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Set just south of the Golden Gate Park and along the San Francisco western coastline runs the Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods. Built over the sand dunes of the original landscape, together with Golden Gate Heights to the east, these 7 neighborhoods are often referenced together yet are quite distinct in both style and offerings to homeowners and renters.
Golden Gate Heights is the highest point in the Sunset and Parkside areas. Do not expect to do much shopping or dining here but as it says it in the name this area gives you the best views of the Sunset area and Golden Gate park. One of the smaller neighborhoods in the area, Golden Gate Heights breaks away from the traditional grid layout and follows the large, steep curves of the terrain. Homes in this area tend to be newer yet there are some older houses facing nearby Forest Hill. If you can manage it, test yourself on what feels like the longest set of stairs leading up Grand View Park and be rewarded with breathtaking views on days without the fog.
The Parkside area is often grouped together but is made of three neighborhoods for over 50,000 residents: Outer Parkside by the beach, Parkside in the middle and Inner Parkside flanks the eastern edge of the district heading up to the peaked areas of central hills (Mt. Davidson & Twin Peaks) of San Francisco. Both Outer Parkside and Parkside were developed in the 1930s on large tracts of sand following the Great Highway.
These areas, while often foggy, offer houses with a view of one of the most picturesque coastlines and are some of the more affordable neighborhoods in the city. Houses here are primarily one story over a garage, are close together and sport a variety of styles and colors. There are some detached homes with the occasional Oliver Rousseau designed storybook-inspired house and plentiful free local parking.
For local residents who like to stretch outdoors the area features the South Sunset Playground and the San Francisco Zoo which cares for over 1000 exotic animals. To the south also sits Pine Lake Park (trivia – Parkside was not named so due to being near Golden Gate Park, but due to its proximity to Pine Lake Park) and 33 acres of eucalyptus and pine, the Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove which includes a dog park and amphitheater for the Stern Grove Festival. The neighborhood has several small commercial areas along the main avenue of Taraval Street with a typical selection of banks, grocers, Asian restaurants, bars and pubs. This area is primarily suited towards families and students with good access to entertainment areas and education hubs.
Inner Parkside is the most conveniently positioned of the Parkside Neighborhoods. The main commercial strip of West Portal’s home of family run stores and restaurants is just a couple of blocks away, a nice addition to Parkside’s Taraval Street. Natural hotspots are also close to Inner Parkside, with the beach to the immediate West, Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove and Pine Lake to the south and Twin Peaks to the east. In these well maintained streets, homes are primarily single and multi-family stucco houses built in the 1930s and post WWII houses from the 1950s.
Like Parkside, the Sunset District is made up of outer, central, and inner Sunset. Outer Sunset is the closest of the Sunset neighborhoods to the beach. Local weather here can be unpredictable, windy and very foggy. However in return the neighborhood offers beautiful ocean views as well as quick and easy access to the beach. A simple stroll aross the Great Highway via the many pedestrian crossings allows one to enjoy the wide clean beach frequented by hot-blooded local surfers and joggers on the wooden boardwalk or grassy hills.
Housing in these neighborhoods is still relatively affordable. Primarily constructed in the mid-century, the houses are neat rows of one story above garage homes with a small, well-kept yards in front. Well maintained, many residents have lived in this area since it was first developed and have beautified their properties with a range of bright pastel paints. In Outer Sunset, home styles can vary from standard 1950s and 1960s designs to 1920s mission style homes and cool beach huts. Both Sunset neighborhoods are quiet and peaceful, as some of the lowest density suburbs in San Francisco.
The Sunset district is relatively less commercialized than other neighborhoods. Irving Street is the main commercial area of Outer Sunset with plenty of ethnic groceries and some of the best Chinese restaurants (try San Tung!). For central and Inner Sunset, Noriega Street provides a similar range of the restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, drugstores, banks and a Safeway.
Access to quality schooling is also a solid draw to the area. Two great elementary schools serve local students such as Ulloa Elementary, earning a 10 out of 10 on GreatSchools with a bilingual program, as well as Scott Key which earned a 9 out of 10 rating. For high schools, nearby St. Ignatius College Prep is one of the city’s highest ranked high schools and attracts students from around the city.