Civic Center - Van Ness

Today, Civic Center neighborhood is home to some of San Francisco’s grandest public buildings. While now this district comprising city, state and federal offices is a showcase area, it was literally a backwater during San Francisco’s early years with its sandy, swampy wasteland watered by springs and creeks.

This neighborhood was far from the original settlement of Yerba Buena Cove and was considered by the city officials to be suitable only as a graveyard, which is what a triangular area between Larkin, McAllister, and Market Streets served as starting in 1850. A decade later, with the city expanding rapidly and Yerba Buena cemetery being full, it was decided to build a new city hall here (it is estimate that as many as 9,000 corpses were removed and reburied a the City Cemetery in the Richmond District).

The earthquake of 1906 proved to be fortuitous for this neighborhood as it destroyed the previous shoddily constructed and uninspiring City Hall and introduced “The City Beautiful Movement” with its classically inspired buildings and broad boulevards. During San Francisco’s reconstruction and in the wake of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition the city was eager to showcase itself which led to the birth of the beautiful array of buildings. Many architects and historians consider the San Francisco Civic Center to be the country’s premier example of a Beaux-Arts style municipal government complex.

In addition to housing various government establishments, Civic Center is also a site for a number of cultural venues such as an Asian Art Museum, San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center which includes San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Symphony, Herbst Theater, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Great American Music Hall, the Warfield Theatre and SFJAZZ Center.

Some portions of the Civic Center have a seedy reputation as it is in the close proximity to the skid row Tenderloin neighborhood. Despite such a reputation, its central location also makes it the center of many of the City's festivals and parades as well as a target for real estate development. This neighborhood is also adjacent to the trendy Hayes Valley which offers a variety of entertainment options as well as a plethora of restaurants; it is also within walking distance to San Francisco’s prime shopping hub – Union Square.

The below links provide further details on this neighborhood, its surroundings and their attractions:;;

Civic Center neighborhood has an impressive average Walk score of 98 and Transit score of 100.

The content displayed above was partially derived from a book by Rand Richards “Historic Walks in San Francisco. 18 Trails Through the City’s Past”.


About Kate

As a long-term resident of San Francisco, Kate is well familiar with the city’s past and present. With her professional background and deep knowledge of the local housing market, Kate is in the position to best assist with your real estate needs. Should you be looking for a recommendation on the upcoming cultural or social events and/or if you need a trusted local real estate advisor, ask Kate – San Francisco is her HOME.

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