San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own character and community. At one point in time these neighborhoods were largely defined by the dominant ethnic identities of their residents. While some neighborhoods like North Beach (aka Little Italy) and Chinatown retain some of this legacy, development and time have resulted in identity pivots to places like the Fillmore and yes SOMA.
Before the construction of Moscone Center, Pac Bell (or SBC or ATT or Oracle depending on when you arrived here) Park and the original 1.0 dot com boom SOMA was viewed as the center of the Filipino community in San Francisco; before that it was “south of the slot” and considered to be an undesirable neighborhood full of disrepute. Back before the 1906 earthquake the areas around South Park and Rincoln Hill were actually the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city. This is a long way of saying that neighborhoods emerge, disappear and pivot as cities grow. Much like identity the landscape seen at any moment is additive not substitutive.
Central SOMA is an emerging neighborhood catalyzed by the persistently delayed Central Subway. The Central Subway was inspired by the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 earthquake which catalyzed the need to make Chinatown more accessible to the rest of the city. Along with the Central Subway was the iterative development of the Central SOMA Plan which up-zoned the real estate along Fourth Street between Market and Mission Creek to allow for much denser construction of high rise buildings.
Over the next few years office construction will create the potential tens of thousands of new jobs, a couple big parks are planned and housing construction will create many thousands of new apartments and condominiums in this area. Already the core Fourth Street feels much more pedestrian friendly as businesses open to take advantage of growing foot traffic. While the Central SOMA Plan defines the neighborhood as an Idaho-shaped region we think that it makes more sense to take the infrastructure boundary of the Central Subway and look a couple blocks in either direction to have more of a rectangular definition. Either way this neighborhood will be an extension of downtown as San Franciscos first real mid-town.
The next few years are pivotal for the development of the neighborhood. While here we try to take a neutral perspective on the pros and cons of any given particular proposal, we also think that it is useful to have a place where the neighborhood can find a lot of this information in one place. Ideally this website will be useful for many different stakeholders from residents and employees to employers and developers to government and policy groups.