on Buchanan Street between Grove and Eddy Streets, which has green spaces, play areas for kids, benches, and paths up and down the street mall, which offers a nice respite from the busy streets of this central downtown neighborhood. Additionally, you can visit Patricia’s Green on Octavia Street between Hayes and Fell Streets and the Hayes Valley Playground/Basketball Courts/Magic Area on Buchanan Street between Hayes and Linden Streets.
If you are looking for a larger green area, Alamo Square Park is just a few blocks to the west of Hayes Valley on Fulton, Grove, or Hayes Streets. This park is known for the famous Victorian houses around it known as “The Painted Ladies,” and the sweeping views of downtown and the Bay from the highest point.
Schools and Libraries
John Muir Elementary School is the local public school within Hayes Valley, which you can learn more about by visiting the City’s school district website at www.sfusd.edu. Additionally, three private schools are the Chinese American International School (www.cais.org,) and the French American International School / International High School (www.internationalsf.org) combined educational complex. Visit their websites for admissions requirements, tuition, and educational program information.
Though there are no libraries located within the neighborhood, the “mother” of all San Francisco public libraries, the Main Library, is located just 15 minutes away on foot at 100 Larkin Street. In addition to having the largest collection of books in the City, they also have specialty sections within the building, such as the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center on the 3rd floor. Also, the library offers great children’s programs year-round.