Pacific Heights – San Francisco, CA

Located in the northern central part of San Francisco, Pacific Heights has some of the city’s most breathtaking and panoramic views. Many famous people live in the neighborhood, from Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, and Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House. The four streets forming Pacific Heights’ boundaries are Bush Street, Presidio Avenue, Union Street, and Van Ness Avenue. A natural ridge running from east to west rises to more than 370 feet, and helps to facilitate views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco Bay. Since Pacific Heights is considered a higher income area, it’s known for gorgeous homes, expensive restaurants and the many foreign consulates housed in the area.

Schools in Pacific Heights

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Restaurants & Nightlife

Due to its wealthy inhabitants, there are a wide variety of cuisines available in Pacific Heights. Pizza and Mediterranean are popular, and the restaurants are scattered across the neighborhood, so no matter where you are, one is likely nearby. La Mediterranee has been serving homemade Middle Eastern specialties since 1979, in a cozy setting. Dolma, tabuleh, lentil salad and saffron chicken are just some of the popular dishes locals keep coming back for. If you're staying in the area, they even have delivery, for small intimate dinners at home. If you're in the mood for something a little more Spanish, the Fillmore location of Fresca serves Peruvian and tapas in an intimate setting. Voted Best of the Bay in 2010, locals know to order one of the fresh ceviches, the causa masaski, a crispy shrimp appetizer, and the lomo saltado, a salted pork dish many travel for. Pizzeria Delfina is one of those places that inspires fierce loyalty. From the Belfiore burrata and handmade pizzas to the Neapolitan meatballs made from pork, beef and veal, expect to order more than you can eat, as you see other diners' plates being taken to their tables. Given its tony reputation, Pacific Heights doesn't cater to the nightlife ragers. Instead, it hosts beloved bars and open mics. Swank Cocktail & Coffee Club has a chill vibe and a fireplace, making it feel like something out of Mad Men. A great first date spot, or place to catch up before or after the theatre. Sunday Night Mic is the only live music venue in Pacific Heights, and features a huge cathedral-like space with great sound, according to locals. In fact, Sunday Night Mic takes place inside an old church, hence the great acoustics. If you're willing to travel a few blocks, nearby Lower Pacific Heights, Nob Hill and Chinatown all have fabulous live music venues. Locals also flock to the Clay Theatre for art, indie and foreign films. Though the concessions can be pricey, locals say the popcorn is fresh and hot, and the iced tea cold. Nearby Harry's Bar provides the perfect after-movie place to grab a cucumber gimlet and gourmet slider, or share a few small plates.

History & Culture

Pacific Heights was developed in the 1870s, after the Gold Rush of 1849. Originally, small Victorian homes lined the streets. But after the devastating earthquake of 1906, many were destroyed and replaced with homes designed in early 20th century style. These days, many “painted ladies” share the streets with homes in the Victorian, Mission Revival, Edwardian and Chateau styles. During the 20th century, the area became home to many foreign consulates, including those of Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam. Several schools are also found here, like the San Francisco University High School, the Drew School, the Hamlin School, Convent for Sacred Heart High School, Stuart Hall High School and Town School for Boys. The dental school of the University of the Pacific is located in Pacific Heights, in addition to the Academy of Art University. Though the area shifted more and more toward millionaire and billionaire residents as the 20th century progressed, it’s remained devoted to preserving its architecture. Many notable personalities have called Pacific Heights home over the years, such as Jonathan Ive, chief designer at Apple, and Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal. The Academy of Arts University Automobile Museum is located on the edge of Pacific Heights, just off Van Ness. Smaller galleries like Cottage Industry, Winterbranch Gallery and Abigail Greene Ryan’s Vintage Posters take up the slack with unique home goods, jewelry and accessories featured alongside paintings, sculptures and photos for sale. The area’s annual Fillmore Jazz Festival draws big crowds each summer, to hear the best talent the Bay Area has to offer. From jazz fusion to Latin jazz and old timey crooners covering standards, this world-class festival has food vendors and a street fair atmosphere for locals and visitors alike.


Parking in San Francisco is notoriously tough and expensive. Most prefer the city’s public transportation, which is reliable and easy. The Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, has trains running more or less along Market Street, south of Pacific Heights. Muni buses run inbound and outbound from Pacific Heights, to help connect visitors with the rest of the city, and hailing a cab is always easy in this neighborhood. Uber cars are also prevalent in all areas of Pacific Heights. Since this neighborhood lies toward the northern part of San Francisco, it’s not located near any major freeways. However, Van Ness Avenue turns into the 101 Freeway heading southward toward San Jose. Pacific Heights is a very walkable neighborhood but, as with the rest of the city, good walking shoes are important, as is the stamina to climb hills and ridges. Due to the San Francisco Bike Coalition’s diligence, the area has some bike paths, with plans to add more in time.


Pacific Heights is considered one of San Francisco’s most expensive and opulent neighborhoods. This has drive housing, food and entertainment costs higher as a result. A typical 1-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $4,500 per month. All in all, Pacific Heights has a higher cost of living than the rest of San Francisco.


Most of Pacific Heights’ shopping can be found along Fillmore Street, south of Pacific Avenue. Many upscale boutiques have flagship shops here, including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Athleta and Prana. Other local boutiques include Gimme Shoes, selling cute-but-comfortable footwear. Check out Nest for jewelry and antiques, and Big Swingin’ Cycles, if you’re tempted to take on San Francisco’s legendary hills. Avenue Fine Food Market, Mayflower Market and Buchanan Food Mart serve locals’ grocery needs, while the Dugoni School Farmers Market, held each Wednesday, provides visitors with the freshest of produce outside this local dental school.


Pacific Heights is known for its parks and green spaces. Alta Plaza Park offers Pug Sunday the first Sunday of each month, for pug owners to get together with others of their kind. Of course, all other dogs are welcome here as well. Lafayette Park, located between Gough and Lafayette, has a picnic area with restrooms, a playground and children’s play area, sunbather slope, off-leash dog run, and tennis courts. Well maintained and one of the city’s gems, it affords visitors a chance to hang out and people watch, or rest after all that walking. Parks are kid and dog friendly, free, and often cater to exercise activities like sports, Frisbee, yoga and fitness boot camps. Parking is very difficult, and visitors are urged to use public transportation instead.
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