South of Market Area (SoMa) is a blend of urban high rises and industrial chic lofts, cultural epicenter and sports destination, making it one of San Francisco's ultimate districts. As the name implies, SoMa stretches south from Market to 16th Street, and from the Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue, and is made up of several micro-neighborhoods, each with distinct characteristics.
During the California Gold Rush, South Park and Rincon Hill became San Francisco's wealthiest neighborhoods. Grand mansions and homes once overlooked the bay. However, the introduction of cable cars made the taller hills to the north, namely Nob Hill, more convenient to downtown, and therefore more attractive. Decades of industrialization ensued, and following the decimation left by the 1906 earthquake, the area south of Rincon Hill became almost warehouses and factories, while the area of SoMa nearest Market Street was developed with banks and office buildings. The construction of the Bay Bridge and Highway 101 overpasses in the 1930s leveled Rincon Hill and deepened the divide between SoMa's northern and southern neighborhoods.
Before industrial became chic, the area remained a "working-class" neighborhood with a "skid-row" reputation. The '50s and '60s brought about a shift as the city's gay and counter-culture population began to move into the area and into the '80s this population grew and thrived throughout South of Market. However, the dot-com boom of the 1990s brought a period of revitalization to many parts of SOMA.
Attracted to cheap rents of the rundown warehouses, the dot-com companies and their employees moved into the area in droves, and with this influx came restaurants and stores. South Park is now home to many restaurants, like Tres Agaves, a Mexican restaurant offering high-end fare, and 21st Amendment, a local micro-brewery. Once the center of maritime commerce, today's South Beach is a bustling, waterfront neighborhood offering many brunch options with views across the bay to Treasure Island and the Oakland Hills.
Additionally, the completion of the AT&T baseball stadium, home of the San Francisco Giants, brought increased interest to the area, and Mission Bay, the southernmost neighborhood in SOMA, is experiencing growth with multi-purpose buildings springing up at a rapid pace. The extension of Muni's light-rail system has made access into the area much easier.
Art has also found its way into SOMA, turning the Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood into the cultural center of San Francisco. According to the San Francisco travel bureau website, this area is home to "the largest concentration of art west of the Hudson River." The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts sit across Third Street from each other, while the nearby Comic Art Museum, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, and Zeum provide art and cultural experiences for people of all ages. Luxury hotels and lavish restaurants have established themselves in this area, and the San Francisco Shopping Center, with its department stores and inviting food court, offers ample shopping and dining experiences.
SOMA is still largely made up of low profile buildings. However, recent years have seen an increase in the development of luxury residential towers that have altered the San Francisco skyline, lending the area a much more vibrant, urban atmosphere.