Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

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Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley
Hayes Valley

© Stephen Collins

San Francisco's Hayes Valley is a small neighborhood with a vibrant heart. Bordered by Franklin and Webster Streets to the east and west, and Fulton and Market Streets to the north and south, this neighborhood caters to a cocktail of cultures, from opera-goers to drag queen divas.

As part of the western expansion of a burgeoning San Francisco, development of Hayes Valley began in the late 1850s, when expansive Victorian homes were built on farmland. The neighborhood reached its heyday in the 1920s and saw prosperity until the 1950s, when the construction of the Central Freeway carved a scar across this urban setting. Although the freeway was a symbol of growth for the rest of San Francisco, it was a detriment to this neighborhood. But in 2005, after years of planning, the expanse from Market to Fell Street was demolished; the shadow of the freeway was finally removed, allowing new light and growth into this downtrodden neighborhood.

Now, Hayes Valley is once again a thriving community. Hayes Street, the commercial artery of the neighborhood, has an eclectic blend of high-end restaurants and dive bars, boutiques and art galleries. At one end of the strip, Hayes Street Grill caters to opera, ballet, and symphony patrons, while at the opposite end, Suppenküche attracts a more boisterous crowd of diners washing down wiener schnitzels with steins of German ale. On weekends, Hayes Street is a brunch destination with restaurants like Stacks serving up plate-sized pancakes and waffles. Many neighborhood residents take advantage of the new urban green space at the end of Octavia Boulevard, complete with park benches, a children's play structure, and sculptures.

Despite its recent rapid growth, Hayes Valley has maintained a sense of community, and nowhere is this more noticeable than at the Hayes Valley Farm. This urban, community-maintained farm occupies an entire city block of city-owned property where the old freeway once dumped traffic into the neighborhood. According to the Hayes Valley Farm organization website, their mission is to serve as "an agricultural hub, encouraging San Franciscans to connect with one another, grow their own food, and learn about sustainable ecological systems."

Hayes Valley will continue to blossom as developers break ground along Octavia Boulevard, building new multi-purpose units for housing and retail. Meanwhile, temporary structures, crafted from repurposed shipping containers, house businesses such as a beer garden and a pizzeria -- a sign that this community is done with waiting.

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