Hayes Valley: The Urban Getaway

Hayes Valley is a dynamic, diverse, and beautiful neighborhood with a rich history and distinct culture, located in the heart of San Francisco just north of Market Street, and west of City Hall.

Hayes Valley has always been considered an “urban getaway” from the bustling and chaotic lifestyle that comes with living or working in San Francisco, and the locals take this reputation very seriously. Hayes Street and others surrounding Patricia’s Green, at the center of the neighborhood, feature an abundance of trees, large colorful murals, and wide sidewalks designed with pedestrians in mind, in an attempt to offer a release from the steady flow of traffic that plagues the downtown area.

The myriad modern specialty shops, boutiques, and eateries stand in contrast to the iconic victorian homes filling the side streets, which creates a charming atmosphere that attracts many visitors from throughout the city. Many of the shops in Hayes Valley are as unique as the community they serve, such as Dark Gardens Corsetry, Isotope Comic Book Lounge, and the KitTea Cat Cafe.

Locals and visitors also gravitate toward Hayes Valley to experience the sense of community created by many local organizations, such as the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. This group, among others, focuses on providing many venues of creative expression, community engagement, and educational advocacy. These venues include family-friendly events like the weekly Hayes Valley Art Works and the public movie screenings in the Proxy outdoor theater, as well as public informational meetings and other outreach programs.

After spending only a few hours in Hayes Valley, it becomes apparent that visual and performing arts are a vital part of the culture that exists there. Works of art can be found around every corner in the neighborhood, including Patricia’s Green, where a massive sculpture by David Best, titled “The Temple,” currently sits. And in addition to the many famous murals and community-centered art projects, Hayes Valley also features some of the most popular theaters, galleries and music venues in the city, such as the San Francisco Ballet, the Conservatory of Music, and the SFJazz Center.

However, the neighborhood’s true claim to fame is in its history of social activism. The story begins with the “freeway revolts,” led by Hayes Valley residents after the earthquake of 1989 damaged a section of the freeway that once stood on what is now Octavia Boulevard. Many residents use the metaphor of the Berlin Wall to describe the old freeway’s effects on the neighborhood, because the freeway physically divided the East side’s upscale music and art scene from the West side’s seedy public housing and heavy concentrations of crime. The fate of the damaged freeway was hotly debated for years, until the progressive Hayes Valley voters were able to convince the city through protests and public elections, that the freeway had to come down.

And since the demolition of the infamous freeway, and the opening of Patricia’s Green—named after Patricia Walkup, a very influential protester and neighbor—Hayes Valley has become a thriving epicenter for local businesses, local art, and community involvement.

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