8.5 out of 10

Saint Francis Wood

Ranked 6th best neighborhood in San Francisco
37.7361525359095 -122.467052204352
Great for
  • Safe & Sound
  • Clean & Green
  • Peace & Quiet
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Internet Access
Not great for
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping Options
  • Eating Out
  • Cost of Living
  • Parks & Recreation
Who lives here?
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Professionals
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Singles

Reviews

5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Aug 30, 2010
Editors Choice

"If You Lived Here, You’d Be Happy Now"

What is it about the ideal neighborhood that makes everyone content? The pleasant arrangement of the houses? The design of the homes? Clean streets and sidewalks, bordered by well-tended trees and flowers and patches of greenery? Or is it the neighbors themselves, who go about their daily lives being generally pleasant and polite, helping out when asked but disappearing into their own lives when privacy is called for? A poll taken in 1998 for the San Francisco Examiner reported that residents of St. Francis Wood were the among the city’s most satisfied. All things being equal over the last dozen years, there’s no reason to believe they still aren’t: Their neighborhood is a model of tranquility and natural beauty and residential splendor unlike any other in San Francisco.

Born of the City Beautiful movement from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, St. Francis Wood retains to a great degree its distinction as one of the nation’s finest “residence parks.” Planned by the ambitious developer Duncan McDuffie a few years after the quake and fire of 1906, it occupies 175 acres on the western flank of Mount Davidson. Its contoured street plan (devised by the renowned Olmsted Brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, whose masterpiece was New York’s Central Park) features a grand St. Francis Boulevard running down the middle, with a Roman Beaux-Arts entryway at Junipero Serra Boulevard, a circular fountain midway, and a terraced plaza and fountain at its end.

Of the more than 600 architect-designed homes on larger-than-average lots, many are superior examples of Italian Renaissance revival style favored in the first decades of the 20th century. (Over the years, other styles slipped in, including French Renaissance, Spanish-Moorish eclectic, Tudor, and English cottage.) The Italian theme was also chosen to reinforce the link to the birthplace of the city’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who was invoked for this development as well. All home plans had to be approved by the supervising architect for St. Francis Wood, the famed architect Henry Gutterson (himself a follower of Bernard Maybeck)—all in order to achieve the aesthetic balance McDuffie envisioned, which included a minimum required setback from the street, harmonious color schemes, even mandated fence heights and landscaping. Gutterson is credited with designing more than 80 of the homes, many of which stand, unaltered, today.

Because McDuffie was so insistent on his vision, and Gutterson so adept at maintaining it through the decades he served as its supervising architect, St. Francis Wood appears much as it did 50 or 60 years ago: stately homes set back graciously from the street; tall trees looming over well-groomed lawns; utility lines buried out of sight underground. If you buy a home in St. Francis Wood, you become a member of the home owners association and agree to adhere to the strict “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (adopted in 1917, and renegotiated in 1950) that regulate work done on house exteriors, including landscaping, paint colors, windows, additions, fences, building materials, and any remodeling that can be seen by neighbors.

The only unregulated concessions to modern times—large, expensive vehicles—are for the most part tucked discreetly into carports, driveways, and garages, with the rare visitor parking on the narrow streets. As might be assumed, on-street parking is not an issue here, although the city’s Department of Parking and Traffic has curiously assigned most streets two-hour time limits, with “O” permits available to residents (perhaps to keep intruders from other neighborhoods from harvesting the ample street parking here).

McDuffie wanted no commercial concerns to intrude on this environment, and so the neighborhood lacks so much as a convenience store or even a coffee shop. Residents do their socializing, restaurant-hopping, shopping, and errands in the adjoining West Portal, across Portola Drive, or at the Lakeshore Plaza on Sloat Boulevard, or even farther afield, at Stonestown Mall on 19th Avenue.

And who are the residents of St. Francis Wood? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the roughly 5,000 residents are predominantly white (60 percent), with a considerable number of Asians (30 percent) and people of African American and mixed race included. They are definitely upper class (median annual household income exceeds $120,000). Nearly everyone (85 percent) owns his or her home.

Public transportation is limited in the neighborhood to the No. 23 bus, which runs east and west along St. Francis Boulevard. Though most residents prefer to drive to their destinations around town, a number commute to downtown jobs via the subway lines (K, L, and M) at West Portal.

The only park in this park-like neighborhood (not including the parkway that is St. Francis Boulevard) is at Santa Clara Avenue and Terrace Drive, where the neighborhood association maintains a playground, tennis and basketball courts, and an inviting green. There are no schools within the neighborhood boundaries, meaning most kids here are driven or bused to public (or, more commonly) private schools elsewhere.

Crime here is light and mostly property related. Over a recent three-month period, there were a few incidents of vandalism and petty theft, in addition to a couple of burglaries. Vehicle thefts and car break-ins are on the rise, however. But there were no homicides in the last three years.

Real estate prices here have tended to remain stable, even during the recent economic downturn, according to Trulia. Granted, many homes are selling for tens of thousands less than asking price, but in percentage terms, it’s relatively low, with a 25 percent increase recorded at the low point of the recession and the 2010 asking prices. Most homes feature multiple bedroom/bathroom combinations. Those along the neighborhood’s less “exclusive” end (along Monterey Boulevard) list for close to $2 million, while the bigger, more grandiose homes (five to eight bedrooms, with four or five bathrooms) up the hillside toward West Portal command asking prices in the $3 million to $4.5 million range. Rentals are strictly controlled, and so monthly prices for even small houses are not readily available.

If you are lucky enough to live (and own) here, St. Francis Wood provides a comforting environment. The punishing wet fog of summer can dampen spirits for a couple of months, but for the most part, an Italian Renaissance revival home on a quiet street is as good a definition of (sub)urban bliss as can be imagined.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 2/5
Aug 15, 2011

"The Bel Aire of SF"

This is definitely not a tourist destination. No one comes to SF and says, “Oh, and of course, I visited Saint Francis Wood!” But they should, because it is about as amazing a neighborhood as you will find anywhere. If you are into Corinthian columns, topiary and quaint manor-like homes with red tiled gambrel roofs—you have come to the right place.

This neighborhood is every bit as amazing as Beverly Hills (I would say more so)—but even people living people just living a neighborhood or two away are likely to not even have heard of Saint Francis Wood. Talk about hiding in plain sight.

Just in case there was any doubt about the wealth of this neighborhood, at the heart of it all on San Anselmo Avenue, you find a classical trickling fountain of the kind you might expect at a French or Roman villa, but whose pastel masonry perfectly fits in with the Southwestern love of adobe clay tones. It is at the head of St. Francis Blvd., a turnabout lane with a wide grassy, tree-lined meridian crowned with stone benches on one end. Really quite beautiful!

As far as living here? Well, it is way outside of most people’s means. This area can really give Sea Cliff a run for its money. The location is great as well—close to the city to the east, good for commuting to the south, the zoo and Ocean Beach to the west and Golden Gate Park to the north. You definitely can’t beat that.

For those looking for actually woods—well the only greenery here is that trimmed by human hands. (These residents really dig their topiary.) But if you want to go hiking or hunting this is not the place for it.

Singles will also be disappointed—this is strictly a residential neighborhood.

Overall, I would say if you happen to be wealthy and want to live in French Villa setting but be within biking distance of all the amusements of SF, you have found your home.
Pros
  • French Villa Style Neighborhood
  • Great Location
Cons
  • Very, very expensive
  • No Nightlife In Neighborhood
  • Not for Renters
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Tourists
  • Trendy & Stylish
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 1/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 5/5
  • Public Transport 1/5
Aug 04, 2011

"Can't think of anything better"

Saint Francis is a small and affluent neighborhood comfily tucked away between West Portal to the north and Balboa Terrace to the south. It is completely residential, offering sizable estates, manicured front lawns and spaghetti roads winding around the natural landscape. On certain roads, bushes are groomed in perfect shapes and high trees line the streets in flawless rows. Continue up the neighborhood and you’ll see a handful of water fountains beautifully sculpted. The houses are beautifully constructed with some offering two or even three car garages. The narrow streets are mostly empty, with parking being a rare concern for visitors. For those commuting, Highway 1 conveniently clips the western edge of Saint Francis, offering quick access to downtown San Francisco. As you might think, most locals do not take public transportation, nor know it exists. But for those visiting, the 23-bus line lies within proximity and runs east and west.

The majority of Saint Francis Wood’s residents are either white or asian with single families. The neighborhood is relatively isolated and exudes a pleasant feeling. On occasion, residents can be seen walking their dogs or jogging up and down its windy streets. For recreation, the San Francisco Zoo lies within a few miles.

Although there are no close commercial zones in the area, locals can easily travel north into the Sunset District.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers
DanielS3
DanielS3 The statement that there are no commercial zones in the area is not correct. West Portal, with its abundance of shops, restaurants and muni lines, is immediately adjacent to St. Francis Wood.
Jul 01, 2014
Add a comment...
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
Aug 22, 2010

"High class residents here"

Saint Francis Wood is a great little suburban neighborhood located in a city, which is quite crazy, right? When you enter Saint Francis Wood, the mood and environment totally changes. From whichever way you enter into Saint Francis Wood, the mood becomes calm and quiet, just as the neighborhood is. Although you’re still in the city of San Francisco, you really do feel the suburban essence. The homes here are large and grand, and with a nice solid green surrounding of vegetation. You definitely would have to be in the higher class in order to live here. Some houses here are even gated, meaning some VIP must be living there.

There is a little roundabout in Saint Francis Wood, with a fountain in the middle, which is something you don’t see too often in San Francisco. In Saint Francis Wood there is a little recreation area, with a basketball court, tennis court, and a small green field. Living here you’re also very close to the Sava Pool on 19th and Wawona Street.

And for those who love to go out shopping and eating, you’re also not far from Stonestown Galleria, just a 15-20 minute walk or a 5 minute drive away.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Mar 13, 2009

"Am I Really In San Francisco?"

St. Francis Wood is a very quiet neighborhood (unless you are on Portola or St. Francis Boulevard). Most of the streets are tree-lined, smooth, hilly, and the aura is extreme suburban. It feels like a place you would find in Avon, Connecticut. The lush green foliage adds to the expensive, stately, and well cared for homes. Truly one of the friendliest communities I have ever lived. It is never uncommon for neighbors to wave and smile to perfect strangers passing by.

The neighborly feel of St. Francis Wood is probably the reason droves of children are bussed in for Halloween.

Not a lot of shopping or dining out goes on within St. Francis Wood. The nearest shops and restaurants are across Portola in West Portal. I-280 makes travel quick and efficient from this location.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
5/5
Mar 09, 2009

"Beautiful houses -- enjoy the view"

If you've ever visited San Francisco, you'll notice a diverse array of styles of homes. St. Francis Wood boosts some of the largest houses tucked away on some of the quieter street. Trees line the areas and lawns abound, with a lot more space than you might normally see in San Francisco.

Driving around and viewing the neighborhood and houses is an inspiring experience. The houses are large -- some might even say grand -- each offering a unique style. The area looks flush with money. The south western part of St. Francis Wood also offers some lovely street signs to really give the area some special magic as you ride through. As you climb up the hill, you can expect to see some lovely vistas from the area. And although this neighborhood is in this booming metropolitan city, it has a quiet feeling and seems nestled away, as if a hidden spot in the woods.
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees

Best Streets in Saint Francis Wood

1

St Francis Blvd

3.5/5
"A beautiful street that is pretty busy sometimes"
37.7348869228837 -122.467444977649

Unranked Streets in Saint Francis Wood

"A Quaint Place"
37.736397338965 -122.474406334226
"A very nice residential street"
37.7353044845248 -122.472640224471

Portola Dr

3.5/5
"A residential street in St. Francisc Woods."
37.7398785643294 -122.464233634842
"A great street to live on."
37.7345940002659 -122.46967286246