The Richmond District is a neighborhood in the northwest corner of San Francisco, California, developed initially in the late 19th century. It is sometimes confused with the city of Richmond, which is 20 miles (32 km) northeast of San Francisco.
The Richmond is in many ways defined by its relation to the parks; bordered by Golden Gate Park on the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Lincoln Park, Land's End, Mountain Lake Park and the Presidio of San Francisco to the north, bisected by the Presidio Greenbelt and with the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge in full and clear view, the neighborhood, which is otherwise a simple but far-reaching grid, has a feeling of being encapsulated by nature. It is thus known as a safe, peaceful, serene, family neighborhood, and one of the city's largest as a whole, both in terms of housing stock and population.
The Richmond has many influences from the Chinese-American culture. One of its three commercial strips, Clement Street in the inner Richmond segment is sometimes called the second Chinatown due to its highly-rated Chinese restaurants. The restaurants are even rated higher than the ones in The Chinatown of San Francisco itself.
The other two commercial strips are Geary Boulevard and Balboa Street.
The Richmond also has deep Irish and Russian roots and has many Catholic and Orthodox churches.
The neighborhood was given its name by Australian immigrant and art dealer George Turner Marsh, one of the neighborhood's earliest residents, who called his home "the Richmond House" after Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. In 1917, the district was legally named "Park-Presidio District", chosen to avoid confusion between the district and the city of Richmond right across the bay. In spite of the official change, virtually every San Franciscan continued to use the old name.
Still, the name Park-Presidio remained on the books until January 2009, when newly elected Supervisor Eric Mar introduced legislation that officially renamed the area north of Golden Gate Park and west of Arguello Boulevard the Richmond District.
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The Richmond District, originally an expanse of rolling sand dunes, was developed initially in the late 19th century. Before this development, the Yelamu Tribe of the Ohlone Nation frequented the coastal sites of the current day district and had a village where the development would take place. In the later 18th century, they were not able to use this land anymore after Spanish explorers arrived and began setting up missions with the intent of converting and displacing the Ohlone people. Adolph Sutro was one of the first large-scale developers of the area. After purchasing the Cliff House in the early 1880s, he built the Sutro Baths on the western end, near Ocean Beach.
After the 1906 earthquake, development increased with the need to provide replacement housing. The last of the sand dunes and coastal scrub that once dominated the area were built over to create a street car suburb.
The Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war brought many Anti-Communist White Russian, Orthodox Russian refugees and immigrants into the neighborhood. Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia briefly made its headquarters at Holy Virgin Cathedral on Geary Boulevard.
In the 1950s, and especially after the lifting of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1965, Chinese immigrants began to replace the ethnic Jewish and Irish-Americans who had dominated the district before World War II. Chinese of birth or descent now make up nearly the half of residents in the Richmond.
Located directly north of Golden Gate Park, "the Richmond" is bounded roughly by Fulton Street to the south, Arguello Boulevard and Laurel Heights to the east, The Presidio, Lincoln Park, and Sea Cliff to the north, and Ocean Beach to the west. The western portion "Outer Richmond" and the eastern portion "Inner Richmond" is divided by a major thoroughfare, Park Presidio Boulevard (California State Route 1). Geary Boulevard is a major east-west thoroughfare that runs through the Richmond and to downtown. Technically, the Farallon Islands, about 30 miles to the west of mainland San Francisco, are also part of the Richmond District.
The Richmond has been popularly divided into five parts:
Lake Street is just south of Presidio of San Francisco and north of Inner Richmond. It is an affluent area characterized by its many Victorian/Edwardian mansions. Its boundaries are: the Presidio to the north, Arguello Blvd to the east, California St. to the south, and 25th Ave. to the west. Its name is derived from its proximity to Mountain Lake, one of the few remaining natural lakes in San Francisco, and Lake Street, the neighborhood's northernmost east-west artery. Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza ended his second northward expedition at the lake, stopping for two days in 1776. While here he located a site for the Spanish presidio that was later built. A plaque was placed in September 1957 near the point where he stayed.
Inner Richmond sits south of Lake Street. Its boundaries are: California St. to the north, Arguello Blvd to the east, Geary St. to the south, and Park Presidio Blvd. to the west. The hub of the Inner Richmond is Geary Blvd. and Clement St. which are particularly known for Chinese, Cambodian, Korean, Burmese, and Russian cuisine. The Inner Richmond is a diverse area with a sizable Chinese and Russian population.
Central Richmond is between Inner Richmond (to the east) and Outer Richmond (to the west). It is bounded by Park Presidio Blvd to the east, California St. to the north, Fulton St. to the south, and 32nd Ave. to the west. Its hub is on Geary Blvd. (between Park Presidio Blvd. to 28th Avenue).
Outer Richmond is to the west of the Central Richmond. It is bounded by Clement St. to the north, 32nd Ave. to the east, Fulton St. to the south, and Ocean Beach to the west. It borders the Ocean Beach and the Cliff House, currently operating as a restaurant. Lincoln Manor is a small enclave of larger homes within the Outer Richmond. It includes a vibrant merchant corridor on the western portion of Balboa St. from approximately 32nd Ave. to 42nd Ave. called Balboa Village.
Balboa Hollow is at the southeast corner. It is bounded by Geary Blvd. to the north, Fulton St. to the south, Arguello Blvd. to the east, and Park Presidio Blvd. to the west. The hub of Balboa Hollow is the eastern portion of Balboa St., which is known for its Japanese and Korean restaurants.
The Richmond District and the neighboring Sunset District (on the south side of Golden Gate Park) are often collectively known as "The Avenues", because a majority of both neighborhoods are spanned by numbered north-south avenues. When the city was originally laid out, the avenues were numbered from 1st to 49th and the east-west streets were lettered A to X. In 1909, to reduce confusion for mail carriers, the east-west streets and 1st Avenue and 49th Avenue were renamed. The east-west streets were named after Spanish explorers in ascending alphabetical order in a southward direction. First Avenue was renamed Arguello Boulevard and 49th Avenue was renamed La Playa Street.
Today, the first numbered avenue is 2nd Avenue, starting one block west of Arguello Boulevard, and the last is 48th Avenue near Ocean Beach. The avenue numbers increase incrementally, with the exception that what would be 13th Avenue is called Funston Avenue named for Frederick Funston, a U.S. Army general, famous for his exploits during the Spanish–American War, the Philippine–American War, and the 1906 earthquake.
Many of the east-west streets are still named after the Spanish Conquistadors, but there are exceptions. The creation of Golden Gate Park took out the streets previously lettered E through G. The former D Street became Fulton, which is the northern boundary of most of the Park.
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The "Marina Style" houses are popular in Central and Outer Richmond. The Marina style uniquely consists of a sun room (a room with windows on three sides), that can only be accessed through a bedroom - essentially a bedroom inside of a bedroom; and the split bathroom where the bathtub and sink is in a separate room from the toilet, which has its own room.
To lure home buyers with promises of large houses while keeping prices low, homes were built with large basements (basements are an unusual feature in California because its weather permits shallower foundations) with the intention that the buyers could convert the basements into living space at their own volition. This essentially marketed a house as two stories, with the first story (basement) unfinished. This decision would prove to be ingenious as the 20th century evolved, as many basements were converted to garages. Some were converted with garages in the front and in-law units in the back.
Major parks in the Richmond District include:
The Richmond is home to Katherine Delmar Burke School, an independent girls' school for kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as Kittredge School, a small, independent private elementary school. Additionally, San Francisco Unified School District serves Richmond District. Alamo, Argonne, and Lafayette elementary schools are located in the Outer Richmond, and Sutro, Frank McCoppin and George Peabody are in the Inner Richmond. Presidio Middle School is located in the Outer Richmond District, while Roosevelt serves the Inner Richmond. George Washington High School is located in the central Richmond at 32nd Avenue and Anza St.
The Richmond/Senator Milton Marks Branch and the Anza Branch of the San Francisco Public Library serve the Richmond District. In 1930 voters approved a city charter amendment that would increase funding to the library system so a new library could be built. John Reid, Jr., the architect, designed and landscaped the $57,117.29 new library, which was placed on the site of the former Lafayette School. On April 10, 1932 the Anza Library, the 17th municipal library branch, was dedicated. On May 2009 the library system closed the Anza Branch for repairs. A rebuilt library opened on June 18, 2011. Jing Mo Athletic Association lion dancers provided entertainment at the ceremony.
Media related to Richmond District, San Francisco at Wikimedia Commons