The Mission – A Youthful Old Neighborhood

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In late 2009’s uncertain days, Dean Givas of San Francisco’s Oyster Development Corp. selected the Mission as one of two city neighborhoods where he would develop housing. (The other was the Nob Hill-Pacific Heights cusp.) He was attracted to the Mission’s nascent change, Givas said, but also found that the Mission best supported the kind of new-home development he was contemplating: condominium buildings of eight stories or less—those most likely to be financed in a debt-constrained environment.

Prices in the Mission were among the highest in the city, reaching $1,000 a square foot in buildings eight stories or less. Very limited new supplies kept prices high, with developers delivering an average of only 40 new homes a year over the previous seven years.

Today, Givas has entitlements to build 114 condominiums in an eight-story building at 2558 Mission, where he will demolish a former Giant Value store. Next door Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema plans to convert the single-screen New Mission theater into a five-screen theater with food and beverage service.

Givas plans to start construction in June. Targeted buyers will be first-time homeowners ages 28 to 38; “power couples” consisting of two breadwinning adults; and to a lesser extent “urban eclectic” married couples and singles older than 50.

The Mission, along with the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, also benefits from the increasing business and workforce ties between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. All three neighborhoods enjoy some of the city’s best access to the Peninsula on U.S. 101 and Interstate 280.

Stalwart Mission businesses like the Roxie Theater and the boldly infamous lesbian bar The Lexington Club, are booming, too, without having to cater to what might be seen as a fancier clientele. There may be a self-important vegan restaurant here or there, but a Mariachi band can still play its heart out at 3 a.m. on Valencia Street, and no one will bat an eye.

This past December, the Roxie ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise $60,000 for renovations and to seek non-profit recognition from the city, an expensive task that would protect the historic theater from rent increases. The theater recently started renting its space for private parties and company events. Before then, the Roxie was a great old theater in a dangerous spot. Directors of the theater are thrilled with the change.

“We often get reminded by other board members [of The Roxie] that we are in the neighborhood,” Rachel Hart, operations director of the Roxie Theater, said. “The Mission has become a destination rather than just another residential area, and The Roxie is definitely part of that.”

The renovation was funded well over the goal, and the mission statement of the theater remains the same: odd, offbeat and sometimes shocking movies that other theaters wouldn’t dare play.

Deeper in the Mission families still live and thrive in detached homes. A single-family home with three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, close to Potrero Avenue rents for about $2,500 a month, according to the Tenants Union and the City Planning Commission. Homes west of South Van Ness Avenue near Guererro and Valencia streets have seen rent increased by half in the last several years.

Storefronts that have been empty are being filled with newer, sleeker patrons, but the places that have been around for years are still being frequented and adored. Beautiful old buildings that were left for dead are being renovated. Empty lots like the ones at 19th and Valencia or at Folsom and Caesar Chavez are being filled with homes. Say what you will about hipsters, one thing they love is originality.

To say that the Mission is progressing evenly would be inaccurate. There are cases of landlords trying to muscle old tenants out of their apartments, so they can raise the rent. Plenty of the people living there regard the culture as quaint and don’t really care about it. But the bodegas have started carrying products like kombucha and yerba mate right next to Jarritos soda, and upscale restaurants like Hog & Rocks at 3431 19th St. are just around the corner from restaurants specializing in Salvadoran pupusas.

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