Centrally located, Twin Peaks is a quiet residential neighborhood occupying two of the highest hills of San Francisco (except for Mount Davidson) with an elevation of about 925ft (282 m). The peaks form a divide for San Francisco’s famous summer coastal fog pushing in from the Pacific Ocean. Fall and early winter are best times for driving up Twin Peaks Boulevard or hiking up the hills. It is then that the generally clear air offers the best views of not only the city on all sides but also the East Bay and the Marin hills. Twin Peaks’ vista stop is one of the “must see” tourist stops.
Each peak has a name – Eureka Peak / North Peak and Noe Peak / South Peak and Twin Peaks Boulevard runs a figure eight around them. The west-facing slopes often get fog and strong winds, while the east-facing slopes receive more sun and warmth. Because the neighborhood has a number of the city’s steepest inclines between its curving streets, it consequently has a number of its longest pedestrian stairways. The top of Twin Peaks is undeveloped and is part of the 31 acres Twin Peaks Natural Area where many endangered bird, insects and vegetation species thrive.
Once part of the Rancho San Miguel, the sprawling Mexican land grant from which much of San Francisco was carved in the mid-1800s, Twin Peaks served as a formidable barrier between the eastern and western halves of San Francisco. For much of the 19th century, it was a farmland but by the 1860s, when the western side of the city started attracting visitors with its beaches, wildflower fields, and a racetrack, entrepreneurs built a toll road along what is today Corbett Avenue and another along Portola Drive, offering access to the broad stretches that lie beyond the peaks. These roads, in turn, encouraged dairy and vegetable farmers to come and work the land on the eastern slopes, promptly followed by the real estate developers.
By the time a streetcar tunnel was built under Twin Peaks in 1918, the slopes were studded with homes, many of them perched on stilts at the edge of the narrow dirt roads. It is this pattern of residences and apartment buildings, built on extremely steep grades, that has come to typify Twin Peaks’ architectural style. Much of the land was so steep that it had to be terraced before it could be developed - hence the names of roads: Graystone Terrace, Villa Terrace, Perego Terrace. Building on such inclines required expensive new technology and materials - the back ends of some properties drop three and four stories from the street, necessitating extensive foundation work.
Once Twin Peaks Boulevard was completed in the mid-1930s, offering paved access to the summit of the peaks, and with the Market Street extension in place, Twin Peaks became a hotbed for residential development. Though one may say that Twin Peaks’ buildings with their boxy design may lack the charm of their Victorian and even Art Deco counterparts elsewhere in the city, they claim unparalleled views - the top reason many choose to live here.
The neighborhood’s high altitude location combined with its mostly narrow, winding and steep streets as well as lack of business permits / commerce, makes Twin Peaks a car-oriented area. The Muni Metro Twin Peaks Tunnel runs beneath Twin Peaks, linking Downtown San Francisco with West Portal and the southwestern part of the city.
Clarendon Heights is a primarily residential neighborhood located north of Twin Peaks and east of Mount Sutro. Situated atop of San Francisco’s famous hills, it initially presented challenges to builders which were worth overcoming due to the incredible views of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges this neighborhood offers. Clarendon Heights houses a wide spectrum of architecture - Tudors and villas interplay comfortably with sleek modern homes in this well-kept neighborhood. Clarendon Heights’ convenient hillside stairs offer a workout opportunity for its residents.
Twin Peaks neighborhood has a Walk score of 50 and Transit score of 64. Clarendon Heights neighborhood has a Walk score of 54 and Transit score of 73.
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