Neighborhoods / Laurel Heights

Laurel Heights

A quiet but convenient oasis

Some San Franciscans have never heard of Laurel Heights and Jordan Park; their loss. These two intertwined neighborhoods lie west of Pacific Heights and south of Presidio Heights and offer a less heady alternative to these A-listers. Within the district is contrast: stately, century-old Jordan Park, at Laurel Heights’ western edge, was developed by James Clark Jordan between 1900 and 1920 and modeled after his native Boston. The rest of Laurel Heights sits on the former Laurel Hill Cemetery, established in 1854 and ordered to decamp to Colma in 1937. It wasn’t until the last grave was moved, in 1948, that the crisp, modernist development of this neighborhood could begin. Almost 70 years later, the neighborhood is a firmly established enclave, centrally located, a residential buffer between busy Geary Boulevard, Laurel Village and the shops and restaurants of Clement Street. Laurel Heights is a nice place to live, in every sense of the term.

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Commute

Commuter Buses
Tech buses do not stop in Laurel Heights/Jordan Park. The nearest stops are at Divisadero Street and Geary Boulevard (Apple only) and Presidio Boulevard and Geary (Apple, Google and Yahoo only)

SFMTA Light Rail
Rail has yet to encroach San Francisco’s north side, leaving District 1C downtown commuters dependent on buses or a long walk across Golden Gate Park for their MUNI light rail train.

Laurel Heights/Jordan Park is neatly bracketed by MUNI buses. The 1 and 2 lines run east-west along California Street, the 38 goes in similar fashion on Geary Boulevard, and the 43 and 33 buses travel north-south on Presidio Avenue and Arguello Boulevard, respectively.

Nearest CalTrain Station
3rd and King Streets

Nearest BART
Civic Center Station

Estimated Commute Times
Financial District via auto: 15 minutes
Financial District via transit: 30 minutes
South San Francisco via auto: 30 minutes
Silicon Valley via auto: 55 minutes

Around the Block

Who Lives Here
This small, under-the-radar neighborhood attracts staffers at the nearby medical centers and anyone looking to live in a quiet, pleasant, mostly residential place that is conveniently located and offers a mixture of multi-family and single-family residences.

Low-key but connected
Who lives in Laurel Heights? Start with staffers at the nearby California Pacific Medical Center and the UCSF Laurel Heights Campus. Theirs is a quick walk to work, along quiet Jordan Park streets lined with enormous homes that rival those in Pacific Heights. Some meander through the streets east of Parker Avenue, into the newer section of Laurel Heights, with its post-war duplexes and single-family homes. Many of these homes, like those in Jordan Park, have had the same owners for decades, since the days when Laurel Heights was a distant retreat for buyers looking to flee crowded city neighborhoods like North Beach and Russian Hill. Laurel Heights has evolved some since then but still attracts a similar demographic — families looking for spacious homes with yards, city-dwellers interested in leaving some of the urban din behind without giving up the conveniences of city living, entry-level buyers looking for a condominium alternative to grittier, more congested neighborhoods nearby. Laurel Heights isn’t going to appear on any tourist maps of San Francisco, which is precisely what makes it so attractive to its approximately 4,000 residents.

How They Live
Laurel Heights and Jordan Park are throwback neighborhoods, where neighbors wave from their front yards, park in garages and walk to the store. That they can live in gorgeous early-1900s homes doesn’t hurt, either.

Semi-suburban city living
It may not seem so from your leafy perch on Jordan Avenue, but almost everything you need is within walking distance of Laurel Heights. Laurel Village, with two grocery stores, multiple restaurants, banks and shops including an independent bookstore and a hardware store, Standard 5 & 10 Variety, that completes your journey back to 1962 the minute you step inside. Geary Boulevard, a fast-moving cacophony of city living, is a five-minute walk in the other direction. Clement Street, with its dizzying array of shops, restaurants and night spots, is a few blocks to the west. From inside Laurel Heights/Jordan Park, all seem miles away. Here, hidden from the rest of the city, is a neat semi-grid of streets where locals are safe to work in their yards, ride bicycles, discuss the days events over backyard fences, the only reminder of the city that encircles them being slow-moving drivers, inching up and down Laurel Heights’ streets, looking for the elusive parking spot they couldn’t find closer to Geary or California Street. Along with the easy walk to amenities this is Laurel Heights’ reminder that it is indeed a city neighborhood, albeit one whose personality tilts more to the suburban than the hyper-urban.

Housing Market
Laurel Heights has a mixed housing market. Homes in Jordan Park are big and expensive and don’t come to market often. Condos and smaller SFRs in the eastern edge of the neighborhood are slightly more plentiful and easier on the wallet.

Rare but not an endangered species
Here’s a caveat for those wishing to move into Laurel Heights/Jordan Park: it’s small (20 square blocks) and has a stable population; thus, Laurel Heights and Jordan Park are places where only a few homes change hands each year. Also, neighborhood housing inventory leans heavily toward multi-unit condominiums. Jordan Park is packed with gorgeous, spacious historic homes; finding one for sale isn’t easy. Nor is it cheap. These homes, when they do come to market, usually command upwards of $3 million, almost three times what smaller condominiums closer to UCSF fetch on the open market. Rental apartment units are plentiful, however. Though it’s difficult to track rental rates, given the lightning-like pace at which the San Francisco rental market moves, you can expect to pay right around the citywide average for your studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom unit in Laurel Heights. That works out to around $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, which isn’t inexpensive but does buy you an alternative to more tumultuous San Francisco neighborhoods.

What To Expect
A hidden gem: beautiful, large single-family homes at one end (Jordan Park) and post-war single-family and multi-family homes at the other end, with great access to Laurel Village shopping and dining.

So near and yet so far
Laurel Heights/Jordan Park are San Francisco neighborhoods are not the norm. What you can expect here is not what you can expect in Haight-Ashbury, Nob Hill, Pacific Heights or even its closest neighbor, the Inner Richmond. Instead, expect to find in Laurel Heights/Jordan Park a modicum of peace, along with wide, straight streets lined with grand early 20th-century homes (Jordan Park) and curving streets with sharp-looking Mid-Century duplexes and single-family homes (Laurel Heights). Expect an easy walk to Laurel Village and Geary Boulevard, where services and amenities await. Expect few or no steps leading to your front door, all the better when carrying bags of groceries home from Bryan’s or Cal Mart. Expect a place to park your car, expect to know your neighbors and expect, at some point, that someone will fill you in on Laurel Heights’ slightly eerie past as a cemetery, or, less likely, that a local historian will tell you the story of Jordan Park’s role in the 1898 Spanish-American War (it was part of Camp Merritt, a military base used to prepare troops before shipping out to battle). Expect to renovate your house. Expect your neighbors to offer tips on how best to do that. Expect a long walk (or bus ride) to the nearest tech bus stop and, in return, expect to sleep with the windows open on warm nights and not have to worry about too much noise keeping you awake.

What Not To Expect
Don’t expect a charming business district, rows of Victorian homes, easy light rail access or a knowing nod when you tell other San Franciscans where you live.

A neighborhood in need of PR
Because it flies under the radar, Laurel Heights/Jordan Park may not deliver some things newcomers expect from “typical” San Francisco neighborhoods. Don’t expect, for instance, Laurel Heights/Jordan Park to buzz with tour buses or visitors clutching laminated San Francisco maps. Don’t expect a charming neighborhood of ramshackle Victorian flats. Laurel Heights/Jordan Park has plenty of charm, just not that kind. Don’t expect inexpensive single-family homes and don’t expect to find easy street parking, so it’s a good thing most neighborhood homes come with a garage. Don’t expect world-class restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs, though The Corner Store is pretty nifty and the lines outside Ella’s on Sunday mornings can get pretty long. Don’t expect all of your San Francisco friends to know where “Jordan Park” is; Expect them to be pleasantly surprised when they actually visit. Don’t expect an easy commute if you’re riding tech buses or if you love trains, don’t expect happening night life and finally, don’t expect to travel too far the next time you have a doctor’s appointment.

PERFECT FOR
Families, both young and not-so-young; seekers of a quieter life who don’t want to leave the city; appreciators of early 20th-century architecture; appreciators of Mid-Century Modern architecture, natives wondering whatever happened to the San Francisco of their youth, Financial District or South of Market workers, medical professionals, lovers of after-dinner strolls, renters, homebuyers, friendly neighbors.

NOT PERFECT FOR
BART, MUNI light rail and tech bus commuters; homebuyers for whom cutting-edge contemporary architecture is the only way to go; nightlife-lovers and seekers of the hottest restaurant in town; those who want to live in the middle of everything and, ironically, suburbanites; shoppers who prefer the “Main Street” experience to that of a shopping center; bohemians; people who simply must have a view; tourists.

You’ll Fall In Love With
The simple joys that come from living in an original “streetcar suburb” neighborhood, a low-key lifestyle (as much as that can happen in the city) and the architectural majesty of neighborhood homes.

There’s plenty about Laurel Heights/Jordan Park to fall in love with. You’ll love its proximity to Clement Street, with its many ethnic restaurants and shops, and its equal proximity to Laurel Village, where a casual meal is only a five-minute walk away. You might fall in love with the Irish bars on nearby Geary Boulevard, too, or the fact that your home comes with a garage and maybe a backyard, too. You’ll love walking down Commonwealth, Jordan and Palm Avenues and looking at the grand, historic homes, maybe checking out the progress on the latest remodel. You’ll love having your own garden, knowing your neighbors, browsing the new releases at Books, Inc. and choosing between Bryan’s, Cal-Mart and Trader Joe’s when it’s time to buy groceries. You’ll love the neat, simple lines of the post-war homes on Collins Street and killing time at the Standard 5 & 10. You’ll love your retreat from the buzz of the city almost as much as you’ll love knowing that it’s nearby, ready to visit whenever you feel the need.

Places to go

Artesano
Artesano
3415 California Street

This Laurel Village newcomer specializes in Latin American food and changes its daytime stand-up “fast” food set-up to sit-down dining at night.

Kaiju Eats Ramen and Izakaya
Kaiju Eats Ramen and Izakaya
3409 Geary Boulevard

A standout Japanese restaurant on busy Geary Boulevard that is a popular choice for ramen, sushi and sashimi and rice bowls.

Mel’s Drive-In
Mel’s Drive-In
3355 Geary

Step back in time at this themed American diner where burgers, shakes and neon jukeboxes still rule the roost.

The Corner Store
The Corner Store
5 Masonic Avenue

Hip and stylishly retro, The Corner Store has an evolving menu featuring American-style food for brunch, lunch and dinner.

Ella’s
Ella’s
500 Presidio Avenue

“Neo-classical American cooking” spot was established in 1990 and quickly became a popular spot for breakfast, lunch and (especially) weekend brunch.

Internos
Internos
3240 Geary Boulevard

A recent addition to the southern edge of Laurel Heights is this tasteful, vibrant wine bar that delivers a rustic, cozy atmosphere, wine, beer and a light menu.

Pig & Whistle Restaurant
Pig & Whistle Restaurant
2801 Geary

Popular with USF students, this comfortable English-style pub has casual food, a vast beer selection and weekly trivia nights.

Family Billiards
Family Billiards
2807 Geary

The oldest continually running pool hall (established in 1966) in San Francisco has 16 tables, a full bar, a pub menu and regular tournaments and events.

Buckshot Bar and Gameroom
Buckshot Bar and Gameroom
3848 Geary

A classic raucous dive/neighborhood bar with ample bar games, DJ nights, food, beer, drinks and a deep pool of loyal regulars.

The Plough and Stars
The Plough and Stars
116 Clement Street

One of the Inner Richmond’s many Irish bars, the Plough and Stars is a longtime favorite and center for live Irish music.

Sweet Things
Sweet Things
3585 California Street

Located inside Cal-Mart, this veteran (36 years) bakery continues to tempt shoppers with American-style pastries and desserts.

A.G. Ferrari Foods
3490 California

An update of the classic Italian deli, A.G. Ferrari has sandwiches, pasta, wine, tomatoes and sauces, sweets and gift ideas.

Blue Dragon Tattoo
Blue Dragon Tattoo
3402 Geary Boulevard

Just a few blocks from the grand mansions of Commonwealth Avenue is this highly-regarded tattoo shop that speaks to your inner rebel.

Books, Inc.
Books, Inc.
3515 California Street

Beloved independent bookstore (two locations in San Francisco) sells books, holds author readings and keeps literature alive in Laurel Heights.

Standard 5 & 10 Ace Variety Store
Standard 5 & 10 Ace Variety Store
3545 California

Here since 1939, Standard is a throwback to the days of the general store. Hardware and much, much more.

Terrestra Elegant Gifts
Terrestra Elegant Gifts
3533 California

Promising gifts and delivering housewares, table accessories, dinnerware, glassware, home decor and personal accessories.

Toss Designs
Toss Designs
3509 California

Playful and stylish totes, travel bags, accessories and clothing with the option to personalize and your purchase.

Capricorn Framing
Capricorn Framing
3232 Geary Boulevard

Capricorn Framing creates sturdy and stylish frames for your artwork, specializing in framing for three-dimensional objects.

The Presidio
The Presidio

A few blocks north of Laurel Heights/Jordan Park is this former Army base, which is now a national park where miles of wooded trails are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Laurel Hill Playground
Laurel Hill Playground
Euclid Avenue and Collins Street

A hidden treasure with a softball diamond, tennis courts and playground that hosts a teaching laboratory for City College students.

Benedetti Diamond
Benedetti Diamond
Golden Gate and Masonic Avenues

AT & T Park by no means has the monopoly on baseball in San Francisco; take a break one afternoon, amble down to Benedetti Diamond and watch the USF Dons take on all comers.

Jewish Community Center of San Francisco Fitness Center
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco Fitness Center
3200 California Street

A full-service gym with personal trainers, classes, all manner of equipment and nutrition consulting.

Telegraph Crossfit
Telegraph Crossfit
3545 Geary Boulevard

Age- and fitness-level appropriate programs designed to help clients achieve fitness and greater levels of athleticism.

Dynamic Balance
Dynamic Balance
35 Clement Street

A studio whose aim is to “help injured and physically challenged people to heal, renew, and discover higher physical capacity.”

Laurel Heights Nail Salon
Laurel Heights Nail Salon
3501 Sacramento Street

The name says “nail salon,” but the reality is that this salon also does waxing and facials.

Peninsula Beauty
Peninsula Beauty
3535 California Street

Not a salon, but an emporium of hair, skin and nailcare supplies so vast as to render all others irrelevant.

Shear Image Salon
Shear Image Salon
3520 Geary Boulevard

A full service beauty salon offering “hair care, nail care, skin care, waxing, ear piercing and much more!”

Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California Street

The center is a meeting place for groups and classes and offers a full and dynamic slate of cultural events year-round.

University of San Francisco
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street

This century-old Jesuit university hosts numerous music, culture and art events — and a walk through campus is always inspirational.

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