The Tech Boom Turned This Working-Class San Francisco Neighbourhood Into A Hipster Haven

On a recent visit to San Francisco, friends and coworkers urged me to check out the Mission District, a bustling Latino neighbourhood famed for its oversize burritos, arts scene, and activism.

The word “hipster” may have originated in Brooklyn, but the Mission District has co-opted it and taken it to a new level. The neighbourhood is abundant in beards, denim shirts, artisanal cheese, bicycles, and overpriced lattes. It felt like Williamsburg on steroids.

Just as many of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods became havens of urban wealth in the 1990s, the Mission is no stranger to gentrification, having lost much of its working-class community during the dot-com bubble. As the demand for tech workers rises again in San Francisco, rents in the neighbourhood are skyrocketing — they rose 20% in 2014, according to Zumper — and trendy retailers are moving in.

I spent a day in the Mission to see how this transformation was playing out.

In the last five years, the tech sector created 34,000 jobs in San Francisco. In search of affordable housing, programmers, developers, and designers rode into the outlying neighborhoods on winged chariots, or tech campus shuttle buses.

Ten thousand of those new jobs popped up in the last year alone, according to Jordan Levine, director of economic research at Beacon Economics. Levine says those numbers could be even higher, as the Employment Development Department is subject to confidentiality rules that blur the full 'tech' picture.

The influx of tech workers is changing the fabric of the Mission District, a vibrant Latino neighbourhood situated just south of the downtown area. The hipsters have arrived.

I spent a day gallivanting between S. Van Ness Avenue and Dolores Street, talking to local business owners and witnessing the earthy-crunchy yuppie invasion firsthand.

Even as a Brooklynite, I was amazed to see how many people rode bikes to get around. Here's a Postmates delivery person on the move. The San Francisco-born startup makes deliveries to users -- in need of everything from tacos to toilet paper -- in under an hour (and for a fee).

Some neighbourhood institutions began catering to hipsters long before they were a stereotype. Bi-Rite Market customers have lined up for farm-direct produce, small-batch ice cream, and sustainably grown local flowers since the 1940s.

James Beard-winning Tartine Bakery & Cafe has served knockout breads and pastries since 2002. The famous bakery has seen its share of controversy; in 2012, protestors vandalised the corner building, spray-painting on it 'yuppies out.'

Their breads are made from locally milled organic flours, sea salt, water, and wild yeast, and baked on a stone hearth. The Croque Monsieur, a mouthwatering combo of ham, Gruyere, sun-dried tomatoes, and béchamel sauce on levain bread, costs $10.75.

The Mission's street art scene is beyond breathtaking. Murals brighten nearly every building in the neighbourhood. This stunning portrait depicts musician Carlos Santana, who graduated from nearby Mission High School.

Since 1992, artists of all ages and ethnicities have left their mark on Clarion Alley, once described as 'the last bastion of true art and street culture in the Mission.' The block serves as a canvas for resistance to political injustices and gentrification.

Source: Huffington Post

Here's an artist in action.

Locals can get cold-pressed juice delivered to their doorsteps in 30 minutes or less, thanks to pop-up juice shop Thistle. Drinks range from the $3 double-shot of raw ginger juice to the $6.50 'Snow,' a housemade almond milk containing medjool dates, peppermint, and vanilla bean.

There are deals galore at the Mission's thrift shops. Clothes Contact sells all clothes for $10 per pound, from '80s prom dresses to leopard-print Burning Man attire. The shop is rumoured to be closing, as the rent price continues to climb.

Source: SFist.com

A taxidermied unicorn greets shoppers outside Paxton Gate, a purveyor of 'treasures and oddities inspired by the garden and natural sciences.' The bizarre shop sells insects collected by indigenous peoples of the world, carnivorous plants, and other quirky home goods.

These taxidermied mice are creepily cute and retail for about $70.

Its sister store, Paxton Gate's Curiosities for Kids, features a nostalgic mix of toys and games meant to evoke 'the pre-digital era for children.' These employees pointed me in the direction of organic blankies and a toy robot made from sustainably harvested cherry wood.

The Roxie Theatre is America's oldest continuously running theatre. The not-for-profit arthouse hosts provocative and underground film festivals, and showcases the best independent, foreign, and documentary flicks.

Friends gather at Dolores Park, the heart of the Mission, to chow down on some take-out, take in the view of San Francisco, or get high without caution. These people told me they had hung out all afternoon, and didn't even know each other before arriving at the park.

Of course the area's restaurants and bars draw a young, hip crowd. Though the Mission is known for its oversize 'Mission burritos' ...

... they're not on the menu at relative newcomer Tacolicious, the sit-down taquería that beefed up the traditional taco and opened in 2009. Warm, chewy corn tortillas envelope unexpected combinations, such as butternut squash, pasilla peppers, Swiss chard, and pepitas. Tacos go for $4.50 each.

Chocolate is also being reinvented here. Todd Masonis (pictured) and Cameron Ring sold their tech company Plaxco in 2008 to return to the startup scene with Dandelion Chocolate. They roast, crack, grind, and temper cacao beans in-house, and package each bar by hand.

Masonis calls the Mission a 'food ground-zero,' a hot bed of innovation and creativity. They're opening a second manufacturing space in the neighbourhood this year.

It's evident that the evolution of the Mission is far from finished.

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