16th Street offers two views of the Mission
By Lexie Tiongson & Lina Abascal
The differences between 16th and Mission streets versus 16th and Valencia streets are so dramatic it seems like they could be miles apart.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, things started changing for the Valencia Street Corridor on 16th Street. Several businesses started making their mark throughout the neighborhood and the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed the area “the New Bohemia” in 1995.
During the “dot-com” boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, young professionals moved into the area to live the hipster lifestyle, initiating the gentrification of Valencia Street.
Today, San Franciscans and tourists experience a sudden change when they walkdown 16th Street. Hitting Valencia is like walking through the simple Urban San Francisco, where Mission, turns into a little Mexico.
Business owners have moved in to take places of those who cannot afford housing and have been forced out of the neighborhood.
The 16th and Mission area is abundant with fruit stands, dollar stores, immigration offices, and stores advertising inexpensive phone cards to call Mexico, South, and Central America.
At 16th and Valencia, the streets look similar to Noe Valley. Expensive coffee shops, clothing boutiques and high-end exotic restaurants line the streets. Many buildings have been remodeled and have condos above the retail street level.
Borderlands Café and Café Petra are just two coffee shops that show an example of cool and hip businesses moving into the area.
Jim Lively, 58, a worker at Borderlands feels that gentrification is a subjective term but he has noticed that a lot of people are being pushed out of the area and businesses are going in to take place of those homes.
“Very mixed crowds come in. Also a lot of Europeans come into Borderlands because the café doesn’t look as American. A lot of people who work and live in the neighborhood always come in here,” said Lively.
Lively claims that he doesn’t exactly know how it’s changed but he knows that a lot of businesses have become more active in the area.
Café Petra is a coffee shop located on Guerrero and 16th Street close to the Valencia area is a place where more hip and young people go. You can get a meal there for under $10. The café is a lot more relaxed in a quiet environment.
In talking to most owners of businesses, the topic of gentrification was ignored.
What was previously a Hispanic dominated neighborhood where immigrants brought their culture, including shops, restaurants, and housing has been shifting into an expensive, developed, upper middle class white dominated neighborhood.
Demian Becerra, a Mexican-American student living in San Francisco for the third year moved to the mission in hopes that it would remind him of where he grew up in Los Angeles. He finds both pros and cons in both aspects of "culture" in his new neighborhood.
"I live next to two different neighborhoods that I like," said Becerra. "But I don't even consider from 16-24th and Valencia the mission because it's entirely white," he said.
Tatyahna Cameron, a 19-year-old student from suburban Pacifica has lived in the mission for two years. She said she moved there well into transition from "authentic to alt-hip." "There's definitely more and more people monthly in the mission because it's "cool" or whatever, but there will never be a complete demise of latin culture here and there will always be a paleta guy around the corner," said Cameron.
Along Valencia there are vintage and thrift stores targeted at those who choose to stop there for style rather then to save money on used clothing. Other higher end businesses include the Belgian Café Fritz, Urbun Burger, Casanova Lounge, and a popular hipster bar, the Elbo Room.
"The shops are not where me and my family go, but they have cleaned up the neighborhood and the streets are said to be safer," said Mariana Herrador as she walked down the street with her son in his stroller.
Supermarket, meat, and produce market "Casa Thai Market" on 16th and Mission is operated by both Thai and Hispanic employees. A female cashier said most of the customers are Hispanic because the Hispanic community loves fresh produce. When asked how the gentrification of businesses in the mission has affected the market, she said the customer base seemed consistent.
Some parts of the mission are just in the beginning phases of possible gentrification. The Knockout is a popular hipster bar on Cesar Chavez and Mission. It caters to a mid 20s hipster crowd and hosts themed music nights such as '80s new wave, '90s rock, and indie dance party. The bar is set amidst Hispanic bars, billiards clubs, salsa clubs, and taquerias, there are few people aside from patrons of the Knockout heard speaking English.
"I'm surprised they come all the way out here, I don't think this is where they live," said Nestor Cortes outside of a neighboring bar playing Spanish music.