South Van Ness, pulsing with morning traffic, may not be the most
charming of Mission streets. But the Inn San Francisco, set
serenely above street level, occupies one of those glistening
Italianate Victorian mansions that unexpectedly appear, like
shining white ships under full sail, in this continually surprising
city. Fred Girodat, co-manager, and Marty Neely, owner, are
authorities on the area. A guest's innocent question about a good
place to eat leads to a sit-down conference in the inn's breakfast
room, complete with neighborhood maps, Magic Markers, heartfelt
differences of opinion, lists of phone numbers, and a file stuffed
The Beats had North Beach. Flower Power happened in Haight Ashbury.
Generation X occupied the lower Haight - every generation discovers
a new bohemia in San Francisco. The corner of 16th and Valencia in
The Mission feels like ground zero for the new millennium.
The smoky fragrance of strong West Coast coffee floats along on a
trace of morning fog. Valencia Street is reinventing itself at
hyperspeed, but right now the most intriguing cafes, taquerias,
secondhand bookshops, and street life happen around the 16th Street
intersection, with another zone of activity a few blocks away,
between 20th and 22nd. Sample street scene: a couple of skinhead
surfer boys leaning on the fender of their battered old Buick
ragtop reading homemade poetry to a young woman in a Lycra suit and
serious running shoes, who listens while taking calls on a flip
phone and looks like she could float an IPO before breakfast.
Things evolve, even in bohemia.
Until recently, The Mission was predominantly Latino, and 24th
Street still retains this old Mission atmosphere. It's about as
neighborhood as it gets in San Francisco, which has lately become
one of the sleekest, most polished cities on the planet - at some
cost in texture.