5.5 out of 10

Stonestown

Ranked 81st best neighborhood in San Francisco
37.7173517710802 -122.477060772266
Great for
  • Childcare
  • Clean & Green
  • Internet Access
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Gym & Fitness
Not great for
  • Nightlife
  • Eating Out
  •  
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students

Reviews

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

"Parkmerced: The Rebirth of a Notion"

It looked so good on paper: a planned community with a variety of building styles and heights, the whole of it set in a park-like environment of greenswards and trees, with streets radiating from oval parks and private courtyards serving clusters of apartments and townhouses. Not only would the area appeal to people seeking a respite from the cramped conditions of the rowhouses of San Francisco, it might also tempt those considering a move to the suburbs to remain in the city. Finally, the development would be under the benign management of a large corporation, whose efficient management would ensure that all tenants—for this would be a development exclusively for renters—got the best apartment for their money.

And so, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company—which had already built such rental-housing ventures in The Bronx and Los Angeles—decided to bring its plan to San Francisco, buying nearly 200 acres of land on the east side of Lake Merced in 1941. Though the company faced delays caused by material shortages during World War II, it profited from the postwar building boom and by the late 1940s was filling hundreds of apartments with tenants, some of them in low-slung “neo-colonial” duplex apartments, others in 13-story towers rising above Lake Merced and, later, near 19th Avenue. Parkmerced was a popular place to live, and Met Life’s urban experiment was apparently paying off.

But the early success of this new neighborhood hit a few snags in its first decades. Although there were no official regulations barring racial minorities from renting here, de-facto discrimination took the form of delaying applications and then manipulating waiting lists to keep African Americans from becoming tenants. In time, Parkmerced came to be seen, oddly enough, as a ghetto for white people. One such tenant sued Met Life in the 1960s for its practices, claiming he had been deprived the advantages of an integrated community and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court found in his favor. Met Life settled out of court, and the formerly closed community—known colloquially as Stonestown Apartments—opened its rental units to all races.

By then, however, the lawsuit had taken its toll, and before it was settled, Met Life had sold the complex to another buyer. A few more buyers—including Leona Helmsley, the imperious heiress and real-estate investor from New York—took over an increasingly declining property. By the mid-1980s, the community imagined by landscape architect Thomas Dolliver Church was looking shabby, its supposedly pristine lawns choked with weeds and the communal spaces strewn with trash, the shrubbery in need of pruning. The decades-old buildings were beginning to show the effects of fog and wind and rain, their exteriors cracked and chipped or, worse, defaced by graffiti.

Today, however, a new owner has taken over Parkmerced, remodeled and updated its units, and repainted most of the formerly dull gray and beige buildings in appealing earth tones. The lawns are mowed and kept green, and new trees have been planted and old ones trimmed. It’s a renewed space, and even if its tenants don’t necessarily have cookouts every night in their semi-private courtyards (as the developer mused), the place doesn’t feel as grim as it did formerly (it had been described as a military base at one point). Though thick fog and merciless winds still roll through the neighborhood, the colors of the refurbished facades work to blunt the graying effect, offering a less forlorn aspect to those who call this home.

The 8,000 or so who live here, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, are a diverse mix: white (48 percent); Asian (36 percent); African American (7 percent); and the remainder of two or mixed races. Owing to the fact that many are students (the complex borders San Francisco State University on the north), the population fits into a mostly lower-middle class category (annual median household income is about $50,000), and nearly everyone rents his or her home (Parkmerced is made up entirely of rental apartments).

As for shopping, residents can take advantage of the few services at the Parkmerced shopping center, a strip of rather bland storefronts along Cambon Drive that includes a bank, a pizzeria, a cleaners, and a supermarket. But for the most part, anyone who lives here is likely going to head to nearby Stonestown Galleria, about a half mile north on 19th Avenue, where they can find outlets of the popular Trader Joe’s grocery, two major department stores (Macy’s and Nordstrom), a Borders bookstore, a Williams-Sonoma, and a number of other specialty stores.

Because Parkmerced is an apartment complex operated by a single company, one advantage of living here is the list of communal services tenants can access: there are fitness centers and business rooms with wi-fi in every tower, with laundry facilities also provided. There is also a clubhouse available to tenants for parties, meetings, and other affairs.

Another unusual aspect of Parkmerced is the collection of churches along Brotherhood Way, just south of the development. Here, lined up along the gently curving street (fashioned from Stanley Drive after the I-280 freeway was built in the 1960s), are six religious institutions (including a synagogue, a Catholic church, a Greek Orthodox temple, and sanctuaries for other Christian faiths), sectarian schools, and a Masonic Temple—all built on land that was more or less donated by the city. Though there have been a number of rumbles from residents over who should pay for the landscaping of the open space that borders Brotherhood Way (church or state?) as well as a controversy over recent development plans, this street remains an only-in-San Francisco fixture.

Public transportation is by bus or streetcar. The No. 17 bus makes a loop through Parkmerced; the No. 28 travels up and down 19th Avenue; and the No. 29 begins and ends its east/west crosstown trek at Crespi Drive. The “M” streetcar—and its fast access to downtown—is accessible at the SFSU Station on Holloway and 19th Avenue.

Because of the influx of students during the day, on-street parking can be difficult; as a result, the city’s Department of Parking and Traffic issues “E” parking permits for residents, enabling them to avoid abiding by the hourly parking limits.

Schools in the area are all private (excluding SFSU, part of the state’s public university system). Within the Parkmerced complex grounds is the Montessori Children’s Center, a preschool practicing the teaching and learning philosophy of Maria Montessori. Along Brotherhood Way, a number of sectarian schools offer K-8 education, including Brandeis-Hillel Day School (associated with Congregation Beth Israel), the Holy Trinity Orthodox School (associated with the Greek church by the same name), and St. Thomas More School (part of the Catholic archdiocesan schools).

According to the San Francisco Police Department, disturbing the peace violations are the most common crime, with noise nuisances from revelers and intoxicated persons occurring regularly. Vandalism and petty theft are also fairly common, and burglaries are reported frequently. As with most of the city in the last 10 years, car break-ins and auto thefts are also on the rise. Petty theft is fairly common, and burglaries are too. Though assaults occur occasionally, no homicides have been reported in the last three years.

Real estate in Parkmerced is a straightforward affair: you either rent or you rent. Given that San Francisco State University lies just to the north, many of the units are occupied by students, who keep the market fairly tight. Hence, prices tend to be moderate, with few bargains. Open-plan studios and one-bedroom units go for around $1,800 a month, while two-bedroom, two-bath apartments start at $2,600, and three-bedroom units start at $3,400 a month. Most of the higher floors in the towers have views of either the ocean and Lake Merced or Mount Davidson, Twin Peaks and San Bruno Mountain.

Although it has weathered a decline, Parkmerced in its new and improved version offers an alternative to students and other people seeking a highrise apartment life in a community defined by mini-parks and green spaces.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
3/5
2yrs+

"Campus vibe resides here"

This neighborhood is home to Stonestown Galleria, a conveniently located shopping center with over 130 sought after retailers. Stonestown Galleria boasts stores such as Williams-Sonoma, Nordstrom, Macy's, Banana Republic, and an Apple Computer store. The UA Stonestown Twin Theater is also located here, where you can take in some of the industries latest movies. Dine with friends or entertain your out-of-town guests at Chevy's Fresh Mex.

Stonestown is also home to San Francisco State University, which gives this community an extreme campus vibe. You can find just about anthing to do around the "State."

Overall, Stonestown is a very nice and clean neighborhood. People are friendly and they keep their outdoor spaces in order. There are wide streats and lots of places to roam.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
3/5
2yrs+

"Youthful Area for College Students"

If you're just moving to San Francisco having recently graduated or are about to start attending San Francisco State University, Stonestown might just be the area for you. There are several taller buildings here (they remind me of my dorms from college back east) that are apartment buildings.

This area is right off Lake Merced, so fresh air and nature are close by. For those who are more inspired by the urban pleasures, hop over to Stonestown Galleria and enjoy the plentiful shops, food court and seemingly endless cars.

Because this area is on the edge of the city (and prone to fog, especially in the summer), rents are somewhat cheaper. Of course, getting to the heart of the city also takes longer, so in a sense, you get what you pay for.
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees

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Best Streets in Stonestown

1

Bucareli Dr

3.5/5
"Nice and Residential"
37.7166346177893 -122.480406039216
2

Serrano Dr

2.5/5
"Great if you are Associated with SF State"
37.7199473156517 -122.479239343698

Unranked Streets in Stonestown

"Fast-Moving Traffic Through A Collection of Religious Buildings."
37.7145478668335 -122.482524977856

Font Blvd

2.5/5
"many apartments, good for students"
37.722811559026 -122.483373198031

Cardenas Ave

2.5/5
"haven for SFSU students"
37.7204270000002 -122.477037000072

Arballo Dr

2.5/5
37.7189791171465 -122.483113692311

Cambon Dr

2/5
37.7175752414342 -122.474395317741
"many apartments, traffic noise"
37.7138407618133 -122.473164341853

Crespi Dr

2.5/5
"convenient for students"
37.7196927426225 -122.476215586629

Diaz Ave

2.5/5
"pros and cons"
37.7181080033756 -122.476281501131

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