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How Did Hayes Valley Become SF's Most Stylish Neighborhood?

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Photo via <a href="">Amour Vert</a>, one of the newer additions to the neighborhood.
Photo via Amour Vert, one of the newer additions to the neighborhood.

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Twenty years ago, no one would have guessed Hayes Valley would become San Francisco's most stylish neighborhood. Back then, it was riddled with crime and decay. Now, it's one of the wealthiest parts of the city and the first stop for shopping addicts.

The catalyst was the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that destroyed the portion of 101 that ran through Hayes Valley. Instead of rebuilding, the city moved the end of the freeway to its current spot at Market Street. Removing the freeway liberated the neighborhood. Trees and greenery filled the street previously shadowed by the 101 and Octavia Blvd became the path into the heart of the new Hayes.

The 90s spurred growth in Hayes Valley while the city decided what to do with the freeway. Lava 9 opened in 1991, Gimme Shoes opened in 1993, followed by Bulo Shoes the next year. In 1999 the freeway dismantling began and the neighborhood immediately opened up.

The fashion surge continued in the early aughts, bouyed by the completion of Patricia's Green —that parklet where you give your feet a break from shopping— in 2005. Azalea Boutique opened in 2003 along with a handful of cafes, restaurants, and shops, including MAC – Modern Appealing Clothing. Growth has continued at an ever-increasing pace. In 2010, the neighborhood met Proxy, an innovative development project that allows rotating businesses like Biergarten, Smitten and Juice Shop to set up shop. Azalea Boutique opened its two spinoff stores, Welcome Stranger and Rand + Statler in 2010 and 2011. Vintage and contemporary boutique Reliquary followed the same year. Hayes Valley had officially switched from being "up and coming" to be the "it spot" in San Francisco.

Now to the important part: What's next for the neighborhood? Continue to expect great things from this centrally-located gem. Proxy's lease has been extended to 2021, with the promise of an outdoor movie theater and more rotating businesses. New stores open almost monthly —though no chain stores, thanks to SF's formula retail law— and about 100 new apartments are under construction.

Retail. Rebirth. Style. Just a few of the reasons to love Hayes Valley.
Mark Olson
Revised 8/10: Changed date of Patricia's Green opening from 1999 to 2005
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