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Curbed Cup 1st Round: (8) Chinatown vs. (9) Nob Hill

Which neighborhood should advance to the second round?

Chinatown San Francisco, with red lanterns abive the streets. Photo by Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Chinatown

Everybody outside of Chinatown knows about Chinatown. Yet only a few outside of Chinatown know a damn thing about Chinatown. (Which, in part, promoted a comprehensive San Francisco Magazine feature.) That’s the intriguing duality of one of San Francisco’s most storied neighborhoods. It also made scores of headlines this year. Here’s why:

First, the Central Subway project, which will run from the T-Third near Caltrain on Fourth Street up, through Chinatown on Stockton, and end near the entrance of North Beach. It’s making history as a new subway route, one geared toward the many residents of the neighborhood. The much-needed public transit line was jumpstarted by powerbroker Rose Pak, a San Francisco icon who died in September.

Those familiar with Curbed SF’s for-sale features will notice a glaring Chinatown absence. That’s because, unlike other neighborhoods, properties for sale in the area don’t usually land on the MLS. By and large, homes are sold off-market.

In addition to Mister Jiu’s opening in April, helmed by Brandon Jew (Quince, Bar Agricole), China Live, an ambitious, 30,000-square-foot gastronomical project, is slated to open in January, just in time for the Chinese New Year. It’s also important to note that the hood is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.

Nob Hill

Straight up, Nob Hill is home to some of the most stunning homes in San Francisco, period. While, architecturally speaking, Alamo Square receives most of the fanfare (due to a horrendous ABC sitcom) and Pac Heights gets to be as bombastic as it wants to be (The Pacific and Danielle Steel’s bush, just to name two loud mouths), Nob Hill remains the city’s most elegant yet accessible neighborhood, period.

“We have a healthy mix of rent-controlled apartments, newish condos, and opulent, over-the-top co-ops,” confirms Curbed cities director Sally Kuchar. The contrast is noteworthy. For example, this restored Polk-Willis turned heads when it landed on the market this month. And this tiny home on John Street was too cute to ignore.

And few neighborhoods can brag that they have one of the city’s best parks (Huntington Park) nestled between such awe-inspiring structures (Grace Cathedral, the Pacific-Union Club, Huntington Hotel). In a city full of beauty pageant runner-ups, Nob Hill always takes the crown.