The Mission – A Youthful Old Neighborhood


Youthful newcomers embrace and change The Mission


By Veronica Dolginko

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]merican history shows population boom after population boom, but the bulge known as the Millennials—people born from the late 1970s until about 2000—is the largest wave since the baby boomers started to arrive in 1946. A mass of kids released into an economic war zone of unemployment, limited opportunity and shaky financial situations, most Millennials are drawn to affordable areas from sheer necessity. The Mission is unique in that the neighborhood also attracts people—including some older than 50—because of its vibrancy, character and remarkable restaurants.

Young people moving into the Mission desperately want existing residents to stay. This wave of gentrification aims to be inclusive. Yet, the influx that started a decade ago has grown so steadily that reported the median age in the Mission as 35 in 2008 while the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 reported it as 29.

San Francisco as a whole is seeing a jump in newcomers, and the Association of Bay Area Governments predicts that the city will reach more than 900,000 people by 2035 compared to 815,400 in 2012.

[quote]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.[/quote]

“[The Mission] certainly is cheaper to live, but it’s also cheaper to go out,” said Patrick Fodell, a 28-year-old who works at a nonprofit in the city’s Financial District and lives in the Mission. “I hardly ever go out to eat around work. There are fewer options, for one, but it’s also too pricey. Garlic noodles, falafel and burgers are sort of universal and fabulous in [San Francisco], but in the Mission you can get the same quality for much less.”

Even among recent college graduates who already work professionally, the need to live and relax affordably is pressing. Close to 20 percent of Mission residents still earn below the poverty line, including a portion of its college-educated demographic, according to

But with rent in other areas of the city starting at $1,000 a month for a room, the Mission still boasts some of the lowest living costs. Rents starting at $600 for a room and other attractions make the area especially appealing. Rent control has been a savior to tenants, though is probably a bane for many landlords.

“I’m lucky I have a job in my field, but I certainly couldn’t afford to live alone anywhere in this city,” said Adam Longhurst, a 27-year-old biochemist who commutes to work at Stanford University from the Mission. “Even a studio in the Mission would be over half my income.”

It’s wrong to see the Mission as a destination solely for the young and financially struggling. Some super-chic and oh-so-fancy stores like Aggregate Supply, a custom-furniture shop at 806 Valencia St., or Argentinian steakhouse Lolinda on Mission Street, have opened.

Residential real estate brokerage Redfin in mid-January said the Mission is one of the hottest emerging neighborhoods nationally and would see some of the greatest home-price increases anywhere in 2013. Redfin agent Landon Nash, who works the Mission, said buyers are diverse and include people priced out of Noe Valley and the Castro. The neighborhood’s improving image also means young families will consider buying there, he said. That would not have happened 15 years ago. He notes that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly bought a Mission home. “Someone that iconic buying in an area can have an effect,” he said. As 2012 ended, Mission homes were selling on average at 5.5 percent above list price, Redfin said.

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Photos by Chad Ziemendorf

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News