The Curbed Cup, our annual award for the neighborhood of the year, moves forward with the Final Four 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!
Once an obscure neighborhood stuck in the shadow of an unsightly freeway, Hayes Valley went on to become the toast of the town, like a particularly fashionable butterfly emerging from its cocoon.
It’s not hard to see what renters, homeowners, local businesses, and Curbed Cup voters find so appealing about the place. It’s conveniently close to Civic Center and downtown but still sheltered from the downsides of those neighborhoods. It’s a stone’s throw from towering new development on Van Ness but itself still entirely human-scaled. And it’s studded with eateries and boutiques that, although sometimes fantastically expensive, usually maintain a homey local atmosphere.
All of that was enough to beat out Bernal Heights (once a challenger for Hayes Valley’s tony residential laurels) and even the Castro (arguably the most quintessentially San Franciscan of all San Francisco neighborhoods) in the previous rounds.
But this time the valley faces some stiffer competition in form of perhaps the only San Francisco neighborhood that can offer something it doesn’t have.
The southern-lying Excelsior and its colorful Jazz Age houses are the unlikely working class heroes of this year’s Curbed Cup. Last year, repeat champ Bayview knocked Excelsior out of the running without much fight, but this time Bayview ebbed almost immediately while Excelsior has excelled.
It’s not hard to plumb of the Excelsior’s appeal, with its old school SF vibe of working families and let’s-all-pitch-in neighborhood culture. But the biggest thing swinging in its favor—and perhaps the X-factor that pushed it ahead of Bayview and helped it knock out both trendy SoMa and equally old school Chinatown in the previous rounds—is that the Excelsior remains the one redoubt in the city where renters and buyers don’t quite have to be ultra-rich to put a roof over their heads.
Excelsior has been on the trembling verge of gentrification for a generation now but still lingers behind even some of its southern neighbor neighborhoods. And that spells relief in these beleaguered times.
Excelsior is attainable and humane in a way that a neighborhood like Hayes Valley just can’t hope for in 2017. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that Hayes Valley’s ambitious and upscale amenities furnish some of the best of the best of city living in 2017.
Both are great neighborhoods, but only one can advance. Vote below to decide.