Get to Know: Eureka Valley and the Castro
Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights is a subdistrict, designated 5k, to the SFAR District 5, or Central San Francisco. It is bordered by Market Street to the north and west, 22nd Street to the south, and Church Street and Liberty Hill to the east. The Castro neighborhood is part of this district.
This district is popular because of its central location, many shops and restaurants, abundant transit, access to parks, and vibrant energy. It has historically also been the epicenter of LGBT culture in San Francisco, going back to the 1960s. If you want to take a deeper dive on the neighborhood’s history, take the San Francisco City Guides Castro tour, which my husband and I were co-developers of in 2004.
To discover the real magic of this neighborhood, you have to explore its hilly enclaves and small streets. Venturing up towards Kite Hill, you leave the familiar grid pattern to gently curving streets that provide spectacular city views. If architecture is more your style, Hartford Street between 17th and 18th Streets, just behind the Castro Theater, provides a spectacular collection of Queen Anne Row Houses.
Liberty Hill was an original suburb of the growing city of the late 1800's, now recognized as a historic district. Nearly 70% of the homes are Victorian. The lush, tree-lined streets provide welcome respite from the bustling business corridors. While on your way to Liberty Hill, be sure to check out one of the best views of San Francisco from the top of Dolores Park at 20th & Church. Also at this corner is a golden fire hydrant which is credited with saving portions of the Mission during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The hydrant is painted gold each April 18th, at 5:12am, the exact time of the earthquake.
Eureka Valley has been home to many residents over its long history, the remnants of those cultures are still present if you know where to look. Castro Street itself is named after José Castro, one of the last Mexican alcaldes of Alta California. Eureka Valley has its own mansion to rival those on Nob Hill, Franklin and Gough Streeets. In 1891, Nobby Clarke built his grand home at the corner of Caselli and Diamond Streets, far from fashionable society at the time. Today, it houses 15 rental units, some with rooms quirkily shoehorned into the witch's caps on its towers. During much of the 20th century, there was a strong Scandinavian population, as evidenced by the The Swedish American Hall and the Pilsner Inn, where Norwegian fishermen once drank. Today, the Pilsner is a gay bar. By the early 1970s, the Castro had become one of the country's, if not the world's, pre-eminent LGBT districts. And one of its most seminal figures was one-time city supervisor Harvey Milk.
One of the last remaining movie palaces in San Francisco, the Castro Theatre is the heart of the neighborhood. The theatre was designed by Timothy L. Pflueger (1894-1946) and built in 1922. Both the interior and exterior are a sight to behold, having retained nearly all the original Art Deco detailing both in and out. The Castro is a popular home for many of the city's film festivals, such as the Silent Film Festival, Noir City, the Jewish Film Festival and of course the Frameline International LGBT Film Festival. Also popular are sing-along musicals like Grease or The Sound of Music, with patrons dressing up to get into the spirit. When you see a film at the Castro Theatre you will be treated often to live music performed on the Würlitzer organ. Always the last song played is "San Francisco," so brush up on the lyrics before you go.
If you're looking to grab a bite before or after hitting up a show at the Castro, you're in luck. While historically lackluster, the food scene in the Castro has been steadily improving in recent years. Frances, a tiny restaurant a block off the main drag, is one of just a handful of Michelin-starred spots in the entire city. Nearby Starbelly is a casual eatery with a lovely enclosed back patio. Other notables include cozy Parisian-style bistro L'Ardoise in Duboce Triangle, Anchor Oyster Bar for fresh seafood, Eiji for remarkable Japanese food (try the fresh tofu -- no, really), classic Spanish tapas at Canela or Greek mezes at La Méditeranée. Or, if you're looking for a quick bite on the go, Kasa Indian Eatery's kati rolls are full of flavor.
View Spotlight: Eureka Valley/Castro in a larger map
If you're interested in living in Eureka Valley, here's a snapshot of price per square foot compared to San Francisco in general and District 5 from the last three years in the area:
This analysis includes regular and distressed home sales for the past three years on a rolling three-month average. Where outlier sales were identified that would distort statistics, they were deleted from the analysis. All data from sources deemed reliable, but subject to error and revision, and should be considered general approximations. Sales not reported to the MLS are not included.