San Francisco Marina District

Welcome to the trendy Marina district!

As a dreamy neighborhood on the edge of the bay, the Marina entices shoppers, diners, and picnickers to crowd its boutique-lined streets and hilly green space. Offering unmatched views of the Golden Gate Bridge and front row seats to witness the water’s ferocity, this high-end haunt can be a bit intimidating. Sporting a come-hither type of trendiness, the Marina is busy with window browsers by day and bar hoppers by night. In Marina, fiercely fashionable young professionals work early and stay out late. In the Marina, going out beats staying in, and there are plenty of places to patronize. From dance clubs to dive bars, the Marina makes it easy to find entertainment. When the skyline begins to hint at sunrise, late-night diners are still catering to festive crowds.

The Marina Districtis a young, upscale waterfront neighborhood packed with stores, restaurants, and outdoor attractions which is located in San Francisco, California. The neighborhood sits on the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, staged after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to celebrate the reemergence of the city. Aside from the Palace of Fine Arts, all other buildings were demolished to make the current neighborhood.

The area is bounded to the east by Van Ness Avenue and Fort Mason; on the west by Lyon Street and the Presidio National Park; on the south by Cow Hollow and Lombard St, which bisects the southern edge of the Marina District. The northern half of the Marina is a shoreline of the San Francisco Bay, and features the Marina Green, a picturesque park adjacent to the municipal boat marina from which the neighborhood takes its name. Much of the Marina is built on a former landfill, and is susceptible to soil liquefaction during strong earthquakes. This phenomenon caused extensive damage to the entire neighborhood during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Here comes the History of the Marina District. The area in the 19th century prior to the 1906 Earthquake consisted of bay shallows, tidal pools, sand dunes, and marshland similar to nearby Crissy Field. Human habitation and development came in the mid to late 19th century in the form of a sand wall and of a road from the nearby Presidio to Fort Mason. Most of the sand dunes were leveled out as a hodgepodge of wharves and industrial plants was built extending from what is now Laguna Street to Steiner Street. All of this was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake that would destroy large swaths of the city.

During reconstruction of the city after the 1906 Earthquake, the area was chosen as the site of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Although rubble from the earthquake was used as part of the land reclamation, most of the landfill was from dredging mud and sand from the bottom of the Bay. After the end of the exposition in 1915, the land was sold to private developers, who tore down nearly all of the fair’s attractions and developed the area into a residential neighborhood. This major redevelopment was completed in the 1920s. In the 1930s, with the completion of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street was widened, and soon developed into a strip of roadside motels.

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused severe liquefaction of the fill upon which the neighborhood is built, causing major damage including a small firestorm. Firefighters resorted to pumping water directly from the Bay, to replace water unavailable from broken water mains. The neighborhood was quickly rebuilt. Physically, the neighborhood appears to have changed very little since its construction in the 1920s. The San Francisco Police Department Northern Station serves the Marina District.

Of course, any overview of a place called the Marina District must begin with its waterfront. Stretching from the Golden Gate to Fort Mason are a variety of recreational areas and points of interest. The Marina offers more than material merriment. Just east of the Golden Gate, you find the prime jogging spot of the entire Bay Area, the grassy, tree-lined Crissy Field with its prime view of the bridge and bay. It is often featured in films and reality TV shows. Tourists flock here to cross the Golden Gate or go to the small beach area. You find the high priced beachfront homes that stare out from large windows onto the mouth of the Bay.

A piece of San Francisco’s past is on display in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is most famous for the Palace of Fine Arts, that colonnade of Greek pillars that looks out onto an artificial lake—a construction for the 1916 World’s Fair that marketed San Francisco’s return as a city after the 1906 Earthquake and Fires. Next to the Palace is the Exploratorium, a renowned hands-on science museum and children’s educational center. The Palace is the only building left standing in its original location within the 1915 Exposition fairgrounds. The grounds around the Palace are a popular year-round attraction for tourists and locals, and are a favorite location for weddings and wedding party photographs for couples. The neighborhood is also noted for its demographics, which since the 1980s have shifted from mostly middle-class families and pensioners, to professionals in their twenties and thirties. These now make up more than half of the population, although a small, affluent older population remains.

On the eastern end of the Marina is what is still called Fort Mason which is no longer a military base. Its long pier and the adjoining area serve as the locale for plays, wine-tastings, and cultural events of various kinds. Three small ethnic museums are also housed here. Back on the eastern end of the Marina, you find the woody expanse of the Presidio. The Presidio remained an active military base until the end of the Cold War, when the Clinton administration began its privatization. Since that time, it has briefly been home to the Mikhael Gorbachev’s institute, and more recently of George Lucas’s Industrial Arts and Magic at the Letterman Digital Arts Center. You can also find the Walt Disney Museum here. The buildings within the Presidio still resemble the historic buildings as they stood around the period of the Great Exhibition of 1916 though much of the Presidio is still in a transitional state.The homes that make up the rest of the Marina District look much like newer renovated versions of the kinds of two and three story Victorians that you find throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods—most reminiscent of those found in stretches of the Richmond district along the north of Golden Gate park. These are expensive homes and because of the exclusive locale, many people pay high prices to rent here. Although you may occasionally find a small studio or room in a home for about a $1,000, most rents are more than twice this much.

Food is only one of the ways for tourists and the well-off Denizens to pass their time here—shopping is the other. Establishments like The Tipsy Pig serve cocktails at night and mimosas in the morning. The Marina supports its own kind of cafe culture. In this neighborhood, brunch time is the best time and it is merely the beginning of an active afternoon. The double-digit list of boutique clothing stores makes this an area where you can get everything from one of a kind cocktail dresses to clothing and accessories worn by celebrities and luminaries. It’s the sort of neighborhood where dressing up is encouraged and the sort of place where fine cocktails complement fashionable clothes. This shopping destination seamlessly blends independent labels with chain retailers. You can stroll along Chestnut Street and you are sure to find something that tempts you. Chestnut Street’s stores and boutiques offer Marina residents a place to find the fashions they’ll wear that evening. If locally-sourced produce is your preference, you’re in the right place. The Marina hosts a lively farmers’ market on the weekends. The younger population also means that you have an active nightlife here. A series of nightspots dot Union Street—the Marina’s main party artery.

The Marina is a trendy place for the well off to live and play. The combination of new growth and ocean views have made this yet another high priced San Francisco neighborhood. In a nutshell, the Marina is more fun than Pacific Heights, more upscale than Mission, slightly older than North Beach, and has better outdoor spaces than most other spots in the city. All of this makes it irresistible to those who can afford it. The Marina is without a doubt one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of San Francisco.


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