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Curbed Cup 1st round: (8) Excelsior vs. (9) Chinatown

Which neighborhood should advance? Cast your vote now!

Photo by Athens Avalon Greenspace

The Curbed Cup, our annual award for the neighborhood of the year, kicks off with 16 neighborhoods vying for the prestigious (albeit fake) trophy. We’ll reveal each of the neighborhoods this week, and polls will be open for 24 hours so you can cast your vote as to which hoods should advance. Let the eliminations begin!


Duking it out against Chinatown is 2014’s crown-and-sash winner, the Excelsior. This suburban neighborhood still maintains an old San Francisco feel to it. Which is to say, tech bros and Lululemon aficionados have yet to occupy the place. Here you will find families, working class mingling with the mildly well-to-do, restaurants and bars galore, and colorful circa 1920s homes.

You can even find the occasion detached home asking under $1 million. Gasp.

An eye on affordable housing took better shape here in 2017. Bridge Housing and National Electrical Benefits Fund submitted plans in December for a 426-unit mixed use/apartment complex on Mission Street.

Also of note, the Instagram-worthy Excelsior steps opened at the intersection of Athens Street and Avalon Avenue. Striking rainbow-hued mosaic steps leading up to where Athens Street turns into Valmar Terrace delighted many denizens. And above all, Excelsior is also home to Geneva Steak House, a corner staple since 1942, featuring red booths, mirrored walls, midcentury lanterns, and some of the best steak in the city.

While this neighborhood didn’t see too much action in 2017, it sits on the precipice of major change, for better or for worse.

Photo by Patricia Chang


Like its competitor, Chinatown, an area of working-class residents, also faces major change. 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—stands to bring more people in the neighborhood, possibly spiking property prices.

Second, the 30,000-square-foot China Live complex opened to acclaim, with Eight Tables nabbing most beautiful restaurant of the year honors at Eater. The grocery, retail shop, and multi-restaurant space marks a new destination spot on the neighborhood. And a new 6,000 square-foot rooftop park, which is connected to St. Mary’s Square, containing planted areas and an open plaza, opened this year.

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 Chinatown don’t usually appear on the MLS. By and large, homes are sold off-market. This is what, in part, has helped stave off gentrification. At least for now.

Unfortunately, greed sank its fangs into the cultural hub. In November, longtime Chinatown residents accused their landlord of strong-arm displacement tactics, which could spark an unfortunate trend.

Curbed SF also covered what is, arguably, the Chinatown’s greatest feature—their many, many alleyways.