8.0 out of 10

Merced Heights

Ranked 19th best neighborhood in San Francisco
37.7197222228502 -122.467712411686
Great for
  • Internet Access
  • Schools
  • Childcare
  • Safe & Sound
  • Medical Facilities
Not great for
  • Nightlife
  • Eating Out
  •  
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Students

Reviews

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

"A hidden gem of a neighborhood"

Merced Heights is a hidden gem. It is a small neighborhood of single family homes with backyards, and many of the homes have Ocean views. The residents are families with children, retirees, singles and the occasional college student. Most of the residents are home owners so they take pride in their property and they take the time to get to know, and look out for, their neighbors. There is even a community garden at the top of the hill so neighbors can come together and garden, or just chat.

The neighborhood is safe, clean and quiet, and it's in an ideal location to be able to venture out and take full advantage of living in the city. Transportation is easy with quick access to 280, bus and muni stations within a block or two, and the Balboa Bart station less than a mile away. It's easy to commute into downtown for work or exciting nightlife and then come back to a quiet and safe neighborhood where parking is easy.

If you prefer staying closer to home and reducing your carbon footprint it's also relatively easy to walk with shopping (e.g., Stonestown mall, Nordstroms, Traders Joes), neighborhood restaurants, coffee, groceries, a library, and a movie theater all within easy walking distance. Of course the neighborhood is built on a hillside so those few blocks may be more challenging than a flat area of the city.

The neighborhood sits in the SW corner so it has a combination of the cooler West weather and the sunnier South weather. It isn't as warm as the Mission or Potrero but it's a much warmer and sunnier microclimate than the Sunset and it boasts a larger than average number of sunny days.

The neighborhood is desirable but also small so it was almost impossible to find an available house between 2003 and 2008 during the boom. The neighborhood is still great and getting better with the Ocean Ave revitalization (e.g., a new Whole Foods, etc.) and it's more attainable than ever.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"More than meets the eye!"

Merced Heights is a neighborhood in the best sense. It is small enough to have a sense of community, some great spots like Brooks Park, at the top of the hill, which hosts a community garden that helps provide the area with an identity and because Merced Heights is built on a hill; homes have views, views, views; fantastic vistas of Lake Merced, and the Pacific Ocean, Point Reyes and Mt. Tamalpais. Brooks Park at the peak of the hill or "The Rock" at the intersection of Shields, Orizaba and Lake Streets provide great views via only a short walk. Merced Heights Park has tennis and basketball courts as well as a grass play field and a decent childrens playground which is overdue for a planned upgrade. This has been your average San Francisco middle class neighborhood for quite some time, but just recently, in 2015, the property values have been soaring as people discover one of the last "affordable" neighborhoods. Merced Heights, although very quiet, is well positioned for public transportation access. The 29 Bus line bisects the area and connects to nearby Stonestown Shopping Center and S.F. State to the West and the Ocean Avenue Business district, City College and BART to the East. For those who drive; I280, Hwy 1 and even US101, via 280 are easily accessible. The Ocean Avenue Business District and the "K Ingleside" Light Rail line is only 3 blocks, albeit, 3 long blocks away. Ocean Avenue, which has been under an extended upgrade process, has improved considerably. Whole Foods, Target Express, CVS, Walgreens, several awesome coffee shops such as "Foglifters" and "Java on Ocean" as well as "Champa Gardens" Thai food and some newly planned Indian and Sushi places join many other business along a rapidly improving business district thanks to the "Ocean Avenue Association" which has provided leadership in order to upgrade the strip. The area weather tends toward the foggy. The type of misty fog that blows in and soaks everything in it's path.The best time of year is September through early spring before the summer fog envelopes the area for a few months. The area is home to many students as it is situated right between S.F. State and City College. Many homeowners rent rooms to students which adds an essential vibrancy to the neighborhood. The Police district that covers the area, The Taraval Station, has the lowest rate of crime in San Francisco. Unpretentious, quiet, safe, yet vibrant and community oriented pretty much sums up Merced Heights.
Pros
  • Community Oriented
  • Safe
  • Good Family Atmosphere
  • Nice View
Cons
  • Foggy
  • No Nightlife
  • Smallish, Tightly Packed Homes
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Beach Lovers
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 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 4/5
2yrs+

"A Quiet Family Neigbhorhood"

Merced Heights is a tiny neighborhood tucked away on the southwest edge of the city. There is not that much to it, it is mostly a bunch of smallish to medium sized homes stretching out along the side of a hill. The main drag is Gartfield Street, but I don’t recall there being any stores or other draws along it. One of the big attractions here are homes that have backyards—somewhat of a rarity in many areas.

There are some real attractions to the location, however. You are far enough from the city, so that you have some peace and quiet. You are right in between both City College and San Francisco State and just minutes from the ocean and the Zoo. Merced Heights is mostly a family neighborhood as far as I can tell. The rents are relatively reasonable in the area, with the average home going for about $1200. You will also find a fair number of rooms for rent since this area is so close to colleges.

But you shouldn’t get the wrong impression—this is an upper middle class neighborhood where the average household makes around $85K.

There are also parks and Jose Ortega Elementary on the southern end of the neighborhood. I don’t know much about Ortega Elementary, except that they have a very nicely designed website—simple but easy to use, exactly what you want. From the photos there it seems like a pretty nice school.

Overall, I guess what I am saying is that this is a nice little family neighborhood.
Pros
  • Affordable Rents
  • Nice View
  • Good Family Atmosphere
Cons
  • Commute to City
  • No Nightlife
  • Smallish, Tightly Packed Homes
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 5/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 3/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"A Hill That Became a Haven"

Sometimes, all it takes to make a neighborhood is the crest of a hill. That’s certainly the case with Merced Heights, a small, compact area comprised of 22 rectangular blocks bounded by Holloway and Shields on the north and south (respectively) and by Orizaba and Junipero Serra Boulevard to the east and west. The dividing line is the ridge along Shields Street on whose moderate southern slope lies Ingleside Heights; on the steeper northern side is Merced Heights.

To the casual observer, the two areas are virtually indistinguishable from each other. But residents here point out distinct characteristics in both the population and the housing stock that make Merced Heights different from the surrounding neighborhoods, including a wide variety of architectural styles that bespeak the different periods in which it was developed. Rather than being built in one fell swoop (as was Ingleside Terrace, for instance), Merced Heights evolved over the decades, something that shows in the area’s houses.

Historically, however, the area was among the last of the great tracts of land west of Twin Peaks to “fill in”—which, in developer parlance, meant laying out the streets to conform to the grid and then putting in predesigned homes, side by side. But because there were a number of existing homes already here, the monotony of such a scheme is broken by the appearance of a late Victorian or a big farmhouse.

Today, the area fans out in mostly well-maintained rowhouses that have a distinctly working-class look. Though many structures suggest a pre-World War I genesis, much of the neighborhood was built during the housing boom after World War II, in the late 1940s and 1950s, and the houses resemble many homes in the Sunset District (garage below/living quarters above). Exceptions are common, however: On Garfield near Ramsell, there’s a small house, odd because it’s set back and down from the street. Though it’s not on the official list of such buildings, it has the appearance of a 1906 earthquake refugee cottage, similar to more than 5,000 put up in many areas of San Francisco after the quake and fire of 1906. (There’s another halfway up the architecturally rich Byxbee Street, between Garfield and Shields, and possibly two more side by side on Vernon, between Holloway and Garfield.) How many of these refugee cottages remain is an open guessing game in San Francisco, but the often quirky-looking homes in neighborhoods such as Merced Heights have frequently proved to be a good source for examples of these rarities (albeit in an altered form).

As one of the first newly developed neighborhoods in San Francisco that allowed African Americans (even liberal San Francisco had neighborhoods, such as Ingleside Terrace and Presidio Terrace, with covenants that limited ownership or occupation to Caucasians), Merced Heights ultimately became a haven for middle-class blacks by the mid-1950s—as contrasted with the traditionally African American neighborhoods like the Fillmore District, where underprivileged blacks converged. Today, they are still a significant presence among the neighborhood’s roughly 6,000 residents (30 percent), according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, though having been exceeded by Asians (43 percent). Whites (19 percent) and people of two or more races (8 percent) comprise the other racial categories. The residents are middle class (median annual household income is $55,000) and almost 80 percent own their homes.

There is no commercial district or even a convenience store in Merced Heights. Because of the compact dimensions of the neighborhood and the fact that it borders Ingleside Terrace (which was designed specifically without a commercial strip), the residents here have to travel outside the area for groceries or even a cup of coffee—though there is a small market at Holloway and Ashton, just beyond the neighborhood’s northeast corner. Most people go to the markets and shops in adjacent Ingleside Heights or Parkmerced, or the larger Stonestown Galleria mall.

Residents also share parks and playgrounds with Ingleside Heights (the Merced Heights Playground and Brooks Parks, both just south of Shields Street). Brooks Park is a “natural area,” meaning it has few landscaped areas beyond a few trails, some raised beds for community gardeners, and a picnic table and benches. Merced Heights Playground has a couple of tennis courts, a basketball court, and a children’s play area with climbing equipment. Another of the neighborhood’s curiosities—Shields Orizaba Rocky Outcrop—has been described as “not quite a park,” and it’s fairly easy to see why: this odd promontory of serpentine and schist interrupts the normal grid, making dead-ends of both streets after which it takes its name (they continue on the other side). Local hikers and dog-walkers frequent it, enjoying its views and lax leash rules.

As for public transportation, the No. 29 bus is it, traveling along Garfield Street, east to connect with the “M” streetcar on 19th Avenue or going west all the way to the Bayview. Merced Heights is roughly a mile away from either the Balboa Park or Daly City BART stations.

Though many residents have cars, most houses also have garages, so on-street parking is generally hassle-free. Only the western third or so of the neighborhood is under 2-hour parking limits (owing to its proximity to San Francisco State University), and the city’s Department of Parking and Traffic issues “H” permits exempting residents from the time restriction.

The only public school nearby is Jose Ortega Elementary, on Sargent Street in adjacent Ingleside Heights, at the south end of Brooks Park. This K-5 was rated 6 out of 10 by GreatSchools.

Crime here is relatively light, according to data from the San Francisco Police Department. Over a recent three-month period, the most common violation was disturbing the peace, followed by a few instances of burglary and petty theft. Though vehicle thefts and car break-ins have hounded other districts in the city, they are uncommon here. And assaults are merely occasional in the area, with no homicides reported in the last three years.

Real-estate prices in Merced Heights are still struggling to recover from the recent economic downturn, remaining 22 percent below in 2010 what they were in 2009, according to Trulia. Still, the market is heavy with foreclosures, and there are bargains to be found. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom single-family home on Byxbee Street was asking $529,000, and many other such homes were listed in the low to mid-$400,000 range. Rentals are fairly rare (being snatched up by SFSU students); a three-bedroom, two-bath home lists in the $2,800 to $3,000 a month range. As it turns out, students from SFSU and City College have given this neighborhood’s rocky housing market some stability, readily renting properties that would have otherwise stood vacant during the slump.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 4/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"Just another neighborhood"

Merced Heights is a very bland neighborhood, there isn’t much to do in Merced Heights, unless you like to go house seeing. There really are only houses here. I’d say the houses here aren’t as nice as the houses in Ingleside Terrace, there really is a big difference when you go from one neighborhood to the other. The houses in Merced Heights are clumped right next to each other—the typical San Francisco home—where as there are suburban styled homes in Ingleside Terrace. However, Merced Heights is quite the quiet neighborhood, except for the area around Holloway Avenue and Junipero Sierra Boulevard where cars frequent. Sometimes it’s a hassle trying to get out of the neighborhood towards Junipero Sierra Boulevard since many cars go through it at times, especially rush hour. One thing that’s great about living in Merced Heights though is that you’re close to the Stonestown Galleria, shopping isn’t that far away, and you’re also really close to places where you can eat out at. There are always ups and downs to most neighborhoods in San Francisco, and Merced Heights definitely has apparent ups and downs. Merced Heights is also right across from San Francisco State University and several golf courses.
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5
2yrs+

"A Tiny Neighborhood"

This district is 2 by 10 blocks wide and full of some beautiful looking but not so tiny houses. Along Junipero Serra Blvd You can get a sense of spaciousness with greenery dotting the front of people's houses (or is that their back yard? Hard to say, really.)

As you wander the grid like streets, this area gives the feeling of safety and a bit of a removed sense from the urban throng. Given it's proximity to the southern 280 exit from San Francisco, though, that's not too surprising. Merced Heights, because of how removed it is from the urban center of SF, barely even feels like it is in the city limits, though it has a distinctly different aesthetic than areas bordering Daly City.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5
2yrs+

"Uniform and well-manicured, but not a lot of fun"

Large broad lawns carpet the sides and centers of its streets among uniform architecture and clustered townhomes. Behind the white columns of the townhouse porticoes are dwellings with private patios, enclosed gardens, and, in some cases, a view of the lake.

The neighborhood was financed at its outset by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and development brought with it basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts abounding in this family oriented neighborhood.

Merced Heights has some great recreational spots, including doggie parks and dog runs, but not a lot for humans. Hard to find a good restaurant and nightlife is scarce. But, with streets leading out to the hub nearby, urban amenities are easy to find.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees

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Best Streets in Merced Heights

1

Ralston St

3/5
"Quite the quiet street and near a playground"
37.7206545000122 -122.468962499849
2

Ramsell St

2.5/5
"Street with a big hill"
37.720673499988 -122.466265999849
3

Arch St

2.5/5
"Quiet street with just homes"
37.7206669999957 -122.467168999779
4

Vernon St

2/5
"A relatively peaceful street"
37.7206604999912 -122.468063999831

Unranked Streets in Merced Heights

Bright St

2.5/5
"Street on a hill with homes"
37.7207879999964 -122.463571499865

Byxbee St

3.5/5
37.7206475000016 -122.469864499826

Orizaba Ave

2.5/5
"Orizaba Street: A school nearby also a near Stonestown"
37.7208480000094 -122.462672999895

Shields St

2.5/5
"Shields Street: The typical San Francisco homes"
37.7178735006843 -122.472035000014
"With with beautiful houses and trees"
37.7188134242391 -122.470744166389

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