Van Ness Ave is one of the best residential neighborhoods in San Francisco. It is centered around St Mary’s Cathedral and is surrounded by a few more churches- rightfully living up to it’s name. Not only is Van Ness teeming with small businesses and chains, it’s also close to Japantown, Downtown, Civic Center, Pacific Heights and Nob Hill. It’s a dream location for those who seek safety and a quiet neighborhood but don’t necessarily want to sacrifice accessibility and proximity to dining, recreation and shopping options.
Originally named Marlette Street, Van Ness Avenue is named for James Van Ness, the seventh mayor of San Francisco, who served from only 1855 to 1856 (scroll down to learn more about Van Ness’s time as mayor). As an alderman, he wrote the Van Ness Ordinance, which ordered undeveloped land to be surveyed and transferred to their original deedholders on January 1st, 1855. At this time fraudulent deeds ran rampant throughout the city, so this ordinance caused huge unrest and sparked years of legal proceedings to determine who legally owned the land and properties. This was the first step in the creation of the Western Addition district. The Western Addition was the area between Larkin Street and Divisadero Street (comprising today of the Van Ness, Pacific Heights, Hayes Valley, and Haight neighborhoods), which marked the city’s western edge in 1856. When it was first surveyed in 1856, Van Ness Avenue was intended to be San Francisco’s spine. While it remains a major artery in San Francisco (and is one of the main north-south thoroughfares), downtown rejuvenation following the 1906 earthquake cemented Market Street as the ‘main street’ of San Francisco. Today, the Western Addition name is being phased out in favor of smaller neighborhood distinctions.
Van Ness Avenue runs from a spot at the Bay between Fort Mason and Ghirardelli Square, straight down to Market Street, where it turns into South Van Ness, which crosses US Highway 101 and then runs through the Mission district until Cesar Chavez Street. At 125 feet wide, it is one of the widest streets in San Francisco. In the 1870s and 1880s sections of the street began to attract the wealthy and their large homes, in part due to a lack of available land on Nob Hill. Indeed, James Van Ness owned a house on the block bounded by Van Ness, Franklin, Hayes and Fell Streets (near Civic Center). According to San Francisco’s planning department, rows of Eucalyptus trees were planted along the avenue to create a grand boulevard, suggesting wealth and beauty. By the 1890s mansions lined the avenue, including those of prominent residents, including the Spreckles family, Crocker family, and the Giannini family. Close to downtown and with cable car access up the hill, it was an ideal location.
The avenue was at its zenith when an estimated 7.8 on the Richter scale earthquake struck on April 18th, 1906, at 5:14am. At this time it was still very common for homes to have gas lighting, and as the earthquake shook the city, the gas lines throughout it did as well. Fire soon broke out and went on a rampage through the primarily wooden building frames. While much of Van Ness was initially intact after the earthquake, the street was used as a firebreak by the U.S. Army. Along the street many of its beautiful buildings were dynamited in an ultimately successful attempt to prevent the firestorm from spreading further west after four days of raging.
After the quake, many downtown businesses that had been destroyed relocated onto Van Ness. By 1909, however, downtown had been rebuilt and was once again thriving, although Van Ness was still used as a mix of commercial and residential dwellings. Streetcar service started on Van Ness in 1915 for the opening of the Panama–Pacific International Exposition. In the 1920s, apartment buildings began to spring up on the street and the grand auto showrooms that lined the corridor made Van Ness the west coast’s largest Auto Row. After World War 2 the street was designated as a highway and became a main traffic thoroughfare, furthering its location as an ideal place for automobile shopping, a legacy still visible today. The rail lines were removed in the 1950s and replaced with a tree-lined median.
In 2003, 75 percent of voters approved the sales tax to plan rapid transit service on Van Ness Avenue. In September 2013, the Board of Supervisors, acting as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Commission, unanimously approved the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Project, the core of the Van Ness Improvement Project. Today, the Van Ness Avenue corridor serves as a vital connector of neighborhoods and a regional link for travel between Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. Van Ness Avenue is one of the busiest north-south corridors in the city, serving over 16,000 Muni customers daily on the 47 Van Ness, 49 Mission/Van Ness and 90 San Bruno Owl bus routes as well as Golden Gate Transit customers. It is part of the California State Highway System and of US Route 101, a primary artery that connects Interstate Highways 280 and 80 with the Golden Gate Bridge.
More on James Van Ness
James Van Ness didn't exactly have the best run as mayor -- his tenure was tarnished by the most notorious double-murder and vigilante justice case in San Francisco history. The San Francisco Committee of Vigilance was formed in 1851, in reaction to the Sydney Ducks, the name given to a gang of criminal immigrants from Australia in San Francisco. The vigilantes usurped political power from the corrupt or incompetent officials in the city, conducted secret trials, lynchings, and deportations, which effectively decimated the Sydney Ducks. it was revived in 1856 in response to rampant crime and corruption in the municipal government of San Francisco, California. The need for extralegal intervention was apparent with the explosive population growth following the discovery of gold in 1848. The small town of about 900 individuals grew to a booming city of over 200,000 very rapidly. Van Ness was unable to stop the executions of two men charged with murder by shooting by the Vigilantes in 1856. These militias ultimately hanged eight people and forced several elected officials to resign. Though it’s not clear if this was the case with Van Ness, it did undermine his authority as a politician during his time in San Francisco. Van Ness would be the last mayor to be referred to as such during his term until 1862. Until then, the mayor would be known as the "President of the Board of Supervisors." Soon after he left office, Van Ness left San Francisco for San Luis Obispo County and in 1871 became a California Senator.
Now that your Thanksgiving meal is fully digested, get in the holiday spirit with a couple of nearby San Francisco traditions:
Be awed by the 25ft high Gingerbread House at Fairmont San Francisco in Nob Hill & enjoy Gingerbread Tea 1-3:30pm daily until the end of the year
Once you're warm and full of delicious tea, head on over to the Union Square's seasonal ice rink, open from 10am to 11:30pm daily
Hope you have a happy start to your holidays!
The Bay City Beacon has come out with a number heavy but informative article:
The Van Ness BRT Costs Way, Way Too Much (click to view)
The author claims that BRT projects are specifically meant to be inexpensive are quick fixes, and operate that way in other cities around the world, but that the San Francisco transit powers-that-be have used it as a vehicle to include many other street upgrades and improvements, resulting in an incredibly expensive and slow moving project.
Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page (click here).
First, you might already know about the California Pacific Medical Center Campus currently in construction on the block of Van Ness at Geary Avenue.
A new hospital will sit across Van Ness from a Medical Office Building. Construction is expected to be completed by 2019.
Find out more here: http://sf-planning.org/cpmc-campus-plans-and-summaries
Two nearby high rise residential buildings also have expected completion in 2019.
1001 Van Ness Ave
At Van Ness & O’Farrell St, it is just a block away from the CPMC site.
It will be 14 stories high with an estimated 239 living units.
Find out more here: http://1001vanness.com/
830 Eddy Street
Located a few blocks south of 1001 Van Ness at the corner of Van Ness & Eddy. It will be 12 stories with 137 homes.
With construction nearly complete, The Austin is taking it's place in the center of San Francisco. With a bold black and white façade, the building is a welcome architectural statement in a community of diversity and curiosity. Closings are anticipated to begin this Fall. With this news, two new residences were recently released (see floor plans above).
The Austin is located at the epicenter of San Francisco. The building is designed to be a respite amongst the energy of the City. Amenities include full-time doorman, Library Lounge and Garden, Rooftop Terrace with firepit, BBQ and views from Angel Island to Sutro Tower. Bike parking is included with every home. Vehicle parking available for purchase.
Call 415.855.3388 for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center on Van Ness Ave between Hayes and McAllister Streets is one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States.
It is comprised of the War Memorial Opera House, Davies Symphony Hall, Herbst Theatre, The Green Room, and Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall.
The "War Memorial" name commemorates all the people who served in the First World War.
During the Second World War it became an international landmark, when, these buildings served as the site of the formation of the United Nations. Conference sessions were held in the Opera House, and in the Herbst Theatre President Truman and other heads of state signed the United Nations Charter on June 26, 1945.
The San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera, and San Francisco Symphony are all permanent residents of the Arts Center. In addition, The performing arts center hosts modern and classical dance, theatre, recitals, plays, lectures, meetings, receptions, special screenings, and gala events.
Tours are scheduled every Monday, except holidays, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on the hour.
For further information, contact Performing Arts Center Tours at 415.552.8338.
You can also take a virtual tour on their website at http://www.sfwmpac.org/.