8.2 out of 10

Buena Vista

Ranked 13th best neighborhood in San Francisco
37.7628734261743 -122.44322028775
Great for
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Clean & Green
  • Peace & Quiet
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Internet Access
Not great for
  • Nightlife
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Families with kids
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Tourists

Reviews

5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • 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 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+
Editors Choice

"A ‘Secret’ in Plain View"

This is one of those San Francisco neighborhoods built on a slope so steep that many residents of one street have never bothered to check out what’s on the street above them. But the sheer, uphill quality of the place actually works to its benefit: here is a peaceful, quiet neighborhood with tidy historic homes, a nice park, and views all around. The lack of tourists and even curious city dwellers has earned this district the honor of being “San Francisco’s Best Kept Secret,” as the neighborhood association calls it. But how has Corona Heights managed to keep such a low profile?

The first answer is part of the place’s name: “heights” here means several hundred feet above sea level, with the summit of the hill in Corona Heights Park at more than 500 feet. Considering that the area rises sharply from Market Street on the south and Castro from the east, it is no wonder that, while people can see the neighborhood from these busy venues, few outsiders scale its sidewalks or even drive up its pitched roads. That’s good news for those who live here, as little traffic interrupts the calm that prevails in spite of being smack dab between the busy Haight-Ashbury District and the bustling Castro.

The second reason for this neighborhood’s relative obscurity is the fact that home prices are high, as in $1 million-plus. Because elevation in San Francisco generally equates to higher real-estate prices, the area is considered out of the range of average home-buyers and renters. As with the steep streets, the steep prices suit those fortunate enough to live here.

But Corona Heights was not always such a pleasant place. It had a rocky past—literally—and to this day suffers from problems associated with one of its prime assets, Corona Heights Park. In the late 19th century, this area, referred to variously as Rocky Hill, Rock Hill, and the Fist, was the scene of a rubble-strewn quarry and brick-works kiln operated by George and Harry Gray, two brothers of dubious business standards who were frequently in court for ill treatment of their laborers and to face liability suits from damage caused by flying rocks as they blasted into the hill. Their operations ceased in the 1920s, although the streets that by then snaked around the promontory remained, soon to be exploited by developers as choice home sites with spectacular views.

The best of these homes are, predictably, those situated highest up, generally along Roosevelt Way and Lower Terrace today, although a number of beautiful Victorian cottages and Stick homes are found on Ord and Douglass streets as well as along Corbett Avenue. Elsewhere, the flat facades and unadorned fronts of many buildings—single family units and apartment buildings alike—are built right up against the sidewalk, hinting at short lots and little garden space behind (though most have views of at least the park, if not a drop-dead panorama of some portion of San Francisco). Vulcan Stairway is one of the city’s many sets of steps providing pedestrian connections between parallel streets (in this case, Levant and Ord). One of several in this hilly part of town, it is treasured for its beautiful landscaping and canopy of mature trees.

Of the 8,000 people living in Corona Heights, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 80 percent are white, with about 10 percent Asian and the remaining 10 percent a mix of African American or people of two races. The residents tend to be upper middle class (median annual household income is about $90,000), although only about 45 percent own their homes; the rest rent.

One of the peculiarities of Corona Heights is its lack of a true commercial district. A small grocery or market can be found here and there (particularly along 17th Street), but there is hardly a coffee shop or laundromat to be found otherwise. Most residents drive or walk to the Castro or the Haight (or beyond) for retail needs. The neighborhood is located adjacent to California Pacific Medical Center's Davies Campus, with its good emergency care and specialists in infectious diseases and gastro-intestinal issues. The area's two main attractions—Corona Heights Park and the Randall Museum—are located adjacent to each other more or less dead center in the middle of the neighborhood.

The park is among the city’s designated “natural areas,” providing habitat for a range of native and non-native plants and animals–poppies, of course, but also johnny jump-ups and a range of grasses, most of them introduced. There are also lizards, garter snakes, and raccoons, as well as birds such as the scrub jay and western goldfinch along with butterflies, some (like the Mission Blue) endangered while others (including the anise swallowtail) thrive on the invasive sweet anise introduced to the city a hundred years ago. Among the park’s features are a sheer wall of rock near 15th Street (called a slip’n’side for its shiny, glossy appearance), an enclosed dog run around which a whole community of dogs and their guardians has formed, and the summit of the hill itself, whose rocky outcroppings give the appearance of a crown from below—hence the park’s name (“corona” is Spanish for crown). Although the hilltop is visible from many points in the city, few people know how to get to it, making the park an undiscovered gem to the few who know of its main entrance off Roosevelt Way (there are other, unmarked entries off 15th Street and States Street). It is along the wild, overgrown side off 15th Street that homeless people have established encampments, sometimes quite large and often bringing unwelcome activities and their aftermath (drug use, noise and sanitation violations, and habitat destruction). Periodically, the city brings in teams of police and, one year, goats to clear out the encampments (the goats ate all the “cover” vegetation and made hiding tents amid the overgrowth difficult). For the time being, the homeless issue has subsided.

The Randall Museum, named for Josephine D. Randall, San Francisco’s first superintendent of recreation who waged a long campaign to have it built, opened in 1951 at 199 Museum Way (just below the park on the south side). Over the years, it has become a community resource, focusing on the culture and environment of the Bay Area, offering arts and sciences classes, a California native animals room, and workshops for children and teens, along with their families. The Golden Gate Model Railroad Club has its headquarters here, and maintains for public viewing a large layout of trains in various California terrains. At the Outdoor Learning Environment are gardens (including one for native plants) and an observation deck, with wide-ranging views of San Francisco, the Bay and East Bay hills, and, when the air is clear, the peaks of the South Bay.

The No. 37 bus is pretty much it for public transportation around the serpentine streets of this neighborhood, entering on the south side and then making a circuitous amble along Corbett Avenue through Twin Peaks, then re-entering on its northern side and traveling along Roosevelt Way before ending in the Haight. Though parking can be difficult (and even hazardous on some of the steep inclines), it is generally not too difficult (with the exception of streets bordering the crowded Castro district, especially on weekends). Over much of the area, residential parking permit “S” is in effect, enabling those who live here to park for longer than the posted hourly limits.

Schools on Corona Heights are limited to a single public K-5, McKinley Elementary on Castro and 14th. It was rated 6 out of 10 by GreatSchools.

Crime in the neighborhood is light, according to figures from the San Francisco Police Department, and it falls in the quality-of-life (noise nuisance or vandalism) and property category (occasional robberies or car thefts), with a rare assault occurring in any three-month period. There have been no homicides reported in the last three years.

Real estate prices in Corona Heights tend to be high, as mentioned earlier, though there has been some softness in prices lately after a mid-recession rebound earlier in 2010, according to Zephyr Real Estate. The area has a number of single-family homes in the $1.2 to $2 million range (depending on amenities and views), although there are also a number of condos, including one studio that listed recently for $279,000 (though most are one- or two-bedroom units that range from $450,000 to $800,000). Rentals are also on the high side, with a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment going for about $1,500, a two-bedroom cottage with yard asking $3,000, and a three-bedroom house listing at $3,900 a month.

The question of whether these high prices and geographic isolation make Corona Heights a somewhat exclusive and “aloof” neighborhood aside, the area is slowly becoming one of San Francisco’s most desirable. It may not be long before Corona Heights takes its place among other “hill” districts as a place of high stature in more ways than just elevation.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 2/5
  • Childcare 2/5
2yrs+

"Under-Appreciated Beautiful Neighborhood"

This little area is less a neighborhood onto itself than an extension of Twin Peaks. I actually call it Twin Peaks East. It basically has the same kind of houses and views that Twin Peaks has. It only gets designated as its separate neighborhood because it skirts the southern edge of Buena Vista Park. It is a lovely area with the same kind of boxy modernist style condos as Twin Peaks.

Unlike Twin Peaks however, there are some stores and corner markets here and you are more in the middle of the action here. You can literally be into central Castro in five minutes walking.

Notable for this neighborhood is the presence of the Randall Museum—a bird museum for kids and also a favorite spot for marriages apparently because of the views and park space. There is also a large assisted living facility up there that is well-regarded.

Where Buena Vista changes complexion is on the eastern side of the park however. This is where the homes are the most beautiful as far as I am concerned. If you really want to see some amazing architecture you should drop by here and check it out. It is right at the western edge of the Duboce Triangle. Especially right where Duboce Street dead ends at the park is where you get one of the most beautiful areas in the city in my opinion, with its row of descending palms and the Mediterranean home there. The tennis courts across the street are also a good spot to get some exercise.

I actually think this spot should be added to the list of tourist stops like Lombard Street—it is that beautiful.
Pros
  • Beautiful Architecture
  • the park
  • the views
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Poor Transportation
  • steep
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Country Lovers
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"All about the park"

Buena Vista Park is the focal point of this neighborhood. And Buena Vista Park is basically the coolest place is Northern California, so that makes sense. But check out the other side of the hill, people … this is one of the most character-crammed neighborhoods this city has to offer.

First of all, the streets are all etched into the side of this steep slope. Steps lead down to streets below, intersections have to become switchbacks so cars don't fall off the side, and sometimes streets just dead-end abruptly. It's like a big maze, and you have to know your way around or you're going to get frustrated (or excited!) trying to get back out.

I like to just wander through the maze and check out the houses that some people get to live in. You can't see a whole lot from the street, but the views from people's windows have got to be spectacular. And there is one great place for views of the whole eastern side of the city. I think the hill's called Corona Heights (based on the Corona Heights playground that's right on the face of it). It's right next to the Randall Museum (which is cool in its own right, but it's totally trumped by the big bald crag right next to it), and it's a great climb any day when you're feeling like a mountain goat. Climb to the top for great views of the Western Addition, the Financial District, the Bay Bridge, and the whole East Bay.

Oh yeah, and don't forget Buena Vista Park, too. That place is incredible. But chances are you knew that already.
Pros
  • the park
  • the views
Cons
  • steep
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"Steep hills with a great park."

Buena Vista is so great in many ways. I use to pass by Buena Vista everyday for school and I’ve experienced a good portion of what Buena Vista has to offer. First off, Buena Vista Park is another one of San Francisco’s great parks that comes with a spectacular view of San Francisco. Much like Twin Peaks, Bernal Heights Park, and Alamo Square, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, or rather, San Francisco. You’ll also want to chill and relax in Buena Vista Park as it is a very green and relaxing park. If you want to reach Buena Vista Park you’ll have to tread through some of San Francisco’s steepest hills. And trust me, some of the hills around Buena Vista are crazy, I’ve done a good share of biking through the neighborhood and it is always a challenge. However, you will surely be fit in no time by doing a daily stroll or jog around Buena Vista. Living here is great as well; you’ll get your peace and quiet to raise that family. Although Buena Vista is rather close to the action of Market Street and the Panhandle, the homes here are a good distance away. Buena Vista is definitely one of the best neighborhoods around!
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 2/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"The neighborhood people dream of"

Buena Vista is by far the most amazing place to live. I am not a native west coaster so that is saying a lot. First off the neighborhood is filled with stunning homes. One more beautiful than the next. Everyone is friendly and willing to lend a hand when needed. I have not encountered one unfriendly person. There are many places near by for grocery shopping and everyday necessities. My kids can play outside with the other children in the neighborhood and I don't have to worry about them at all. There is relatively no noise. You can sit in your yard and enjoy the day in nice peace and quiet. This is a great place for families as well as young couples. I couldn't have dreamed of a better place to live.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"Buena Vista offers beauty and convenience!"

Buena Vista is quite the conveniently located neighborhood. You are really close to Golden Gate Park, and you could also walk to the Castro or Twin Peaks. Of course, your leg muscles will benefit too from this kind of walking. Buena Vista is one of those neighborhoods that definitely gives San Francisco its reputation for winding streets and steep hills. You will also get some of the wind and fog from Twin Peaks, which gives this neighborhood a pleasant, dreamy feeling.

Buena Vista, of course, also offers Buena Vista Park. This park also borders Haight-Asbury. One interesting historic fact is that this is the oldest park in San Francisco and it dates back to 1867! There are amazing old trees in this park and you really get the feeling that you have left the city. This park is a great place to take a slow relaxing walk or have a picnic.

The homes in Buena Vista are really nice and big. I haven’t checked prices, but I would imagine this neighborhood is very expensive. However, this neighborhood seems as though it could really only go up in value. There are gorgeous streets, and it really does seem to be a safe location.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"Charming hillsides close to city action"

I love the winding and narrow streets of Buena Vista. There are many unique homes situated in this beautiful area. If you do not mind trucking up and down a few steep hills the neighborhood is within walking distance of the Castro, Duboce Triangle, Cole Valley and Golden Gate Park. Buena Vista Park is a charming green space with a grassy lawn and a few nice trails. If you climb up a short but steep hill that overlooks Market Street, you will experience one of the best views of Downtown San Francisco and the Bay.

Parking is very challenging in the Buena Vista area. Most homes have private driveways, but the street parking is steep and difficult to maneuver. There is very little public transportation inside of the actual neighborhood, but with a quick downhill walk to Castro and Market you can catch MUNI and busses that connect to all parts of the city. In terms of weather, Buena Vista can be quite chilly when the fog pours over Twin Peaks and the wind howls down Market Street toward Downtown.

Buena Vista is primarily a residential neighborhood, but there are plenty of wonderful restaurants, shops and bars nearby in surrounding areas, especially in the Castro.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5
2yrs+

"Park and Views"

Buena Vista Park is an absolutely amazing little spot. There are many trails that climb and descend their way around the hill and offer lots of tree covered trails to make your way up the steep climb to the top. The view is pretty nice. I uploaded a photo of a spider we found in the park when we were walking around -- a wonderful look at nature.

On the corner of 17th and Market, you can begin the climb up 17th. I recommend you have comfort with driving a stick before making this climb because it is pretty steep. When you peak the hill at the corner of Ashbury, you'll have a fabulous view if you look back down toward Market Street. It's truly a sight to behold.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5
2yrs+

"Windy but lovely neighborhood"

On the west side of the neighborhood there are great views to the north and south, and on the east, there are great views toward downtown and the rising condominium towers. Most of the homes in the area are Victorians and Edwardians and tend to be rather large and grandiose. The streets are relatively quiet and the neighborhood is kept up. There can be a little commotion and riff raff from the nearby neighborhood at Haight Street.

Buena Vista is close to just about everything San Francisco has to offer. Castro and Haight Street are a stone's throw away, as well as Divasadero (which leads to NOPA). Be sure to check out Randall Museum at 199 Museum Way. A great place for your kids to discover and learn.

If you prefer lots of trees, lots of hills, and really great homes - Buena Vista just might be for you. The area does get very windy but overall is a very nice neighborhood to live.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees

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Best Streets in Buena Vista

1

Crown Ter

4/5
"Fine!"
37.7583434232187 -122.447801620255
2

Museum Way

4/5
"Down to the Randall Museum!"
37.7646202327431 -122.440294321463
3

Ord St

4/5
"Quiet Place That I Love"
37.7618747527624 -122.440136249139
"it's All About The Park (this review is dedicated to our Labrador)"
37.7641542820748 -122.442982683377
5

Levant St

2.5/5
"A small short street"
37.7645028204478 -122.44231121333
6

Park Hill Ave

2.5/5
"Park Hill: Very clean"
37.7672961480175 -122.439220535027
7

Beaver St

2.5/5
"Winding but peaceful"
37.7649997605997 -122.435557948183
8

Castro St

2.5/5
"A very short street near parks"
37.7682972261932 -122.435720379336

Unranked Streets in Buena Vista

"A street just like living in a hill stations"
37.7588911999201 -122.447529190591

Alpine Ter

2.5/5
"Narrow street near the Randall Jr. Museum"
37.7687062134439 -122.437484501473

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